In 1978, the discovery of an ancient site in Isernia, “La Pineta”, turns the spotlight on the first human settlement discovered in the European Continent. The importance of the discovery was testified also by the fact that the prestigious journal “Nature” dedicated its cover to this Paleolithic site which helped scholars to define the ancient natural environment, the social organization of archaic humans, the strategies used to survive and to build. Before that discovery, in Molise there was an atypical absence of prehistoric finds and scholars assumed that the entire area was not suitable for humans in ancient times. Anyway, thanks to the discovery, the Country became aware of its ancient past and many scientists started to pay more attention to this area of investigation, which had showed how complex an archaic social system could be.
It is for these reasons that in the early 80s started activities of higher education (connected to the excavation of “La Pineta” site) and studies that interested the entire District of Isernia. Nowadays preliminary surveys and systematic excavations are an almost continuous monitoring of the territory. A book published in 2006 (C. Peretto, A. Minelli: Prehistory in Molise, the settlements of the territory of Isernia, ARACNE, 2006, pp.. 393) describes these new findings.
In this context of interest for the land of Isernia as an archeological site, lies the excavation of the field of Guado San Nicola in Monteroduni. The owner of the field herself, Mrs. Concetta Leone, expressed to authorities the need to investigate her land.
The age of the field goes back to 2-300 thousand years ago. A large number of faunal and lithic remains, contained in a stratigraphic sequence characterized by volcanic and fluvial deposits, were found in this site. The data collected allow to draw the following considerations:
- The natural environment was marked by wide open spaces crossed by the ancient Volturno River along which the tree line was very thick;
- There were numerous herds of horses, but also elephants, rhinos, wild boars and deer;
- Numerous fragments of flint has been found;
- The fragments of deer antlers are very abundant. They were intentionally collected and transported by prehistoric men in the camp, and used in some cases to work the flint and to manufacture bifaces. It is the first time that this activity is documented so clearly;
- The bones of the hunted animals shows striations due to slaughter and in particular to the action of cutting with stone tools in order to recover the flesh and to extract marrow for food purposes.
- The finding of Bifaces, which had different shapes and sizes, was very frequent (200 of them found in the site until now). A Biface is a two-sided stone tool and was used as a multi purposes knife, manufactured through a process of lithic reduction;
The site of Guado San Nicola is interesting not only for the prehistoric material recovered in the area, but also for its geological features. As specified by Prof. Carmela Vaccaro, the presence of specific composition of igneous rocks represent a key point for understanding the Quaternary magmatism of central Italy and the geodynamic processes occurred in the Mediterranean territory. For these reasons, the area of these finds can be defined a GEOSITE.
In conclusion, it’s possible to say that the site of Guado San Nicola contributes significantly to the understanding of the history of the ancient Molise and the Italian peninsula, during the period of the diffusion of bifaces in the whole world.
Furthermore, the bifaces found in Guado San Nicola help scholars to understand the way these tools were used and manufactured, even if it’s again an unsolved issue for scientists. Nowadays, in facts, we know that they were largely used throughout the entire Continent, but we don’t know what they were used for.
The excavation was directed by Prof. Carlo Peretto, of the University of Ferrara (Ministero per I Beni e le Attività Culturali). The interdisciplinary research team is currently composed as follows:
1. Benedetto Sala, Carmela Vaccaro, Ursula Thun Hohenstein, Marta Arzarello, Cecilia Buonsanto, Giuseppe Lembo, Elena Marocchino, Brunella Muttillo, Maria Angela Rufo, University of Ferrara, excavation techniques, stratigraphy, petrography, geochemistry, volcanology, paleontology of vertebrates, Archaeozoology, technology type, and politics, and the computerization of findings (GIS);
2. Antonella Minelli, Marco Giannantonio, University of Molise, method of excavation and lithic technology and typology;
3. Annarosa Di Nucci, European Centre for Prehistoric Research; Archaeozoology and vertebrate paleontology;
4. Coltorti Mauro Pierluigi Pieruccini, University of Siena, stratigraphy, geomorphology, soil science;
5. Jean Jacques Bahain, Quinfeng, Vincent Lebreton, Musée Nationalle d'Histoire Naturelle of Paris, palynology and radiometric dating.