Skip to content

Test site

Roman amphitheatre of Venosa | BASILICATA

Panoramic view of the experimental site of the Venosa Amphitheatre | © Maurizio Lazzari, CNR ISPC

Origins, history and context

The IDEHA test site is located on a terraced plateau on which stands the city of Venosa (northeastern sector of the Basilicata region, Italy), ancient Venusia, a Latin colony founded in 291 BC, which became a municipium in 89 BC and a triumviral colony in 43 BC. In the easternmost sector of the city rises the Roman amphitheatre, built in the peripheral area of the town. The first phase of construction, in square work, dates back to the first half of the 1st century AD, the second, in mixed work, is a second-century AD reconstruction.

The amphitheatre was built in a densely urbanised sector, eliminating a pre-existing residential area. 

Rilievo dell’area di studio con foto prospettica da drone
Survey of the study area with a perspective photo from a drone | © Francesco Giuri, CNR ISPC

The building has an elliptical shape for a total width of 98x77m. The central portion is distributed on three levels, which represent respectively the ima, media and summa cavea, equipped with annular corridors with reinforcing walls and radial wedges with four rooms, two on each side, placed symmetrically with respect to the south-east corridor of the central axis. Below the arena, several rooms were found that probably served as a tool shed and as a shelter for animals.

The huge lack of external structures is probably due to the reuse that occurred over the centuries for the construction of the Church of the "Incompiuta" (12th century), planned and begun by the wish of the Normans and never finished.

Chiesa dell’Incompiuta nel Parco Archeologico di Venosa
Church of the "Incompiuta" in the archaeological site of Venosa | © Maurizio Lazzari, CNR ISPC

The first excavation activities carried out in the area of the building, of which written evidence remains, date back to the Bourbon age and had the purpose of uncovering the building, of which brief descriptions of the structures and finds found in it are reported. A second excavation campaign dates back to 1935 and was conducted by G. Pesce, who reports a fairly detailed plan and section of the building. Other excavation activities date back to the 1980s and had the main purpose of highlighting the underlying structures of the building, obliterated for the construction of the amphitheatre itself.

IDEHA experimentation

Realization of Tromino geophysical prospecting | © Maurizio Lazzari, CNR ISPC
Riprese con fotovideocamera 360°
Shooting with 360 ° camera | © Maurizio Lazzari, CNR ISPC
Fase di calibrazione per le riprese con fotovideocamera 360°
Calibration phase for shooting with 360 ° camera | © Maurizio Lazzari, CNR ISPC

With the field experimentation, IDEHA intends to pursue the following goals:

  • Reconstruction of the missing sectors of the amphitheatre through analysis of historical sources, material finds, reused in the ancient city and from multispectral satellite images and historical aerial photos;
  • Reconstruction of previous environmental contexts and coeval with the life period of the amphitheatre;
  • Definition of the housing systems prior to the construction of the amphitheatre;
  • Increase the attractiveness of the archaeological area of Venusia, also enhancing the sector occupied by the amphitheatre, through the virtual 3D reconstruction of the entire structure of the Roman amphitheatre and the animation of daily life scenes.
  • Check the stability conditions of the structures in relation to the geological and geomorphological conditions of the site.


Preparation phase for shooting with laser scanner | © Maurizio Lazzari, CNR ISPC
Realizzazione di prospezioni geofisiche a rifrazione
Realization of refraction geophysical prospecting | © Maria Sileo, CNR ISPC

In order to achieve these goals, the following technologies will be applied:

  • Geophysical prospecting (magnetometry, georadar, 3D geoelectric tomography, Tromino);
  • Remote sensing and photo-restitution (archival multitemporal satellite images - aerial photos);
  • Flight with drone, GPS measurements on the ground and 3D digital model construction;
  • Shooting with laser scanner of the amphitheatre area;
  • Realization of shots with photo and video camera at 360 °;
  • Definition of the stratigraphical geological model of the site;
  • Analysis of published and unpublished bibliographic and archive sources;
  • Support for the 3D reconstruction of the amphitheatre;
  • Application of experimental sensors with acoustic emissions for static monitoring of the Incompiuta structure (with Unimore).
Architectural detail of one of the annular corridors of the amphitheater | © Maurizio Lazzari, CNR ISPC

IDEHA stakeholders

The main stakeholders of the project, directly involved in the planning phases of the activities, and the first beneficiaries of the final results are the National Archaeological Museum of Venosa "Mario Torelli" (Regional Directorate of the Museums of Basilicata), which manages the conservation, enhancement and general fruition system of the site, SABAP Basilicata, an institution that manages the protection of cultural heritage and cooperates with the other Institutions for its enhancement, and the Municipality of Venosa (PZ), the Administrative Body that manages the tourist fruition of the site.

The research team

CNR group

Annamaria Briuolo, Stefano Del Lungo, Dario Gioia, Maurizio Lazzari (test site coordinator), Agata Maggio e Maria Sileo (Potenza ISPC).

Lara De Giorgi, Immacolata Ditaranto, Ivan Ferrari, Francesco Giuri, Giovanni Leucci, Pasquale Merola, Giuseppe Scardozzi (Lecce ISPC).

Bruno Fanini, Giulio Lucarini, Augusto Palombini (Roma ISPC)

To the CNR Team are associated: Ilaria Miccoli (research fellow, Lecce); Antonio Minervino (research fellow, Potenza); Valentina Leopizzi (intern Potenza/Lecce)

Gruppo Engineering SpA: Luca Bevilacqua, Vladimiro Scotto Di Carlo, Nicola Mariniello.