The Establishment of the Archaeological Collection
The first official report of the discovery of ceramic finds around the area of the Crûz hill near Madonna dello Zucco, in Castelnovo del Friuli, dates back to the Seventies. After meticulous research, the Friulian scholar Luigi Ciceri found a series of pottery fragments which subsequently became the collection which bore his name when it was on exhibit at the Civic Art Museum of Pordenone. Because of this find, and thanks to a renewed climate of interest in the scientific community towards post-medieval archaeology, the then Soprintendenza ai Beni Ambientali, Architettonici, Artistici, Archeologici e Storici of Friuli Venezia Giulia decided to investigate the Crûz area with a series of archaeological exploratory trenches. Between October 26 and November 2, 1982, the operations directed by the archaeologist Paola Lopreato brought to light over 5000 fragments of ceramic artefacts, datable to the period between the middle and the end of the sixteenth century. The excavation and study of the finds allowed the discovery in Castelnovo to be qualified as one of the most significant archaeological pottery finds linked to a context of production in this period in the Pordenone foothill area.
The vision of Castelnovo del Friuli’s municipal Administration and the fruitful collaboration with the Soprintendenza have made possible the exhibition of Scodelle, La ceramica di Castelnovo del Friuli, or “Ceramic bowls. The Ceramics of Castelnovo del Friuli” in the Cultural Center of Villa Sulis in Costa. The volume Magistri Scodelari. Produzioni ceramiche a Castelnovo del Friuli nel Cinquecento, or “Master Potters. Ceramic Production in Castelnovo del Friuli in the Sixteenth Century” edited by Serena Vitri and Paolo Casadio, came out in 2001. That year there was also the fifth conference of “Ceramics Archeometry: the production of lead-glazed pottery in Italy” (IRTC – CNR Faenza; Soprintendenza ai Beni Ambientali, Architettonici, Artistici, Archeologici e Storici of Friuli Venezia Giulia; Municipality of Castelnovo). It wasn’t until 2018, however, thanks to the current municipal Administration and with the consent of the Soprintendenza of Friuli Venezia Giulia, that the ceramics of Castelnovo were in fact returned to their community, through the establishment and formalization of the Raccolta archeologica di Villa Sulis, La ceramica di Castelnovo “The Archaeological Collection of Villa Sulis, The Ceramics of Castelnovo”. The Collection is regularly open to the public and is at the center of numerous cultural initiatives.
Not Just Discarded Pieces
The archaeological Collection of Villa Sulis is deeply representative of the territory of Castelnovo because it describes the cultural soul and the historical identity of the community, which has traditionally been linked to the various aspects of pottery production for centuries. It is a unique example of a homogeneous collection that is inextricably part of the land itself, giving it a rightful claim to be the pride of the community and taken care of by the people themselves .
The archaeological excavations allowed archaeologists to identify a substantial deposit of ceramic material of over 5000 fragments, of which only a part could be recovered. The abundance of material found can be attributed to manufacturing waste, that is to objects in a finished or semi-finished state, identifiable as waste produced by the activity of craft workshops. The finds are but a small part of a broader context of pottery production, which currently cannot be defined as to its precise location or scale of production, given that no traces of productive structures have been found, but only elements that make it possible to recognize the Crûz deposit as a probable dumping ground of discarded material. Based on the data obtained from the study of the materials, the finds can however be considered representative of local production active between the middle and the end of the sixteenth century.
The Castellan production seems to have specialized in tableware and items for domestic use made on a potter’s wheel. The presence of flatware is predominant, such as plates, bowls and basins.
The scientific value of the findings included in the collection and, in general, of the entire ceramic corpus found, is considerable. These materials provide us with valuable information not only about the technical aspects of the activity of production of a craft workshop, but also about the diffusion of formal and decorative typologies and the characteristics of local production, which has helped to develop the area of Castelnovo.