The Altamura National Archaeological Museum is located not far from the historic centre, in La Croce, an archaeological area of great importance where artefacts dating from the Bronze Age to the late Hellenistic period have been found.
The exhibition is divided into four sections, starting with one dedicated to the Prehistoric era. This features an interesting photographic exhibition on Altamura Man, the only skeleton from the Middle Palaeolithic period to have been found in Italy, which was discovered in the Lamalunga district in 1993.
The Archaic section has tombs and grave goods found in the necropolises of Altamura and Gravina in Puglia. The rooms dedicated to the Classical and Hellenistic periods display numerous Attic vases, while the section illustrating the Early Middle Ages features gold and silver jewellery found in the Belmonte locality. The museum also hosts a restoration laboratory.
Altamura's Municipal Museum was founded in 1891. The 1960s saw an increase in the number of archaeological discoveries in the area, and in 1987 the museum was entrusted to the Archaeological Superintendence of Puglia. In 1993, after the discovery of Altamura Man, the National Archaeological Museum was inaugurated with an exhibition dedicated to the exceptional find.
The museum's current home was built between 1964 and 1978. The fitting out of the first floor was completed in 1997 with displays on “The Ancient People of Alta Murgia”. In 2003 a section dedicated to the Palaeolithic age in Puglia and the cave of Lamalunga was added on the second floor.
The museum is divided into 6 sections: the Palaeolithic age, dedicated to the Altamura Man, the Prehistoric age, the Archaic period, the Classical age, the Hellenistic age and the Late Antiquity. The museum also features a permanent exhibition, entitled “Prehistoric Food. The origins of bread.”
A bossed bone plaque tells of life in the 2nd millennium BC, while an 'enchytrismòs' jar symbolizes the Archaic period. The Classical era is represented by a splendid 4th-century BC red-figure amphora and a 2nd-century BC olpe monoansata (a pitcher with a handle) hails from the Hellenistic age. Early medieval gold earrings date back to a period between the 6th and 8th centuries AD.
The extraordinary discovery of the Altamura Man dates back to 1993. The remains of the only skeleton from the Middle Palaeolithic period ever to be found in Italy were unearthed in a cave in the Lamalunga district. The cave's stalactites and stalagmites had ensured that the bones have survived almost intact and that they had been incorporated into the extraordinary natural setting. Studies conducted between 2009 and 2011 established that it's the skeleton of a Homo neanderthalensis who lived between 50,000 and 65,000 years ago.
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