The Sassi of Matera and similar settlements located in the plateau of the Murge and extending to the city of Taranto are a prime example of how archaic societies lived and ran the resources of the karstic areas in the Lucanese, Apulian and Sicilian regions.
The cities were built on the edge of the deep gorges of the graves and had a highly irregular water flow.
The inhabitants were distributed along the plateau and steep slope instead of the bottom of the canyon that could constitute the water reservoir.
The reason is that rainy water and dew were collected in the drainage devices and in the caves that represented the great resource of these mazes, as well as in other troglody-like complexes similar to the Sassi of Matera in the stone towns of graves.
They are the synthesis of the organization of the space made by the various socio-cultural groups that have lived in these areas.
Hunters-gatherers left traces of their presence in the natural caves that open in the heavy rock of graves.
During the Neolithic Age, the limestone plateaus were populated and witnessed by the large number of densely populated villages.
In the Age of Metals, agri-pastoral populations did not conflict with previous Neolithic settlements, as they settled on the slope, therefore, there is a physical synthesis of different cultures in three geographic environments: the plain, the slope, and the caves.
An adequate system of town center was built in the Sassi of Matera, a stone oak that developed the original prehistoric techniques, thus allowing a harsh and sterile area to be inhabited by combining various principles of water production.
The traditional use of the constructive space of the houses saved the clay hills upstream of the canyon that were left in the woods and fruit trees.
The water absorbed during the rains that pours down from the gravina also comes from these hills.
Water caught on the edges of the gravina, among the valleys, is typical of karstic and limestone areas; Called lakes, characterize the toponymastics of the Murcia Plateau of Apulia and Lucania.
These puddles, which are completely dried for most of the year, may receive overflowing water during the rainy season, which is why they have been equipped with a tank system that stores water before it is dispersed In the karst meanders.
Around the Alberobello region in Puglia, these depressions are organized as a hydrographic system very similar to Conversano lakes and are called cisterns.
On the Gargano promontory, the same karstic formations with waterproofed walls are called cutini.
In the Sassi of Matera and in many other habitats similar to gravines, the urbanization process is started by lakes on the upper edge of the low canyon.
The place where water drops down from the throat edge is a symbolic place, a threshold between the high plain and the abyss of life and beyond.
In the Age of Metals, these edges were characterized by constructions like temples and granaries belonging to individual family clans that practiced purification rites dedicated to the first fruits they offered to the precipice.
The rocky tombs were excavated from the ridge along the slope.
In the Iblea region of Sicily, the site of Pantalica was abandoned during the Classical Era and not undergoing the next overlap, is a valid example of architecture of that period.
On the plateau of Pantalica, the cyclopatic masonry of the palace of Prince Shepherd Anaktoron, dating back to the Bronze Age, is still visible.
The complex has about five thousand tombs excavated in the rocky walls of the canyon of which.
The most archaic ones were small grottoes with circular single chamber and passage entrances.
Subsequently caves appeared with shapes of false domes similar to Greek Tholos.
The tombs with different square rooms with shared entrance and disengagement are of recent times.
The artifacts dating from the XIII to X century BC are shaped according to the local tradition with strong references to mycenaean and aegean architecture.
It is significant that in the same region the historical centers of Ragusa Ibla, Scicli and Modica developed according to the water matrix such as Pantalica, exhibit strong morphological analogies with the system of the habitat of the Sassi of Matera and the apulian gravine.
At Gravina in Apulia, the edge of the Botromagno canyon, the great Bothros (Sacred Well or Gorge in Greece), shows the evidence of ancient water used for ritual functions.
Prehistoric engravings and graffiti follow the hollow hole notes with mysterious holes that have been documented by the Sahara in Malta, Greece and the Yucatan at a corner of the stone wall in the Maya Temple of Uxmal.
The holes are water puddles that were probably used for luster purposes and would certainly be filled with rainwater collected in wells dug on the cattle plain.
The holes were used for bidding and depositing, or, it could be used for excavation activities that, like Petra, were made from top to bottom with gangways hanging on strings fixed in the holes.
The foundations of the many monumental complexes excavated in similar limestones in Pantalica’s Anaktoron are very obvious.
In the Age of Metals, every great family clan would have had its place for ceremonies and representations on the edge of the deep rebellion.
The abode was made up of huts where holes left by piles are still visible in the terrain scattered among the rock houses.
With the passing of time, massive works to prevent landscaping by controlling the flow of water to protect this area from hilly erosion show the formation of large protourbanal social communities.
The slope below was used for housing and agri-pastoral activities through the excavation of cave-shaped cave tanks, extending downwards, the water and garden gardens.
When in the 700 BC The Greek colonizers founded the city of Taranto, the indigenous peoples of the city of Gravina, probably unleashed by that foreign presence, made massive works for the preservation of soils and for the collection and distribution of valuable water resources.
On the hill of Botromagno, beyond the mass construction and pipelines that are the result of hard work, there was an efficient agricultural community that built hilly terraces that are still in use today.
During Greek civilization the area on the edge of the gravina was used as a place of worship where a large necropolis settled with monumental tombs of hypogeum.
Water again became the most important element: a recent excavation has brought to light a votive environment excavated in the rock that forms spaces similar to small sacred islands separated by canals where the drainage waters, a Time, they slid down.
In the area, a long drainage tunnel, similar to the Sahara reservoir, reaches a cave that was converted into a church in the Middle Ages.
The works of the hydraulic works at Gravina di Puglia have continued in recent times as well, channels and wells extend the tunnel to the edge of the gravina and arrive at the magnificent aqueduct built in the eighteenth century which feeds the city, located on the opposite side of the canyon .
