Study of the Roman occupation of the Strait of Bonifacio

Despite their importance, no synthesis addresses the theme of the Strait of Bonifacio in Roman times. This territory, at the crossroads of the Western Mediterranean sea routes, has nevertheless played a central role in trade and has seen the development of monuments whose status is still under discussion (fig. 1). By deductive reasoning, archaeologists have in the past concluded that the Piantarella site played a role in controlling the Strait, but the evidence is lacking. Nothing explains the development of a large residence (fig.2), unlike any other, in the Corsican island context. The economy and resources of coastal settlements on the periphery are not well known. 

Fig. 1: Main archaeological sites of the Strait of Bonifacio... DAO Nathalie Bloch

Fig. 2: The excavation of the Roman villa of Piantarella. Photography: L. Nonne

The project aims to address different aspects of occupation in the Roman period on the Bonifacian coast, on the northern coast of Sardinia (Capo Testa) and in the islands of Lavezzi and La Maddalena, by describing the structuring of habitat on the shoreline and determining the available resources, how they are used and analyze the economic base of the various establishments. The ambition is also to address the interactions between coastal sites and to define the relationship with Sardinian sites as part of a strategy to control the strait. Markers of the Roman occupation will be treated on the basis of surveys, archaeological excavations and underwater research. 
One of the research areas concerns the study of Roman quarries in the Corso-Sardinian archipelagos. On the Lavezzi archipelago, in particular, off the Piantarella site, a series of so-called maritime quarries (installed at the surface of the water) testify to the intense activity of grey granite quarrying (fig. 3-4). Some sketches of large monolithic columns demonstrate the prestige and cost of the objects extracted, similar to the granite columns of Mons Claudianus in Egypt, produced in large numbers for the major imperial programs. Granite being little or not present in the Roman building of the Strait, what was its purpose? Who was he being exploited by? For what commercial purpose(s)? 
The team includes archaeologists from CReA-Patrimoine, under the direction of Sébastien Clerbois (Sylvie Byl, Nicolas Paridaens), as well as geologists from G-Time, under the direction of Nadine Mattielli (Antoine Triantafyllou). The approach combines excavation, technological study and geoarchaeological study and aims at a holistic understanding of the exploitation and economy of granite in Roman times. The photogrammetric survey is carried out by the PANORAMA Platform (Henry-Louis Guillaume); the surveys are a support under study, but also constitute a heritage record, the sites being quickly covered, and therefore threatened, by an invasive plant, the carpobrotus (witch's claw).

The project is supported by the association "Archaeology and Heritage in Corsica", under the scientific direction of Gaël Brkojewitsch, with the logistical and scientific collaboration of the Centre Camille Jullian, CEREGE, DRASSM, Inrap and the Université libre de Bruxelles. It brings together an international team from 12 partner organizations and 30 participants. 

Fig. 3: The Roman quarry on Cavallo Island (Lavezzi archipelago). Photography: L. Nonne
Fig. 4: Roman relief at the entrance to Cavallo's quarry. Photography: L. Nonn

Contact : Sébastien Clerbois

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