Dinosaur Footprints, The Man of Altamura, The bread of Altamura.

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DINOSAUR FOOTPRINTS

The uniqueness of Altamura is also attested by thousands of dinosaur foot prints that have been discovered in 1999 outside the city, in De Lucia quarry, in Via Santeramo. Over 25.000 foot prints of at least 5 different species of dinosaurs have been preserved in the Altamura mud. The stratigraphic layer probably dates back to the Cretaceous period, more precisely the santonian period (83,5 – 85,8 million years ago). It is the most important and best preserved discovery in Italy and in Europe.

The climate in Apulia, during that time period, was very different from today’s one: a tropical climate, much warmer. This permitted the conservation of the prints; they were dried by the sun before they were covered by other calcareous layers. One can imagine these animals moving around on a sort of muddy plain, a clear carbonate mud in which they left their imprints, quite deep even. In some foot prints it is possible to see the holes where mud was taken attached to the foot of the dinosaur. In some cases, one can see the articulation of the foot or the folds of the skin. The footprints that have been studied so far have been ascribed to the ornithischian dinosaurs, probably ornithopods (with three toes). Marginocephalia and thyreophora are not escluded. All of these dinosaurs are herbivores. It is assumed that these dinosaurs were smaller than their contemporaries.  The area in which they lived was geographically isolated. Therefore, there was less room and need for them to evolve as enormous as other dinosaurs.

The prints are important because they can give information about different aspects: the skeletal motor apparatus, posture, the walk, behavior, speed and environmental preferences of dinosaurs. The site also offers a contribution to paleo-environmental and paleo-geographic reconstructions. Infact it changed the previously assumption of a partially submerged region that was thought to be the Murgia millions of years ago. Dinosaurs need a large and stable environment in order to find enough food. The quarry is a candidate for UNESCO’s world heritage list. The footprints left by dinosaurs in the De Lucia quarry,cannot be visited for the time being as they will be shortly undergo restoration work and hopefully they are expected to be included in an ad-hoc archaeological park. Dinosaur footprints have been discovered in various places in Italy (Liguria, Veneto, Tuscany, Campania, Sardinia). For instance, at the ichnological site of Lavini di Marco (Rovereto, Trento region), footprints and trackways related to over 200 dinosaurs from the Jurassic period (Liasperiod, about 200 millions years ago) have been detected. However, the De Lucia Cave, with its thousands of footprints is a unique site. Although they had remained intact for so many years they started to deteriorate in the last 14 years and so a urgent action needed to be taken. The expropriation of the quarry by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, announced in 2011, has finally occurred. Let’s just hope that the severity of neglect lasted years (and still ongoing) may come to an end and serious work can start to prevent the numerous foot prints from undergoing more vandalism and erosion due to the atmospheric agents.

 

THE MAN OF ALTAMURA

L'uomo di AltamuraIn October 1993, a group of spelaeologists exploring the Lamalunga cave, one of the numerous karstic caves in the region, run into the complete skeleton of a prehistoric man dating back to about 130,000 years ago. The man had remained trapped in the cave, which is part of the Altamura Murge area and is currently one of its most significant elements. It is made up of several galleries extended not far beneath the limestone surface, which is crossed by vertical pits. At a given stage in the long history of the cave, it is difficult to say precisely when, the palaeontological findings were deposited and subsequently dispersed on account of the periodical inflow of water; later on, the findings were covered by concretions. The maingallery in the cave, which is currently inactive and suspended on the bottom of the valley, can be accessed via a verticalpit, at whose base collapsed stones and an imposing depositconoid can be found. On the soil there are spread mostly complete bones of animals, which show higher concentrations in some areas; they belong to hyenas, deers, fallowdeers, and horses and are covered by a thin calcareous sheet as well as, in some cases, by “coralshaped” concretions. The same concretions, producing a major visual impact, cover the remains of the human skeleton located in the area called “the Man’s Apse”. Some of the bones, in particular the overturned skull, were moved about by the inflow of water that in the past was present in the cave. They are of outstanding interest for human palaeontological studies, as they provide a unique opportunity for studying the only complete skeleton existing in the world that appears to be especially well preserved also in its most fragile anatomic parts, such as the internal walls of the orbits. The decision not to remove the skeleton from this site, the skeleton being cemented to calcareous rock, has increased the difficulties and time required for an in-depth study; still, image analysis allowed attributing it to an archaicHomo sapienss howing some features that will be typical of Neandertalians. To ensure the conservation it is not possible to visit the paleontological remains within the Lamalunga cave, but scholars and visitors can view a recorded footage of the cave in its minute details through monitors placed both the Archaeological Museum of Altamura and to Masseria Ragone Lamalunga, the latter is located at just 800 meters from the cave of the Altamura man.

