We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Research & business

View Profile

Mrs Letizia Silvestri

Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Archaeology

(email at

Research topic

The function of caves in Apennine Central Italy in the Bronze Age: the importance of zooarchaeology for an economic interpretation of the social landscape.


Understanding the function of caves has always been a key topic in the field of prehistoric archaeology.This kind of research has too often led to simplistic interpretations concerning the ritual and burial use of caves, without exploring in depth the real meaning of caves’ and rockshelters’ frequentation from an economic point of view. Caves are per se easy-to-find sites: they therefore can offer a good but partial sample of prehistoric human life, even when considered in a wider and inter-related dimension. It is not sufficient to collect and superficially analyse their remains without integrating and interpreting these data in a broader context.

The aim of my research is to delve into previous and present studies of caves, and to take on further ones, in order to understand the functions and significances of this kind of site for the Bronze Age communities of Apennine Central Italy.

Archaeological cave deposits can provide much decisive information about economic strategies pursued during the period in question. The ritual features that are often identified within the caves, seem to be nothing but obvious manifestations of the main economic utilization of the sites. Consequently, the main topic that I will investigate is the latter, instead of focusing, as usual, on the more noticeable ritual evidences.
This interpretative approach, centred on the economy, will be mainly carried out through the analysis of the faunal remains from caves, the functional study of the pottery, the examination of site distribution, and through a more general but necessary reconsideration of environmental and landscape archaeology.

Zooarchaeology will be the leading resource for my research: essential to detect not only the herding and hunting incidence in human subsistence of protohistoric Central Italy, but even to understand the seasonality of the community movements, as well as the social and spiritual implications of the investigated economic choices.

Fresh data from ongoing excavations and surveys in the area will enrich current knowledge and offer new food for thought in a field that is certainly worth exploring; the huge potential of Protohistoric cave archaeology in Italy, in fact, has not yet been completely explored: too focused on ceramic typology and ritual features, previous studies have not gone beyond these two aspects, that I will try to integrate and interpret in a broader economic context. 

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology


Journal Article