The origins of Muggia from prehistoric ruins
The oldest traces of Muggia appear to be the castelliere of Elleri, an important archeological site, located on the peak of Monte Castellier, where early settlements have been documented. Excavations between the 1980s and 1990s, restored the original structure of the site, but only a limited part marking the extent of the town have been revealed. It is estimated, that only 6% of the total area of the site has been excavated.
Life in Elleri
Life at the castelliere can be divided into three periods along with the evident remains of the boundary walls:
- The first phase: bronze Age (XVII-XVI centuries BC),,
- The second phase: between the end of the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age (XII-VI centuries BC),
- The third phase: roman era (2nd century BC – 4th century AD).
A few fragments of medieval ceramic finds from excavations suggest evidence of life forms even during the medieval period (6th-10th century AD), perhaps by migrant shepherds, but no new structure was built. The current wall ruins are mostly Roman, which were built last, overlapping with the previous ones.
The Roman walls were the only walls constructed with the use of mortar to bind the stones while the protohistoric ones were dry-stone walls and more easily lost.
Building a castelliere
The construction technique widely adopted to build a castellieri was from cement block walls, with two external large block walls composed of soil and smaller stones inside. There are doubts on how space inside the castle walls was organized during the first two phases, but undoubtedly there was space inside the houses and some animal shelters. A private room was used for religious purposes during the Roman era, as proven by the two inscriptions engraved and the subsequent stele dedicated to the god Mitra found here.
Environmental factors that made life easier for the castelliere
The castelliere was inhabited for almost 2000 years and there are various environmental factors that prolonged life, such as:
- sandstone on site,
- fresh water pond on top of the hill,
- pasture areas and arable land on the slopes surrounding the site,
- controlling the outlet to the sea, Rio Ospo’s valley Rosandra’s stream and on the other side a complete view of the entire hinterland,
- early salt exploitation near the sea.
The Archeological Museum of Muggia
The civic Archeological Museum of Muggia, houses exhibits from the Elleri site and includes a rich collection of proto-historic ceramics of the castellieri and some Greek fragments. The two inscriptions found in the area probably used for worship date back to the first century BC: the most legible inscription has been interpreted from what appears to be a lex sacra, regulating the relations of an area dedicated to worship with the nearest Roman community. Fersimo also appears on the same inscription, most probably a deity connected to a venetian water cult.
The iconic scenes of Mithras in the surrounding area show him slaughtering a bull, and sharing a banquet. The stele can be traced back to the 2nd century AD and is only comparable to another one also decorated on both sides found near Sarajevo.
Promoting the archaeological site
The enhancement project focused on the Castelliere of Elleri, by extending the archaeological area including the necropolis of S. Barbara. Archaeological stratigraphic excavations have been carried out near the wall, until the original entrance to the peak of the plateau where the protohistoric Castelliere, a home surrounded by a fortified defensive wall, was brought to light.
Diligent conservative restoration was carried out on sandstone wall remains dating back, in part, to 1600 BC approximately, Furthermore, ceramics and faunal studies have been carried out, including palynology and archaeobotanical studies and verification of radiocarbon datings on fauna and charcoal. To facilitate tours of the archaeological site, a circular track was created, to simplify visitor’s comprehension of the powerful defensive structure. Various didactic panels have been placed in specific rest areas, elevated stations and piloted observation points for the best experience site visitors can have.