metopa con decorazione in alto
By removing plants and trees which, over the years, had become a jungle covering the western side of the walls of the ancient city of Paestum in southern Italy, the archaeologists of the Italian Ministery of culture came across a completely unexpected discovery: the capitals, columns, cornices and triglyphs of a Doric building, dated to the early fifth century BC.
The most surprising discovery consists of a panel, probably a limestone metope decorated with three rosettes carved in relief, a feature known from other Doric buildings constructed between the 6th and 5th century BC at Paestum and the surrounding territory.
The work to clean the walls was begun a few days ago as part of a 6.5 milion Euro project funded by the European Union geared towards the restoration and enhancement of the city walls of ancient Paestum which are about 5 km long.
The architectural elements, which are also extremely interesting due to the presence of traces of plaster and red paint, seem to come from a field near the city walls from where they were removed during agricultural work beginning in the 1960s. They appear to have belonged to a small building – probably a temple – which dates to the early Classical period (early fifth century BC), a few years before the construction of the much bigger Neptune temple.
As Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the Director of the Archaeological park of Paestum, explains, an interesting discovery had been made in the zone in the past: a votive deposit with clay statuettes of female deities and pottery fragments dating from the 6th to the 3rd century BC.
The newly discovered temple is situated close to what may well have been the kerameikos of Paestum, the neighbourhood where the famous painted vases of the city were made. “This building must have been located between the artisanal quarter and the city wall and represents a gem of late Doric-Archaic architecture”.
The question remains: where exactly? At the same time as the discovery of the architectural elements, which have been placed in storage and will be carefully analysed and restaurated, the Park Authority, says the Director, has been in contact with Gino Famiglietti, Director General of Archaeology, and Francesca Casule, Superintendent for the provinces of Salerno, Avellino and Benevento, to work out a commonly agreed intervention and research strategy. The restauration work will be carried out in the Museum of Paestum, where visitors will be able to follow the activities and have a look at the newly discovered pieces, according to a “public archaeology”-policy adopted by the Paestum Park in recent years.
As director Gabriel Zuchtriegel underlines, the research is only at the beginning, but the importance of the discovery seems already clear: “It gives us a glimpse on the introduction of the Classical style in Paestum. Just like the Bramante tempietto in Rome many centuries later, the newly discovered temple in Paestum might have served to promote a new style in architecture–the Classical Doric canon as embodied in the Temple of Neptune in Paestum and the Parthenon in Athens.”

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Maria Boffa

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