Examining the bones, it is clear that it concerns a male (one can tell from the pelvis) of about 1.60 or 1.65 meters in height (measuring the femur) who probably reached an age of 35. The skull is very interesting because it shows characteristics of two human species: most (the face, the jaw and the long flat head) are characteristic for the Homo erectus (who made his way into Europe about little over 500.000 years ago).  But the pronounced ridges over the eye sockets are characteristic features of the Neanderthal (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) who was in Europe possibly as early as 300.000 years ago and became extinct around 28.000 years ago.  Thus modern Italians (or humans) do not derive from this skeleton or these species.

Theory is that the man (while hunting) fell down into the cave (from the original entrance) and was unable to come out and eventually starved to death. He did not break anything in the fall. He probably walked around in search of an exit and arrived at end of the cave. Know that thousands of years ago the cave was different and some narrow passages were more spacious for sure. Note that inside the cave there’s no light besides arriving from the entrance. A total darkness can lead to panic. Other theory is that he died outside the cave and was washed inside by water or the water washed him into the corner. The bone sample, recovered in 2009 that corresponds to a portion of the right scapula, has allowed the DNA extraction and the measurement of certain morphological characteristics.The new findings place the skeleton in a period between 170 thousand and 130 thousand years ago, that is the final phase of the Middle Pleistocene, unlike most European Neanderthal artifacts that date back to the the Upper Pleistocene, instead. “This is therefore a unique fossil of inestimable scientific value. It is the oldest and most completeNeanderthal specimen of which the DNA is also known.

mappa cava uomo di Altamura

 

(The map of the Cave)

 

 

 

 

The face of the Altamura Man

volto1A study, thanks to different imaging techniques applied to the skeleton found in the Lamalunga cave, in Puglia, reveals the face of the Man of Altamura. In fact, two Paleo-Dutch artists Adrie and Alfons Kennis, were able to reconstruct the face of the Man of Altamura. The reconstruction shows that the Man of Altamura had a stocky body, a wide pelvis, not very high in stature, about 1.65m, a bulging forehead, an elongated skull in the rear part, a big nose probably due to the adaptation to the penultimate glaciation. The most striking finding of the research is the skull, which has just a very archaic shape, that is why the finding is extremely important. This reconstruction will open a new era of research that will hopefully clarify important aspects of human evolution.The Altamura Man model will be exhibited in a dedicated area for the new museum center of the Apulian town which will be inaugurated in the coming months. The operation, promoted by the municipality of Altamura and the Archaeological Superintendence of Puglia region, has benefited fromthe data obtained in more than five years of study and analysis, conducted through collaboration between Italian scientists and cavers of the Altamura speleological research center (CARS).

 

THE BREAD OF ALTAMURA

foto pane di Altamura

(Source: “Regulations for the P.D.O. Altamra Bread.”)

The bread, as a basic element of the diet in the Alta Murgia populations, traditionally produced in large pieces, in his characteristic form, called “u sckuanète”, was mixed and kneaded largely by women in their homes, and taken topublic bakeries in order to be baked. The production of the bread was therefore a choral act, socially and culturally, in which the family and the private sphere came into contact with the public one. To prevent the loaves from getting mixed up, the baker used to mark them with the initials of the owner or the head of the family, initials which were printed on an iron stamp. Only then did he proceed to bake themThe main characteristic of the bread was the durability, indispensable to ensure the sustenance of farmers and shepherds in the weeks they would be spending away from home, working in the fields or pastures, on the Murgia hills. The lunch consisted for these workers basically of a bread soup flavoured with extra virgin olive oil and salt. Altamura bread is still produced today,since the Middle Ages,following the ancient recipe handed down by farmers and shepherds throuh generations. The ingredients have remained the same over the centuries – durum wheat flour, natural yeast, salt and water – as well as the manufacturing process which consists of five stages: mixing-kneading, moulding, rising of the dough, shaping, baking in a wood burning oven.Today “Altamura’s bread” is the center of an intense industrial production, capable of responding to the needs and trends of the market, though maintaining a strong sense of continuity with tradition by keeping its original identity and working skills within a technologically modernized and an ever increasing automated context.

