A window on ancient Hirpinia

Among the cultural resources of Campania, the archaeological section of the Museo Irpino, located on the ground floor of Palace of Culture, is a must for those wishing to approach the knowledge of our territory and its ancient history.
In addition to the exhibits belonging to the Zigarelli collection, the section offers a rich archaeological evidence about various ages of settlement in Irpinia, from Prehistory to the Late Roman Age, with an installation that follows a historical-chronological criterion and a rigorous geographical location of the sites on the territory with specificities in ancient times.
Among several cores that characterize this section, the most important materials are clearly dedicated to the Italic divinity Mefite, whose sanctuary, destination of pilgrimages and offerings since the 6th century BC, was located in the Ansanto Valley near Rocca San Felice. The most important discovery made in this place, considered by the ancients a “Gateway to the Underworld” for its particular geophysical features, was a rich votive deposit made up of amber, gold, bronze objects, clay and wooden statuettes, ceramics, coins and weapons, mostly gifts offered to the goddess.
Of all these materials, the most interesting and original finding is the so-called Xoanon, a well-preserved wooden statue found in the stream adjacent to the chalk and methane lake at the foot of the sanctuary. The statue features an elongated body in the shape of a stele with two crossed lines engraved on the chest, hinted arms and a triangular face, on which two wide eyes stand out: it probably represented a man from Irpinia or Samnium in his typical clothing.
Another particularly important exhibit nucleus is represented by the findings coming from the prehistoric necropolis of Madonna delle Grazie, in the area of Mirabella Eclano, which is part of the complex patchwork of evidence attesting the presence in Irpinia of the so-called “Gaudo” Eneolithic culture (named after the district Gaudo in Paestum, place of the first findings connected to this cultural facies), dating back to the 3rd millennium BC. The so-called “Tomba del Capo Tribù”, discovered in the 1960s by Oscar G. Onorato stands out among the burials, made up of one or two cells dug in the tufa. Next to the deceased persom, in a crouched position, there are the skeleton of a dog, a rich set of impasto vases, flint weapons, metal objects and a stone stick broken into two parts, identified as the command sceptre, symbol of the power of this man.
In the atrium, along the corridors and in the last rooms there are findings dating back to the Roman Age, from two important centres of Irpinia: Aeclanum and Abellinum.
We can find everyday objects, architectural elements, ceramics, glasses, plasters, coins and lots of other material found at Aeclanum, an important city crossed by the Appian Way, the so-called “Regina viarum”: the most important findings are several marble statues, such as that of Niobide that decorated the baths, built around the 2nd century AD.
Many Roman findings come from Abellinum, a centre built in the fertile valley crossed by the Sabato river, in an ideal position to control the transit between the areas of Benevento and Salerno: there is a really interesting polychrome mosaic floor of the 3rd-4th century AD. It probably decorated a large room of a public building or a noble domus and is called the seasons’ mosaic, for the presence of an allegory of the periods of the year. Found during the construction of a road in the 1960s, it measures about 41 square metres and is only a part of the entire floor.