The Rocca Di Manerba: A Late Neolithic Fortified and Terraced Site in Northern Italy

Article excerpt

The Rocca di Manerba is on a high promontory dominating the western shore of Lake Garda. Its strategic position is such that it has been almost continuously occupied from the late Neolithic to the 16th century. Excavations by the Universities of Birmingham and Padua between 1995 and 2001 were divided between Prof. G.-P. Brogiolo, who excavated the central Roman to Medieval area, and L.H. Barfield and S. Buteux, who were responsible for investigating mainly prehistoric deposits both inside and outside the main Medieval curtain wall on the north side of the summit of the Rocca.

Late Neolithic, Copper Age and Bell Beaker deposits were particularly well preserved due to the construction of a sequence of terraces and revetment walls, which provided both level occupation space and defence for successive settlements. The Medieval curtain wall at this point followed the line of one of the earlier terraces, contributing to its partial protection. The natural hill slope at this point consisted both of bed-rock and terra rossa and fell away at an angle of approximately 30[degrees].

The first occupation on the site may go back to the middle Neolithic Square Mouthed Pottery culture (VBQ), although pottery of this date was only found in late Neolithic layers.

The first terracing of the slope dates to the late Neolithic Lagozza culture and comprises a series of, perhaps, three terraces (FIGURE 3). The lowest was constructed of local rocks and was preserved to a height of some 2 metres, although only the lowest course of its outer revetment was preserved (FIGURE 1). It incorporated at least two large quern stones in its construction. The precise nature of this terrace/wall was difficult to interpret since it was c. 2.80 m wide and had an internal face against which Neolithic layers had accumulated. A carbonized wooden beam may be from the collapse of a wooden wall/fence along the inner face. The stone construction may not have been much higher since it was sealed by other late Neolithic layers.


At least two antler picks were found in a gully along the back of the wall (FIGURE 2). It is unclear whether this deposition was ritual or functional.


A second terrace, of a similar height, formerly existed higher up the slope, although much of this had been removed by the Medieval wall.

Evidence of a third, less substantial, terrace wall was found higher up the slope. The footings of this were present in the eastern part of the excavation but it disappeared in the collapse of the second terrace. …