One of the most significant aspects of “Altamura’s bread”, together with its flavour and digestibility, is its prolonged capacity of preservation (the bread keeps its nice taste for two/three days from the date of production).

The shapes of Bread

Among the traditional forms and the most used today it is only right to mention:

  • uskuanète” (dialect for overlapped bread)
    This bread is largely consumed nowadays. It was traditionally kneaded at home and taken to the neighborhood’s bakery where the baker used to give the dough the overlapping shape, mark it with a wooden or an iron stamp on which the initials of the head of the family were engraved. Then He would bake it and, about an hour later, he would open the oven in order to allow for the formed crust to dry out and become crusty. When the baking was finished, the baker, after the bread had cooled down on wooden planks, used to have the bread delivered house – to- house on the wooden planks of the same type previously used to pick up the dough. The baker-delivery was paid with a piece of raw dough (about 300 g.), known in the local dialect as “cecì”.
  • 2- “u puènemuèdde” (soft bread or farmer’s bread)
    This bread was traditionally made for farmers and shepherds housed to live on it during their long stay sat the farms (usually 15 days). The kneading, molding and baking processes are the same as those used for the overlapped bread. Today, due to the modernization of the milling techniques, instead of durum wheat flour, re- milled wheat flour (“semola in Italian”) is commonly used, which gives the bread its straw-colouring instead of the traditional amber one.
  • 3- “u peccelatidde” (tantrumbread)
    Traditionally made and eaten while waiting for the sckuanéte (overlapped bread) to be baked. The name derives from the necessity to satisfy children’s desire (tantrum) to eat bread without waiting.
    Name: u puène a ‘mmenza stufe (bread on the stove)
    This is a special bread, meant for the city’s richer families or made on special occasions, like weddings. The finest quality of durum wheat semolina (like the one known as the “Senatore Cappelli”) was used for this valuable bread
  • .4- “u cuappidde de prèvete” (priest’shatshapedbread)
    This type of bread doesn’t have much soft part. It was made out of pieces of dough given to the the delivery baker by housewives as a payment for his service.5- “la panèdde de Sand’Andonje” (Saint Antony’sbread)
    Votive bread made for the religious festivals of Saint Antony of Padova (13th June); Saint Joseph (19th March) and Saint Anne, patroness of bakers (26th July). It is blessed on small altars set up in private houses and distributed to followers who often used to keep it in the kitchen of their homes for a whole year as a symbol of protection. At present time Saint Antony’s bread is also made for the festivals of Saint Rita, who is venerated in Saint Augustine’s church, and of the Madonna del Buoncammino (Our Lady of the Good Travel), in the sanctuary consecrated to her.

6- “la fecazzéde de la Maculète” (the Immaculate’s small focaccia bread)
This bread is made for the festivity of the Immaculate Conception (8th December). Once it was the only bread to be eaten on the vigil of the festivity (7th December), after the Cathedral’s bell had struck noon. At present the Immaculate’s bread is made solely by bakers and it is sold retail or on request.

 

Pane di Altamura 1 The PDO Altamura bread 

The culture yeastis the most important ingredient of PDO Altamura bread. It is a naturally prepared yeast that confers to the product a significant contribution to its digestibility and long shelf-life. Other ingredients are water, certified by Acquedotto pugliese, sea salt and durum wheat re-milled flour (semolina) derived from durum wheat varietes “appulo”, “arcangelo”, “duilio”, “simeto”, which are cultivated within the territory of the following municipal areas of: Altamura, Gravina in Puglia, Poggiorsini, Spinazzola, Minervino Murge.

 

 The P.D.O.trademark

The bread of Altamura was the first European product to be awarded the prestigious DOP conferred to it by the European Union in 2003 in the product category “Bread and bakery products”. The”Protected Designation of Origin”, known by the acronym PDO, is a legally protected trademark attributed to those food products whose quality characteristics depend on the geographic production. The combination of these elements allows to obtain a top-quality product, unique and inimitable flavour, taste and colour.The European disciplinary about the D.P.O. bread recognizes two shapes: the overlapped bread (u skuanète) from the high shape and the priest’s hat bread (u cappidde de Prevete) from the low shape.

The stamp of authenticity guarantee
It is the label that guarantees consumers the certainty of the PDO. It is applied directly onto the bread prior to its baking, or glued on a microperforated wrapping used for the packaging of bread loaves.