The Muro Project was presented with the subtitle “Conservation and Promotion of Cultural Heritage for the Public and Improvement in the Quality and Range of Cultural Services” on the 18th November by the Mayor at that time, the architect Salvatore Negro. It was an innovative project, not only in terms of restoring and adapting the paving and the pipes beneath it, but because from the start archaeological investigation was an integral part of the project. In fact, archaeological investigation was made a prerequisite of any type of excavation carried out in the grounds of Borgo Terra, which remains to this day the historical centre of the town. Furthermore the Apulian District Council insisted that this archaeological work should be carried out by the Department of Cultural Heritage of the University of Salento. This decision was made since the Medieval Archaeology laboratory and research group there has been working in Muro Leccese since 1999, and has already been instrumental in creating the Museum of Borgo Terra, which opened in 2004.
This work was the natural corollary and follow up to the archaeological excavations carried out previously both in the medieval castle (what is now Palazzo del Principe), and inside Casa Fiorentino, both built, originally, during the 15th century. Work was started in June 2006 and right up to the present day has meant constant archaeological excavations, analysis of finds and examination of data, carried out by a group of students and graduates supervised by the archaeologist Brunella Bruno. Furthermore, for the whole month of July 2006 the Italian team was assisted by a dozen students from the University of Florida, led by Professor Florin Curta. This project was found to be an excellent didactic context for the archaeological summer school organised annually by the American university.
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The results obtained to date have been of great interest and evidence ranges from that of a fixed settlement already existing in the 8th century B.C. through a substantial phase of the Roman Age, through to the foundation of the medieval Terra, up to the transformations the town has undergone in the Modern age. For anything regarding finds from the Pre-Roman period the project worked together with Professor Liliana Giardino, while other specialists were called on for other specific topics. Although we can only give a summary of some of the results on this site, we would like to point out the innovative nature of this project in terms of urban European archaeology, in particular because of the opportunity we were given to work in the roads of a town which has had a continuous life cycle.
In fact, in addition to the foreseeable positive effects on tourism the project is revealing itself to be just as important in terms of the relationship with the townspeople of Muro Leccese. After initial diffidence on the part of some of the inhabitants, the main reaction has been that of curiosity regarding the evidence hidden beneath their feet, especially when this could tell them something about their ancestors, helping to reinforce their sense of identity and belonging. However, a great deal still remains to be done. The information which is accessible at the Museum of Borgo Terra needs to be updated, also by creating a database of historical and archaeological documentation. But above all ways of conserving and promoting the cultural heritage of the centre itself need to be found, in order to increase its social value. At the moment Borgo Terra occupies only a marginal role in the social life of the town, and there are a large number of abandoned houses and terrains. Together with the restoration of the houses and their updating to the requirements of the 21st century a project needs to be thought out for urban renewal and conversion to revitalise the entire area and to make the Borgo the fulcrum of the town’s civic pride. These steps would be an interesting and innovative challenge in which archaeology could and would continue to fulfil its role.