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The discovery of Spina

The quest for ancient Spina in the swamps of the Po river was a real archaeological detective story. It thrilled illustrious erudites and scholars since the Middle Ages, but every trace of this famous and florid marine emporium, described by Greek and Roman authors, seemed to be lost. It was only in 1922 that, in a completely accidental and unexpected way, during the reclamation works in the Comacchio lagoons, the appearance of "pottery and bronzes of magnificent Greek production" marked the beginning of an extraordinary adventure.

The archaeological researchs, that immediately started in a systematical way, brought to the discovery of thousands of richly equipped tombs, thanks to which scholars can today reconstruct the past of the famous town, for centuries forgotten in the mud.

The difficulty in finding the spot where Spina rose, lies in the continuous transformations of the landscape of the Po delta, due both to the river floodings, and to the movements of the Adriatic Sea with a consequent advancement of the coast line, the tamping of the terrain, and the dilatation of the lagoon areas. For these reasons, in the course of the centuries, the exact location of the city, variously located on the lower course of the Po of Primaro, or at Comacchio, or near San Biagio d'Argenta, became a sort of archaeological mystery. The first to hypothesize the site of Spina at Valle Trebba, a lagoon near Comacchio, was a physician from Bologna, Gian Francesco Bonaveri (end of XVII century), attracted by the uniqueness of that particular lagoonal setting, where occasionally ancient artifacts emerged ,but it took two centuries to confirm his intuition.

The accidental discovery in 1922 was followed by scientific investigations lead by Archaeological Superintendence of Emilia and of Romagna established on 19. September of 1924. The excavation campaigns, lead until 1935 by newly appointed supervisor Salvatore Aurigemma in the area of Valle Trebba, brought to light the northern area of Spina necropolis, with more than 1200 tombs. 

The following drainage of Valle Pega from 1953-1956 brought to the discovery of the southern area of the necropolis that, in the course of ten years of excavations conducted under the supervisor Paolo Enrico Arias and the Museum director Nereo Alfieri, brought to light 3000 tombs. Between 1957 and 1964 the city was also detected, at Valle del  Mezzano, where in these last years new extensive archeological investigations were carried out, aiming at a better definition of its structural aspects and urban chronology.

Download "The Book of Spina" (ITA-ENG 1MB)

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