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The changing landscape of Constanciacus: a lost settlement in the Lagoon of Venice

Daniela Cottica, D. Busato, S. Donnici et A. Traviglia
p. 47-49

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1« Costanziaco Project » is an interdisciplinary, multi-period archaeological project focused on the study of an ancient settlement in the Northern Lagoon of Venice, known in Medieval and later documentary sources as Costanciacus (Cottica et al., 2008). The project has been promoted by the Department of Antiquity and the Near East of the University of Venice and by the Superintendence for the Archaeological Heritage in the Veneto region.

2In Antiquity Costanciacus comprised two islands, S. Ariano (St. Hadrian) and La Cura, at that time much larger than their actual counterparts (Fig. 1). Nowadays these islands are surrounded by marshes and shallows that emerge from the water during low tides, covered by vegetation of brackish water (« barene »). The islands of S. Ariano and La Cura are located in the Northern portion of the Lagoon of Venice, not far form mainland and just a few kilometers form the ancient Roman town and fluvial port of Altinum (Bosio and Rosada, 1980; Rosada, 1990; Cresci and Marrone, Tirelli, 2003), and from the late Antique – early Medieval settlement of Torcello, known as the earliest urban settlement in the Lagoon of Venice. This portion of the Lagoon played an essential role in the process of formation of Venice itself and represents one of the early foci of human occupation and habitation in the Lagoon. The historical potential of this area is testified by archaeological finds brought into light by past archaeological investigations (Canal, 1995; Canal, 1998; Dorigo, 1995) and by archive documents dating to the Medieval and post Medieval period.

Figure 1: Overview of Constanciacus from the satellite with the surviving islands of La Cura e S. Ariano. GIS elaboration of satellite image and Regional Technical Map.

Figure 1: Overview of Constanciacus from the satellite with the surviving islands of La Cura e S. Ariano. GIS elaboration of satellite image and Regional Technical Map.

3It is well known that the Lagoon of Venice has always been subject to changes in sea level, with dramatic consequences on the geomorphology and hydrography of the area (Bondesan and Meneghel, 2004; Guerzoni and Tagliapietra,2006). The overwhelming natural environment makes this area of the Northern Adriatic Sea an interesting study case of integration between men and natural landscape.

4At present the area object of investigation is part of a natural reserve and this implies that extensive archaeological excavation is not possible. Therefore an integrated research agenda has been set up in order to investigate patterns of human settlement at Constanciacus. Research methods combine the study of archive data with aerial photos, -satellite images, archaeological survey, underwater prospecting, archaeological excavation (Fig. 2) and artifact analysis (Cottica et al., forthcoming).

Figure 2: Map of archaeological features at S. Ariano/St. Hadrian (drawing by C. M. Acqua, E. Cappelletto, V. Goti Vola) with detail of the same monastery as depicted in a map dating to 1572.

Figure 2: Map of archaeological features at S. Ariano/St. Hadrian (drawing by C. M. Acqua, E. Cappelletto, V. Goti Vola) with detail of the same monastery as depicted in a map dating to 1572.

5The use of GIS technologies supports an integrated analysis of cultural and natural landscape in the Lagoon. At present the GIS incorporates a wide range of data (e. g., modern topographic maps, historic cartography, aerial photography and high resolution satellite imagery), together with remotely sensed data. The latter, in the early stages of the research project provided useful indications for the identification of potential archaeological areas. Subsequently, field walking survey, underwater and underground prospecting, together with stratigraphic excavation (still in progress) have allowed to test, verify and implement the remotely sensed data.

6The analysis of patterns of human settlement at Constanciacus is strictly connected with the definition of the ancient local hydrography and geomorphology: therefore in the project paleo-environmental studies are of fundamental importance. In addition, in “Costanziaco Project” a further essential contribution is provided by archive research, which plays a crucial role in the understanding of Medieval and post Medieval phases of habitation (Cottica et al., forthcoming). Indeed a great wealth of information is available in graphic format (i.e. historical maps) or as documentary sources of various nature dating from the late X century A.D. up to present day. Paleo-environmental data and archive information are constantly added to the GIS platform, designed for landscape data management in a multi-temporal dimension. Eventually integrated data will allow us to define the framework of human occupation at Constanciacus from the early phases of occupation, through the Medieval Age (Fig. 3) and up to modern and contemporary age.

Figure 3: GIS elaboration (by D. Busato, R. Massi): topography of Constanciacus as appearing between the XII and XVI century A.D. Archive data geo-referenced on the Regional Technical Map.

Figure 3: GIS elaboration (by D. Busato, R. Massi): topography of Constanciacus as appearing between the XII and XVI century A.D. Archive data geo-referenced on the Regional Technical Map.

