Naples:life,death & Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

O Brave New Bronze Age
There are three earlier mentions of Bronze Age settlements.

Word comes of
"A Bronze Age village preserved when Vesuvius erupted 2,000 years before Pompeii. It was uncovered near Afragola during work on a high-speed railway near Naples. Archaeologists say it offers a rare glimpse into Early Bronze Age life in the Campania region. Like Pompeii, Afragola was encased in meters of ash, mud and silt, which preserved the site so well that researchers can even tell the season in which the disaster occurred from the remains of a food store. Footprints of fleeing adults and children were also well preserved. The site covers 5,000 square meters. Dr. Tiziana Matarazzo of the U. of Connecticut says: “We found the site because of the construction of a high-speed train line... The site is exceptional because Afragola was buried by a gigantic eruption of Vesuvius and it tells us a lot about the people who lived there, and the local habitat... "In this case, by finding fruits and agricultural materials, we were able to identify the season of the eruption, which is usually impossible." The eruption happened in various phases, starting with a massive explosion that sent debris away from the village, to the northeast. This gave the villagers a chance to escape, which is why we found preserved footprints and not bodies as at Pompeii. Then the wind changed and ash blew over the village."
Images: right, near Nola, called a "Bronze Age Pompii"  when it was found 20 years ago; left,  Poggiomarino, called a "Bronze Age Venice" when it was found 20 years ago.

Thus, this discovery is different not in kind from others, but rather in the quality of information scholars were able to glean. Scholars have left us the convenient three-age system for the periods of human pre-history: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. That covers a lot of time. There is also an earlier "Copper age", 5000 BC to 3300 BC. (These ages are not the same across cultures, worldwide. It can be the iron-age in part of the world and the bronze-age in another. So the Swiss Army Knife you wanted to get Bobby? Check and see. Bobby would look like an idiot pulling a rock out of his pocket. The beginning of the Bronze Age in western Eurasia and India is conventionally dated to the mid-4th  millennium BC. Elsewhere it gradually spread across regions. An ancient civilization is deemed part of the Bronze Age if it produced bronze by smelting its own copper and alloying it with tin, arsenic, or other metals, or traded other items for bronze from production areas elsewhere. Bronze was harder and more durable than other metals, giving Bronze Age civilizations  a technological advantage. The Bronze Age was followed by the Iron Age starting from about 1300 BCE and reaching most of Eurasia by about 500 BCE, although bronze continued to be widely used.

What age are we in now? We invented agriculture, smelting ore and the wheel pretty quickly and are now up to space flight and atomic energy. We have scientists, artists, poets, and musicians. I don't know why sliced bread was so great, but we're better. Yet, I recall here Alfred Russel Wallace, the ‘other’ Darwin. He wrote a book in 1898 called The Wonderful Century. The future seemed predictable. The book was a glowing view of science and the future. It contained this passage:
The flowing tide is with us. We have great poets, great writers , great thinkers, to cheer and guide us; and an ever-increasing band of earnest workers to spread the light and help on the good time coming. And as this century has witnessed a material and intellectual advance wholly unprecedented in the history of human progress, so the Coming Century will reap the full fruition of that advance, in a moral and social upheaval of an equally new and unprecedented kind, and equally great in amount.
In fairness, the whole title of the book was The Wonderful Century: Its successes and failures. Wallace was an intense social activist and some of the book covered what he considered our social failures, the destruction and waste of wars and arms races, the rise of the urban poor and the dangerous conditions in which they lived and worked. Yet he was an optimist. Wallace died in 1913, one year before the beginning of the Great War. Some call ours the "atomic age". I'm not sure how many more we get. Are we going to have to do all this again?

In terms of discoveries in this area near Naples I suppose I'm more interested why so many Bronze Agers would build their houses near a volcano. These discoveries are all classed as part of the "Palma Campania culture" (after the name of a local town). If you look at this local Tyrhhenian area near Vesuvius, it was very warm and there was a drop in the sea-level, both of which encouraged the birth of small settlements. We find them often joined by hardened earth roads that carried carts. The areas along the way were under cultivation. The population was engaged in agriculture (including growing fruit trees), hunting, handicrafts (especially metallic objects worked in smelting ovens, and stitching/sewing. The entire area came to light in 1972 during roadwork to build the Caserta-Salerno autostrada (divided-highway, freeway, turnpike, dual-carriageway, pedal-to-the-metal-way --pick one!). They found a hut covered in a hardened lava flow. They dated it to 2000 B.C., somewhat after an eruption near Avellino. In the hut they found ceramic vases and about 130 other decorative ceramic objects in good condition (smooth, shiny surfaces) and about 80 cups and some larger jugs with spouts and handles for pouring.

Other nearby settlements have been found and since declared archaeological sites: Nola-Croce del Papa, an  earlier one at Afragola, in the Sarno valley at Longola di Poggiomarino, and, in general, farmed land, fences, footpaths, and cart tracks. Other nearby locations that show that this was, in a bustling place: Oliva Torricella, Picarielli, Ostaglio, Saviano, Gricignano di Aversa, Pratola Serra and Battipaglia.

So to my big question: Why Here? Well, what do you need to live? Besides air to breathe. Food. What do you need to grow food? Fertile land. What makes land fertile? The mineral content of the soil. What comes out of a volcano? Minerals like you wouldn't believe. All that molten magma. (It's called 'lava' when it's flowing down the side of the volcano.) That's Mother Earth's gift to you. Here, have some fertilizer. Careful. It's still hot. (If you need an image of Vesuvius, see the top of this page.) OK, fertile soil, check. You need one more thing. Water. Where do you find fresh water? In a flowing river. Is there one near Vesuvius? Yes. The entire area is mountainous with lots of streams and one big river, the Sarno with a large drainage basin. It flows east to west right by Vesuvius and empties into the Bay of Naples. (It's the blue line running across the top half of this image.)  It does that now as it did a few thousand years ago. Now, of course, the Sarno is the most polluted river in Italy, but back in the Bronze Age times were better. So, good soil, good water. You're good to go.
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