The Murge of Altamura
The Murge of Altamura is part of the Tentative list of Italy in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
Click here for a short description of the site, as delivered by the state party.
- ●● Tentative
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
I arrived in Altamura (which seems to mean High Wall) at about 14:30 on a Monday by bus from Gioia del Colle, as I was coming from Taranto, but Altamura can easily be visited from Bari TWHS or Matera WHS by train, as it is located on the rail line between these 2 cities.
First, even though I only became aware of Altamura because of its TWHS status, the walled old town was quite pleasant with a marvelous cathedral, museums, and many cafes / restaurants populated by who appeared to be Italian tourists.
There are 3 museums related to this TWHS in the Altamura area. I believe most museums in Italy are closed on Monday, but the main one of the 3, the Altamura National Archaeological Museum (ANAM), was open on this Monday, so that's where I headed after checking into my hotel.
To state what I found out at the ANAM first, there are basically 3 main sites related to this TWHS. The primal site, so called "Pulo of Altamura," is what is supposed to represent the landscape of the region "Murge" with many sinkholes and is located at 40°53'22.0"N 16°34'05.2"E The Pulo can be visited on your own, but it is just one of the large sinkholes in the region. Then, as the nomination document says, "In addition to these landscape features, the Altamura area includes items of outstanding cultural and archaeological interest as shown by two locations: the De Lucia quarry and the Lamalunga cave. "
The De Lucia Quarry, located about 6 km south-east from the center of Altamura, is where Dinosaur footprints have been found in the world's greatest numbers, or so they say. But I was told at the ANAM that this place was not possible to be visited at this time. I learned later that it is not to be visited because nobody is looking after the site, which is hard to believe.
But the blockbuster attraction of this TWHS is supposed to be the Lamulunga Cave where the oldest skeleton ever of a Neanderthal man, so called Altamura Man, was found in 1993. Another one of the 3 museums, The Lamalunga Visitor Center (LVC), is located near the Cave and is about 4 km north of the center of Altamura, so that's where I was planning to visit in the following morning.
But at the ANAM, I found out that the cave was also not possible to be visited. At the ANAM you watch a video, in which you see a professional caver going into the cave from an entrance that is about 50 cm in diameter. LVC supposedly focuses on how the cave was discovered, not on the cave itself, and offers a tour only up to the entrance of the Cave, as well as to the Pulo, if you make an arrangement in advance as a group.
It was raining in the following morning, and I said, "Well, what's the point?" and decided not to walk for 4 km to LVC.
Instead, I decided to visit the last of the 3 museums, Palazzo Baldassarre, near ANAM on Tuesday morning and, to my surprise, it was this museum that focuses on the Cave and the Altamura Man himself. Indeed, the museum had a replica of the Lamulunga Cave! The Altamura Man is deeply rooted in the Cave, and they have decided not to remove his skeleton from the Cave, as doing so would jeopardize the prized finding itself. So there was also a replica of the Man within the replica of the Cave.
This means, after all, that I visited 2 museums but did not visit any of the 3 main sites. However, if you count the Lascaux Cave in France as "visited" just by visiting the replica, then I can count the Lamulunga Cave as visited!
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- 2006 - Submitted
- 2006 - Revision Includes former TWHS Giacimento paleontologico di Lamalunga (1998)