5) Grotta di Castelcivita

The Cave  of  Castelcivita is a fascinating karst cavity located  in  the valley of the Calore river, at the foot of the Alburni Massif (Salerno), 100 m a.s.l. It is formed by galleries extending  for  more than 4 km  into the bowels of the earth, part of which is open to the general public (Fig. 1).

Figure 1


Castelcivita is one of the few Italian sites to stratigraphically retain evidence of the initial dispersal of Early Modern Humans and the environmental and chronological context in which the replacement and the concomitant demise of  the  last Neandertals took place. This site is, therefore, of crucial importance for  an understanding of  the biological and cultural history of  European peopling, as its archaeological deposit  contains an invaluable  high-resolution archive of data useful for providing a picture of  the human behaviour  during the Middle  to Upper  Palaeolithic transition.

Figure 2

The stratigraphic sequence of Castelcivita (3.40 m thick) starts (at its bottom) with a thick layer of large blocks collapsed from the vault during a cold climatic phase about  60,000/50,000 years ago. The human presence in the cave encompasses a period of few thousand years  including the end of the Middle Palaeolithic (about 45,000 years ago) and the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic (Uluzzian and two phases of the ProtoAurignacian). 40,000 years ago the  volcanic ashes of an important eruption from Campi Flegrei, known as “Campanian Ignimbrite”, invaded the cavity  definitively sealing its Palaeolithic deposit (Fig. 2-3).

Figure 3

Research at Castelcivita was carried out between 1976 and 1988 by the University of Siena and later resumed in 2015. Excavations yielded plenty of lithics and faunal remains, bone tools (points and awls) and body ornaments (mainly small pierced shells), as well as some hearth features.


The  2017 excavation fieldwork took place between the 10th and the 30th of July. Investigations were carried out in layers gic (Protoaurigancian with marginally backed points) and rsa’ (Protoaurignacian with marginally backed bladelets), squares L11-12, M11-12-13-14, G15 and H15. Participants: Annamaria Ronchitelli (scientific director), Simona Arrighi (graphic documentation coordinator), Daniele Aureli, Giulia Capecchi (materials coordinator), Adriana Moroni (fieldwork director), Matteo Rossini and Vincenzo Spagnolo (Fig. 4).

Figure 4