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Prehistory and protohistory

The new display, opened in 1995, is arranged both chronologically and topographically and documents various sites in Campania from the Paleolithic to the Iron Age.

History and formationThe main corpus of finds in the collection was assembled in the late nineteenth century as a result of discoveries made by Giovanni Patroni between 1857 and 1900 in the Grotta di Pertosa and the Grotta dello Zachito and at Murgia Timone, near Matera. Between 1901 and 1904 the Naples Museum received archaeological material from the pre-Hellenic cemetery of Cuma (Osta excavations and the Stevens collection) and from the protohistoric cemeteries of the Valley of the Sarno (Dall’Osso excavations and the Serafini collection). The collections was further enlarged by the excavations carried out by Ugo Rellini in the cave site of Grotta delle Felci on Capri (1921 - 1922), the finds from the La Starza district of Ariano Irpino (1925 - 1938), and the discovery of the cemetery of Madonna delle Grazie at Mirabella Eclano (1926 - 1930). Between 1943 and 1944 a large quantity of Eneolithic pottery was discovered in the Gaudo district of Paestum, while in 1949 the museum received a donation of about 7000 finds from barone Marcello Spinelli, which came to light from the cemetery of Suessula. In 1950 two tombs were discovered in the Materdei district of Naples and this coincided with the decision to reorganise the collection. In subsequent years (1970 - 1980) a considerable contribution was made by the numerous finds from the excavations conducted by Werner Johannowsky at Capua, the excavations at Calatia as well as the more recent excavations on the islet of Vivara, in the small town of Licola and in the cemetery of Piano di Sorrento. ItineraryThe itinerary for the current museum display (1995), located on the first floor of the museum, begins from room CXXVII and extends horizontally, illustrating the succession of the oldest civilisations of the bay of Naples and its immediate hinterland, as well as vertically, by means of a staircase placed at the centre of room CXXVII; this makes it possible to follow an itinerary back through time from the Middle and Late Bronze Age to the Eneolithic, the Neolithic and the Mesolithic back to the Palaeolithic. It is recommened that visitors begin from room CXXVII in order to observe the oldest material to emerge from the bay of Naples, found in 1906 at the Hotel Quisisana on Capri, which can be dated to the lower Palaeolithic or Acheleuan period (700,000 – 350,000 BP). Capri is also the site of the most important evidence of the Middle Neolithic in the bay of Naples, in particular the material from the Grotta delle Felci (5,000 years BP). The Eneolithic is represented in particular by finds from the cemetery of the Gaudo culture from the Trinità district of Piano di Sorrento and the Materdei district of Naples. There are also Eneolithic finds from Licola, Montagna Spaccata di Quarto and Monte Sant’Angelo, while the evidence from the Middle Bronze Age (sixteenth – fourteenth centuries BC) comes from the islet of Vivara. The next part of the museum display consists of finds from the early Iron Age (900 - 750 BC) from Capua: apart from the impasto pottery (in particular, note the famous Cup of the “Signore dei cavalli” (Lord of the horses) of 745 - 725 BC), the first Greek vases begin to appear together with a series of Egyptianising amulets brought by Greek and oriental merchants who frequented the Tyrrhenian coastal routes during this period. Contemporary with this period is part of the Spinelli collection, which has a large number of Italo-Geometric pottery and bronzes. The staircase in the centre of the main room leads to room CXLV which contains material from the Middle Bronze Age (Proto-Appennine B and Appennine cultures), in particular from the La Starza district of Ariano Irpino (AV) and the cave site of Grotta dello Zachito near Caggiano (SA), with finds ranging from the Middle Bronze Age to the sub-Geometric Enotri culture (sixth century BC). This is followed by material from the cave of Grotta di Polla (SA), dating to as late as the late Eneolithic, while Neolithic material comes from the area of the village of Murgia Timone (MT). The next room CXLVI is entirely devoted to the cave of Grotta di Pertosa (SA), with the bulk of the archaeological evidence attributed to the Proto-Appennine B, Appennine and Sub-Appennine, displayed according to typological criteria. Going back further in time, the itinerary continues in room CXLVIII which contains the finds of the Lower Acheleuan Paleolithic from Marina di Camerota (SA) and the Middle Palaeolithic from the rock shelter of Molaro di Scario (SA). This is followed by the material from the Middle and Upper Paleolithic from the caves of Grotta di Castelcivita and Grotta della Cala, Eneolithic material (2500 - 1800 BC) from the cemetery in the Gaudo district near Paestum and the contemporary evidence from Mirabella Eclano (AV). The Neolithic (dating from ca. 3000 BC) is amply illustrated in descriptive panels and through the finds of the Neolithic site of La Starza di Ariano Irpino (AV). Evidence for the Early Bronze Age (1800 - 1600 BC) comes from the village of Palma Campania while the adjoining room CXLIX contains the burial goods of a tomb in the Gaudo cemetery of Pontecagnano (SA), with a reconstruction of the typical burial with vertical access shafts and chambers. Returning to the initial room of the itinerary (CXXV), one passes through room CXXVI, where material from the Iron Age in the bay of Naples and its hinterland is displayed; the archaeological finds come from Tomb 201 of Calatia, with material from the Valley of Sarno and especially the tombs of the pre-Hellenic phase of Cuma. Some of the most remarkable finds from Cuma are the two skyphoi decorated with chevrons of Attic origin belonging to Middle Geometric II, corresponding to a date of ca. 780 BC.

Further information
Collection data

Museo Archeologico 1994; Museo Archeologico 1999; Collezione preistorica 2000.

Location: First floor; rooms CXXVI - CXXVIII; second floor; rooms CXLV - CXLIX