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The early Middle Ages
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The early Middle Age period begins in the 4th century up to the whole 7th century a.D. In the 5th century, in the West, a sort of closed and natural economy emerges: it is closed because villages tended to produce what was necessary for their survival, thus reducing exchanges; and it was natural because payments were made with natural products, avoiding the use of money. The 7th  century, with the well-established supremacy of the Longobards in Italy, is characterized by a new settlement model and by a socio-economic system exclusively made of villages.
The Longobards, in fact, especially in Apulia penetrated into the rural districts and began the transformation of these centres into small courts. Some agricultural settlements gathered around a church rose, with baptisteries and necropolis. This is the case of Belmonte, an important early-Christian installation near Altamura; here, one of the few immersion baptisteries of southern Italy was found. Here, in some funerary outfits one of the most ancient examples of cross has been found, that is the golden cross with set stones.
The casual finding in Belmonte of a grave with a rich outfit of jewels was the occasion to set out on a series of archaeological excavations carried out in the period 1965 - 1969 and completed in 1991. The first excavations revealed the presence of a religious settlement, dating back to the early Middle Age and characterized by the remains of a church with basilica plan, a baptistery and its graveyard area, as well as a double wall system. The architectural structures found in the excavations let us date the structure in a period ranging from the 5th century to the first half of the 6th century a.D. This dating is confirmed by some interesting finds both from the most ancient excavations and from the new stratigraphical assays. The plant of the church of Belmonte seems to have a tripartite structure: along the main hall, there are many spaces for different liturgical utilizations. Such plan is very similar to those of early-Christian basilicas and baptisteries, in Apulia and Basilicata, situated in a town context, like the basilica of Rufenzio in Egnazia (5th – 6th century), but also the basilica of Metaponto, (4th century). The architectural structures seem to be part of a scheme with Byzantine influence, as it was a well-established style in the Adriatic area between 5th and 6th century.
In addition to the materials extrapolated from the graves, (probably 6th -7th century), the new excavations have dug up also ceramic and vitreous manufactured articles, which can be related to other productions found on other sites (end of the 4th century - beginning of the 5th up to the second half of the 6th century): a well defined period of time and a more complex settlement of Belmonte comes out, if compared to the previous results derived from other research.
Further evidence that would lead to the dating process is represented by the baptismal basin found on the southern side of the Church. This structure represents the most preserved archaeological example of the whole settlement and, for the peculiarity of its plan, it constitutes a point of reference of particular value for the early-Christian architecture.

Further information

Location: First floor
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