Roman Order and Early Christian Redefinition: Crossed Archeological and Anthropological Analysis from Riva del Garda (TN)

Cristina Bassi, Valeria Amoretti


This paper draws its origin from a series of archaeological interventions led by the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della provincia Autonoma di Trento under the supervision of Cristina Bassi in the area called “piana Benacense”, a fertile plain near Riva del Garda, in the northern part of Lake Garda. The results of the excavation that took place in San Cassiano (2005-2006) are debated along with related anthropological studies. The site, placed beside the current Via Marone, follows the layout of an ancient Roman street characterised by the presence of burial areas. The area, about 6000 m2, presented the existence of a road that divided a Roman villa from two separated burial areas (dated respectively to the third and fourth centuries AD). The Roman villa, with structures that are dated from the first to the fourth centuries AD, included a large productive area better identified after the anthropological analysis of the individuals buried in the southern necropolis. In this area there were both incinerations and inhumations graves, all characterised by the same markers of osteological stress compatible to wool manufacturing. The smaller northern burial area was built for wealthier people, sometimes showing the traces of similar work activities. In the fifth-sixth centuries the landscape totally changed and a church was built, hosting a few high-status graves. The analysis of human remains revealed that all the individuals were males and showed the so-called “horseman syndrome” with some trauma fractures. We suppose that this leading group commissioned the church. After the fifth century, data agree upon a generalised implosion of economic structures, as confirmed by the markers of occupational stress on bones. Therefore the crossing of archeological and anthropological results trace the landscape history of the Benacense plain, from the well-organised and productive Roman period to a period lacking organisation and economic structures. This is the reason San Cassiano could be considered a significant component for the historical reconstruction of the Garda area in “the time of change”.


Riva del Garda Area, Anthropological Analysis, Transition Era, Early Christianisation, Landscape Use

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Copyright (c) 2016 Cristina Bassi, Valeria Amoretti

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