7The paper will illustrate the research project with its aims and integrated methodologies. Patterns of human and natural changing landscape will be discussed with particular emphasis on two specific period of crisis in human occupation: the late XII-early XIV centuries A. D, and the late XIV-mid XVI centuries, when some of the monasteries and ecclesiastical complexes of Constanciacus fell in abandonment and dismiss. In both cases changes in water levels and in local hydrography (Cavazzoni, 1995), together with the appearance of marshy lands or the submersion of large portions of cultivated lands, had dramatic effects on human settlement and local economy. As Eventually, from the XV century A. D. onwards the name of Constanciacus does not appear any more in documentary sources and historical maps.

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Bibliographie

Bondesan, A., Meneghel, M. (dir.), 2004. Geomorfologia della Provincia di Venezia, Padova.

Bosio, L. , Rosada, G., 1980. Le presenze insediative nell’arco dell’alto adriatico dall’epoca romana alla nascita di Venezia. In Forlati, B., Tamaro, L., Bertacchi, L., Beschi, M. C., Calvi, L., Bosio, G., Rosada, G., Cuscito, G., Gorini, (dir.). Da Aquileia a Venezia, Milan, 505-563.

Canal, E., 1995. Le Venezie sommerse: quarant’anni di archeologia lagunare. In Caniato, G., Turri, E., Zanetti, M., (dir.). La laguna di Venezia, Verona, 193-225.

Canal, E., 1998.Testimonianze archeologiche nella Laguna di Venezia - L’età antica, Cavallino di Venezia, Venezia.

Cavazzoni, S., 1995.La laguna: origine ed evoluzione. In Caniato, G., Turri, E., Zanetti, M., (dir.). La laguna di Venezia, Verona, 41-75.

Cottica, D., Fozzati, L., Traviglia, A., Goti Vola, V., 2008. Nuove ricerche sulla Laguna di Venezia in età romana. InGelichi, S., (dir.). Missioni archeologiche e progetti di ricerca e scavo dell’Università Ca’ Foscari-Venezia, Venice, 151-158.

Cottica, D., Fozzati, L., Tirelli, M., (dir.), forthcoming. “Progetto Costanziaco”: per il recupero e la valorizzazione di un patrimonio (quasi) scomparso nella Laguna Nord di Venezia. Un bilancio delle attività 2008, QdAV, XXV, 2009.

Cottica, D., Traviglia, A, Busato, D., forthcoming. Dalla ricerca d’archivio al remote sensing: metodologie integrate per lo studio del paesaggio antico. Il caso dell’antica Costanziaco, Laguna Nord di Venezia. Agri Centuriati International Journal of Landscape Archaeology.

Cresci Marrone, G., Tirelli, M., 2003. Altino da porto dei Veneti a mercato romano. In Cresci Marrone, G., Tirelli, M., (dir.). Produzioni, merci e commerci in Altino preromana e romana, Atti del convegno (Venezia 12-14 dicembre 2001), Rome, 7-25.

Dorigo, W., 1995. Fra il dolce e il salso: origini e sviluppi della civiltà lagunare. In Caniato, G., Turri, E., Zanetti, M., (dir.). La laguna di Venezia, Verona, 137-191.

Guerzoni, S., Tagliapietra, D., 2006. Atlante della laguna Venezia tra terra e mare, Venice.

Rosada G. 1990. La direttrice endolagunare e per acque interne della Decima Regio Maritima: tra risorsa naturale e organizzazione antropica. InLa Venetia nell’area padano-danubiana. Le vie di comunicazione, Atti del Convegno internazionale (Venezia, 6-10 aprile 1988), Padova, 153-182.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Overview of Constanciacus from the satellite with the surviving islands of La Cura e S. Ariano. GIS elaboration of satellite image and Regional Technical Map.
URL http://archeosciences.revues.org/docannexe/image/1262/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 196k
Titre Figure 2: Map of archaeological features at S. Ariano/St. Hadrian (drawing by C. M. Acqua, E. Cappelletto, V. Goti Vola) with detail of the same monastery as depicted in a map dating to 1572.
URL http://archeosciences.revues.org/docannexe/image/1262/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 176k
Titre Figure 3: GIS elaboration (by D. Busato, R. Massi): topography of Constanciacus as appearing between the XII and XVI century A.D. Archive data geo-referenced on the Regional Technical Map.
URL http://archeosciences.revues.org/docannexe/image/1262/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 143k
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Référence papier

Daniela Cottica, D. Busato, S. Donnici et A. Traviglia, « The changing landscape of Constanciacus: a lost settlement in the Lagoon of Venice », ArcheoSciences, 33 (suppl.) | 2009, 47-49.

Référence électronique

Daniela Cottica, D. Busato, S. Donnici et A. Traviglia, « The changing landscape of Constanciacus: a lost settlement in the Lagoon of Venice », ArcheoSciences [En ligne], 33 (suppl.) | 2009, mis en ligne le 30 octobre 2011, consulté le 01 mai 2017. URL : http://archeosciences.revues.org/1262 ; DOI : 10.4000/archeosciences.1262

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Auteurs

Daniela Cottica

University of Venice Ca’ Foscari (cottica@unive.it)

D. Busato

S. Donnici

A. Traviglia

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