Orto romano – The ornamental Kitchen Garden in the Archeological site of Augusta Bagiennorum

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THE ORNAMENTAL KITCHEN GARDEN IN THE ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE OF AUGUSTA BAGIENNORUM

Outside the urban perimeter of Augusta Bagiennorum, along one of the roads that enters into the city, there are the ruins of the amphitheatre. Today it is partially visible as a result of excavations conducted in 2001-’03, while the remaining area, still dipped in the agricultural landscape on the edge of the courtyard of Cascina Ellena remain to be explored. The building was built shortly after the middle of the I century AD on an artificial embankment and was used until the IV century AD.

The concentration in this place of special landscape conditions, the strong connection with the archeology of the area and the domestic dimension transmitted by the internal court of the farm have created ideal premises so that the area was chosen for the reconstruction of an ancient Roman ornamental kitchen garden, which was inspired by the Roman tradition of utilitarian gardens. The project guidelines were drawn according to studies conducted in Rome and Pompeii on coeval gardens (I-II century BC) and by comparison with agricultural treatises of classical authors: a space of 100 square meters, protected by external intrusion, fenced with wooden grillage or sticks, divided into long and narrow flowerbeds, separated by paths for their maintenance, shaded by vine’s pergolas, also used for outdoor dining, and from some fruit trees.

The flowerbeds were cultivated with useful plants for the home: “plants for sacred ceremonies, medicinal plants, herbs and spices. To prepare holy crowns it sows marigolds, daffodils, snapdragons, white and blue hyacinths, dark and yellow violets, lilies and roses. For medicinal use it must cultivate panacea, glaucius, poppy, arugula and watercress. Among the plants kitchen should not miss chervil, chicory, lettuce, horseradish, capers, mint, dill and rue, enule and splints, garlic and onions, mustard, rennet grass, savory, cucumbers, pumpkins and different kinds of artichokes.” (Annamaria Ciarallo, The Pompeian garden. The plants, the garden, the secrets of cooking, Electa Napoli, 2003).

ARCHAEOBOTANY

The choices for Ornamental Kitchen Garden are based both on the literary knowledge of the species used in the Augustan period and the results of palynological analysis made on soil samples collected in the site during the excavations in 2004 -2008. This type of archaeobotanic investigation allows us to identify the species and to assess the extent of cultivated field in the area, as well as providing an overview of the natural flora, thanks to the pollen recognition of various vegetal entities, settled in the soil at the time of care of a site.
The palynological analysis are supported by other archaeobotanical surveys, including important ones on the seeds, fruits, timbers and carbons present in the sediments: the set of results allows to sketch the essential lines of the ancient man-made and natural sceneries, creating a paleoenvironmental reconstruction the more accurate the more numerous are the samples analyzed.
Alongside the archaeobotanical data on sediments are taken into account, with increasing attention, also other information, such as imprints of plants on ceramic remains and the pictorial representations, even fragmentary, always relevant for the completion of the framework. In the case of Augusta Bagiennorum it was possible to reconstruct the main types of present cultivation between the end of the first century BC and IV-VI century AD, chronological period in which it articulates the vitality of the ancient Roman settlement, which results surrounded by wooded areas: the kitchen garden that has been rebuilt wants to offer a synthesis between what passed from literary texts on agriculture of the time and from what has emerged by the scientific archaeobotanical analysis.

 

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