Longola di Poggiomarino: a protohistoric village along the Sarno

by Gerardo Russo

TO Poggiomarino, along the course of the Sarno river, is the naturalistic archaeological park of Longola, reconstruction of a protohistoric village suburban. It is a unique archaeological asset of its kind, older than nearby Pompeii, capable of telling the story through the particular river context that surrounds it. It is in fact surrounded by nature, a few kilometers from the sources of the Sarno.

Longola di Poggiomarino: un villaggio protostorico lungo il Sarno
Longola Archaeological-Fluvial Park. Ph. Gerardo Russo.

The discovery

The discovery of the archaeological remains in the area happened, as often happens, by chance. In November 2000, during the works connected with the construction of a purifier for the waters of the Sarno, some archaeological finds were found.

Under the scientific direction of the Archaeological Superintendency of Pompeii and the National Scientific Research Center of Paris, excavations were thus started in the area, in the locality of Longola in Poggiomarino.

1600 square meters were probed and at a depth of 4 meters part of a suburban village was found, dating back to the second millennium BC, a settlement prior to the ancient and nearby cities of Pompeii and Nuceria and that therefore could constitute its origin.

Inhabited by an indigenous population, the settlement was slowly abandoned following the need to stabilize itself in a better position to control traffic. As evidence of this theory would be the discovery of a few furnishings in the area, which therefore lead to suppose a non-sudden migration from the area.

The protohistoric settlement

L'protohistoric settlement of Longola represented a great work of hydraulic engineer, for the epoch in its place. The area of the site was in fact swampy and was later reclaimed, in order to obtain artificial islets. The islets were then surrounded by navigable canals, protected at the edges various support systems such as poles and beams. This engineering system has led archaeologists to define Longola "a Venice of 3500 years ago“.

On the islets, gods were built huts with a sub-rectangular plan, with an apse on one of the short sides and a double sloping roof. Inside there was generally a hearth or a small domestic oven, with a larger oven with productive functions outside.

The village of Longola saw the widespread use of wood as a raw material in construction, obtained from the woods of the area. Through the fragments of the different types of trees found it was also possible to reconstruct part of the ancient landscape.

The settlement also served as a river port along the Sarno, used to transport local products to the sea, where they would be marketed to Cuma and Ischia through ships more suitable for maritime navigation. As evidence of this there is the discovery in Longola of three pirogues, typical boats of river navigation, about 7 meters long.

Longola di Poggiomarino: un villaggio protostorico lungo il Sarno
Reconstruction of a village hut. Ph. Gerardo Russo.

The importance of the Sarno

Thus the Sarno is not only the frame of an ancient village, but rather it is an integral part of the history that allowed the development of the protohistoric settlement of Longola.

The population of the Sarno valley, since the Neolithic, cultivated the fertile lands of the area, enjoying the easy supply of water. However, it was the river itself that suggested marketing the products of the valley, allowing you to easily reach the mediterranean market. Some discoveries then, such as the amber elements, show already many advanced commercial contacts, also with the Far East and Northern Europe.

Perhaps the drive to seek trade came out of necessity, but in any case it was the Sarno that made such a socio-economic development possible in the life of the indigenous population. The Sarno, at the time navigable and adored as a God, thus made it possible to reach the surrounding populations, favoring the economy of the territory. Longola would have been born like this thanks to his own strategic position along the river, in a specially reclaimed and drained area.

There were many activities practiced by 400 inhabitants of the village. Agriculture was based on cereals and vines. Cattle, sheep and pigs were raised, thus satisfying all the primary needs of the population. Also flourishing craftsmanship, whose artifacts were exchanged with neighboring populations.

Despite the spread of multiple activities, the Sarno may have been the basis of the birth and wealth of the ancient village, which in fact developed as a river port, with the purpose of commercial sorting, in a previously marshy area.

Longola di Poggiomarino: un villaggio protostorico lungo il Sarno
Longola. Ph. Gerardo Russo.

Longola between past and future

Longola as the origin of the ancient Pompeii and Nuceria. The Sarno as the forerunner of the Campania motorway towards the Mediterranean. A navigation system between river channels that Venice would envy shone in the heart of the region, in one fertile valley where one of the tomatoes most appreciated by the Campania cuisine. The history of Campania starts long ago and can still be traveled along the course of a river whose beauty has only been obscured by pollution and excessive anthropization.

However, the wealth is still here, in the waters of the river and in the lands that surround it. The Archaeological-Fluvial Park of Longola helps us to reconstruct the historical and naturalistic heritage of the area, as well as to understand the importance of the Sarno: a great opportunity for Campania, today as then. A testimony of an impressive past, a unique opportunity for redemption for the future.



Caterina Cicirelli, Claude Albore Livadie; The protohistoric settlement of Poggiomarino in the Longola area, excavation campaigns 2000-2004; 2021

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