Project description

The Edinburgh-Apolline Aeclanum excavations are supported by a wide range of bodies.

HCA Aeclanum

The Aeclanum excavations are a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and the Apolline Project and are directed by Dr Ben Russell and Dr Girolamo F. De Simone.

The Edinburgh-Apolline Aeclanum excavations are supported by the Comune di Mirabella Eclano and the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le province di Salerno ed Avellino and also involve the Accademia di Belle Arti di Napoli, the Università degli Studi del Sannio at Benevento, and the British School at Rome. As well as specialists from Edinburgh, the project includes experts in a range of disciplines from the universities of Cambridge, Naples-Federico II, Naples-Suor Orsola Benincasa, Padua, Prague, Reading, Rome-La Sapienza, St Andrews, Sydney, Tokyo, UCL, and Western Ontario.

Aeclanum (map) lies beyond the shores of the Bay of Naples in inner Campania and more precisely in the district of Irpinia (ancient Hirpinia), which in antiquity constituted the southern part of Samnium. The city was probably founded in the 3rd c. BC, sacked by Sulla in 89 BC, turned into a colony under Hadrian in AD 120, and finally developed into an important Christian bishopric between the 4th and 7th centuries AD. Although the site is by no means small (at least 18 hectares), only a few buildings had been brought to light prior to our work at the site, notably part of a market (macellum), an early Christian church and the Roman baths, the walls of which are preserved up to several metres high in places. Rescue excavations in the 2000s on the edge of the site have uncovered large Roman and late antique cemeteries, workshops and public buildings, one containing a large imperial statue, probably of Marcus Aurelius, in white marble. All of these finds suggest a considerable level of wealth at the city during the Roman and early Medieval periods. Hirpinia was an important supply region for the coastal cities of Campania, providing timber and livestock, and a major concern of the project will be clarifying Aeclanum’s economic connections. The site also sits on the Via Appia, the most important road in Roman Italy, and is close the major river Calore. Unlike the coastal cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, Aeclanum was not destroyed in AD 79 by the eruption of Vesuvius but continued to thrive well beyond this. A significant earthquake hit the site, however, in AD 346 and then the Vesuvian eruption of AD 472, volcanic layers associated with which we have successfully identified in the archaeological record. The site of Aeclanum itself represents a perfect case study of a multi-method archaeological investigation since it is almost entirely untouched archaeologically and has never been built over. 

Publications of project-related research


Presentations of project-related research

  • 26 October: Ferdinando De Simone and Ben Russell, ‘The AD 346 earthquake and its consequences: new evidence from Aeclanum in Hirpinia’, at the Convivere con i Fenomeni Sismici nel Mediterraneo Antico conference, Cascia (Italy).
  • 3 April 2019: Ben Russell and Ferdinando De Simone, ‘The Vesuvian eruption of AD 472 and urban developments in fifth-century Campania: New evidence from the Apennines’, Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University (USA)
  • 21 March 2019: Ben Russell and Ferdinando De Simone, ‘Between earthquake and eruption: Aeclanum in the 4th and 5th centuries AD’, at The Late Antique Urban Landscape conference, University of Edinburgh (UK)
  • 7 January 2019: Ben Russell and Ferdinando De Simone, ‘A Roman and late antique city on the Via Appia: New excavations at Aeclanum (Campania, Italy)’, at the Dante Alighieri Society and Lanark Archaeology Society, Lanark (UK)
  • 27 October 2018: Josef Souček, Lucia Michielin, and Guglielmo Strapazzon, ‘Where imagination fails: new possibilities of presenting the unexcavated’, at the Computer Applications & Quantitative Methods in Archaeology – CAAUK conference, Edinburgh (UK)
  • 26 October 2018: Zofia Guertin and Ambra Ghiringhelli, ‘Creating comics for public engagement in Roman Aeclanum: visual conversations with Ancient History’ at the Public Engagement with Research conference, University of St Andrews (UK)
  • 9 October 2018: Martina Astolfi, Ferdinando De Simone, Philip Harrison, Antonio Mesisca, and Ben Russell, ‘Marble revetment at Aeclanum (Italy): new evidence from three public buildings’, at the ASMOSIA XII conference, Izmir (Turkey)
  • 10 September 2018: Zofia Guertin, ‘Creating comics for public engagement in Roman Aeclanum: illustrating Ancient History’, at the Drawing on the Past: The PreModern World in Comics conference, Institute of Classical Studies, London (UK)
  • 14 April 2018: Zofia Guertin, ‘Public archaeology in Aeclanum: creating pedagogical materials and site narratives for outreach’, at the Roman Archaeology Conference 2018, University of Edinburgh (UK)
  • 12 April 2018: Ferdinando De Simone and Ben Russell, ‘A Roman city on the Via Appia: New work at Aeclanum’, at the Roman Archaeology Conference 2018, University of Edinburgh (UK)
  • 1 December 2017: Ferdinando De Simone and Ben Russell, ‘Archeologia dell’invisibile ad Aeclanum: dal georadar al 3D’, at the Arte è Scienza conference, Mirabella Eclano (Italy)
  • 21 November 2017: Ben Russell and Ferdinando De Simone, ‘Aeclanum: A city on the Via Appia from the Samnites to Late Antiquity’, University of Cambridge (UK)
  • 20 November 2017, Ben Russell and Ferdinando De Simone, ‘New work at Aeclanum: A Roman city on the Via Appia’, University College London (UK)
  • 13 September 2017, Guglielmo Strapazzon, Ben Russell, and Ferdinando De Simone, ‘Integrating GPR and excavation at Roman Aeclanum (Avellino, Italy)’, at AP2017: 12th International Conference of Archaeology Prospection, University of Bradford (UK)
  • 24 May 2017, Ferdinando De Simone and Vincenzo Castaldo, ‘Sea or land? Trade on the fringes of Campania’, at LRCW 6: 6th International Conference on Land Roman Coarse Ware, Cooking Ware and Amphorae in the Mediterranean, Agrigento (Italy)

Public Archaeology at Aeclanum

Public Archaeology is a key aspect of our work at Aeclanum. In addition to regular open days, primarily for school children, we have produced information panels about the site and a comic book for a younger audience in collaboration with our resident illustrator and project manager, Zofia Guertin; the results of this work can be seen on the ArchaeoKids website. 

For a report on public engagement activities at Aeclanum see this blog post on the Institute of Classical Studies website