«A monument to our heritage»
December 1844: Messapian tombs were discovered in the «Orti della Rosaria», the then property of the Cathedral Chapter. The Messapi were an Illyrian poulation established in the Salentino peninsular of Apulia between the VII and III Century B.C.
The scholar, Cosimo Arcangelo De Giorgi, in his travel log published in 1882, wrote:
«I visited some of the sepulchre. They are an average of 2-5 metres deep, and were covered with beams on which were enscribed Messapian words which had been lost. The tombs are dug into the local chalk-like stone with the form of a parallelepipedon, without plaster and without the addition of friezes; two meteres high […] In these tombs, apart from the enscriptions, alongside the skeletons, there were amphorae, plates, containers for oil, terracotta vases both varnished and crude with one or two handles, oil-burners decorated with masks, idols, and children’s toys and so on».
Cosimo Arcangelo De Giorgi, La provincia di Lecce. Bozzetti di viaggio, Lecce 1882, volume 1.
On the 11th January 1845, a full Chapter meeting was called in which the Atchdeacon informed the brethren of the discovery and expressed his will to rehouse the findings in a dedicated museum with the aim of «conserving the findings as a monument to our heritage».
The findings on display here, uncovered in the «Orti della Rosara», including pottery with red figures, Apule pottery with black paint, Gnathian style pottery and others including «trozzelle», amphorae, vases, ointment carriers, oil burners and toys.
Teodoro De Giorgio