The process of organizing space in the Mediterranean has been achieved thanks to the exploitation of the slopes and the practice of the techniques for the fertilization of those areas not accessible to previous colonizers.
In the same period, the three-point rotation system was introduced: cereals, oats and legumes.
From that moment on, agriculture in temperate Europe has sustained population and urbanization comparable to the hot and sunny areas of the Middle East, based on irrigation.
In fact, the imposing Roman hydraulic works have not changed farmland based on the wide variety of technical solutions and widely used, on a small scale, by local communities.
Roman civilization can not therefore be defined as a hydraulic society based on the magnificence of works and on state despotism since the physical nature of the Mediterranean territory formed by inaccessible places, small country plots without large river basins.
The complex organization of cultivated fields and buildings, ritually and spiritually linked, based on the layout and maintenance of the ancient Italian and Mediterranean landscape and its permanence to the present day, was confirmed in the Roman Age.
The Mediterranean is between two climatic systems: the continental and the African continent. This border condition called ecoton makes the Mediterranean climate unique that it’s only in a few situations in the world.
The threshold line is never stable and its fluctuation over time determines the Mediterranean climate.
Although these fluctuations do not have a world-wide influence, they are decisive on a local scale.
It is supposed that the period the greatest expansion of Roman civilization was connected with the northward shift of the optimal Mediterranean climate, while the following periods when the barbarian invasions occurred coincided with the south-south spread of the northern climate.
After 300 d.C. the ecoton started moving south thus favoring, starting from 500 d. C., the supremacy of the northern populations organized in pastoral economic systems and settlements, that were adapted to a climate that became colder.
This condition accentuates the typical features of the area making it extreme. We generally think of the Mediterranean as an environment rich in pleasant places with a mild climate where nature is conducive to.
Instead it is the opposite: the Mediterranean has three parts touching islands and peninsulas free of earth and surface water; its orography is impenetrable and irregular and even in the north the seasons alternate with irregular and catastrophic climatic conditions.
The flow can be infrequent and poor in some periods and violent and ruinous in others. Therefore, small communities are organized with the management and protection of space on the oasis model based on control and collection of low levels of humidity.
Cretan buildings, Apulian trulli, Palestinian crops, stone towns of the gravine, Tunisian neighborhoods built around wells, fences and ditches in Attica and Boezia, underground settlements in Anatolia, large complexes in Malta, Jordan , Spain and Algeria are examples of oases.
The organization of space in the Mediterranean is the result of constant work with the aim of preserving the soil and for the proper use of resources by avoiding the phenomenon of erosion and desertification.
Civilization arises from a continual struggle against a nature that has put the populations undergoing various types of cataclysm, such as earthquakes, floods and droughts, migrations and diaspora, fighting and wars.
Nomads, transuming, disenchanted, and landowners have saved ancient memory by imprinting them on transportable goods: in their handicrafts, carpets, gestures, and songs.
They have preserved ancient memory in places chosen by myth, epics and poetry, and have crystallized them into mausoleums, rural buildings, names given to mountain ridges, and stories that permeate in the valleys of the rivers.
The tradition, the knowledge that formed within this process, emerges periodically in the great deposit of popular wisdom: THE LANDSCAPE.
The first were introduced by sailors who built water tanks, known only to them, in the tanks of the islands along the arid shores that were then spread by nomadic tutors of organizational knowledge of the landscape.
The various techniques of water conservation typical of Nabatean agriculture, caves and condensation wells. stones rocks for rainwater collection and underground dams, are found in the Negev and across the Mediterranean.
These techniques developed in an urban ecosystem of the Petra town in Jordan but exist in Tunisia, Libya, southern Italy and particularly in the islands and have been transmitted from the ancient prehistoric tradition or introduced with the latest streams of communication.
The technique has the ability to self-regulate which allows to intensively cultivate both swampy and arid environments.
This process is supported by additional underground channels excavated inside the plots.
Subterranean channels are made of porous stones and pine branches covered with a layer of Posidonia seaweed collected on the coast.
Traditional techniques are adopted not only on the coasts of the southern Mediterranean and in the regions of southern Europe but also in northern France and even in the Swiss mountains, where certain geomorphological conditions cause aridity.
The most popular system, which can be described as one of the main characteristics of the Mediterranean area, is the terracing that spreads from the Middle East to Greece to Portugal and Italy.
The fact that this technique has spread to northern Europe, Ireland and the Orkney islands, makes it think of a diffusion linked to cultural reasons such as megalithic prehistoric art and pastoral practices.
Some devices still in use may explain how Apulian specchie work; the heaps of oblong stones, very similar to the specchie, have their peaks covered with plaster for collecting rainwater that is deposited in lateral tanks.
Rainwater harvesting techniques, areas with walled gardens, organic residues for humus production, passive architecture methods, climate control for food preservation, and energy saving have been integrated and perpetuated in the structures of the ancient Mediterranean centers.
The aesthetic components we appreciate in the cities, the beauty of natural materials, the comfort of buildings and spaces, the organicity of the relationship with the landscape, is due to the qualities of traditional techniques and the search for symbiosis and harmony rooted in knowledge local.
Throughout the Mediterranean, the economy of poorly-developed companies, to ensure their survival, has been based on careful and parsimonious management of natural resources.
The close relationship between the ancient, agricultural techniques and settlements makes traditional historic centers become fundamental to the conservation of the environment.
In the whole Mediterranean area, characterized by an intense anthropic process, there is no totally natural environment.