Gioia del Colle's majestic Norman-Swabian castle is home to the National Archaeological Museum, a treasure trove of artefacts unearthed on excavations at Monte Sannace and the surrounding countryside.
The collection features grave goods and ornamental objects dating from the 5th to the 3rd centuries BC, including decorated vases and weapons, metal fibulas, and small terracotta statues that recount the history and customs of one of Peucetia’s largest communities.
Apart from the museum, which was founded in the 1980s, you can also visit the interesting excavations at the Monte Sannace Archaeological Park, 5 kilometres (3 miles) outside the town, where an important settlement of ancient Peucetia once stood.
The museum’s collection was first displayed in 1959 in the former Convent of San Francesco, to show artefacts unearthed during excavations on Monte Sannace and in the Santo Mola district between 1940 and 1953. The National Archaeological Museum was founded in 1977, when new artefacts from other excavations were added and the collection was moved to the Norman-Swabian castle.
The museum's home, Gioia del Colle's Norman-Swabian castle, rises in the centre of town. The castle's architectural core dates to Byzantine times but it was enlarged at the end of the 11th century by the Norman Riccardo Siniscalco (Richard of Hauteville). Frederick II re-established it in 1230 on his return from the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land. The Angevines and Aragonese later ruled the castle, which, in modern times passed from hand to hand until it was purchased by the Ministry of Public Education.
The National Museum’s many artefacts date from the Neolithic period to the Bronze and Iron Ages. The collection features vases decorated with geometrical motifs and figures, bronze weapons and utensils, fibulas and everyday objects. There are also small terracotta statues and military accessories from the 5th century BC, such as a Corinthian helmet and a leg guard.
Many grave goods found in the necropolises of Monte Sannace and Santo Mola are on show at the museum. Highlights include a red-figured bell-crater, attributed to the Painter of Amykos, one of the first Italic ceramic painters, and the remains of a series of domestic goods, including pottery stoves and several "pithoi" (large storage containers) whose edges are decorated with bas-reliefs featuring vegetation motifs.
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