South-east Italy, from the spur to the heel of Italy's boot, forms a natural geographic and cultural unit, separated from the Balkans by the Adriatic yet joined to them by the same sea. It is an area of plain and plateau bounded to the west and north by the Apennines, which come down to the sea at the Gulf of Taranto and again north of the Gargano peninsula.
Considerably more material for the study of the neolithic cultures in this area has been found since T. E. Peet drew attention to their interest nearly forty years ago (II). Yet while the main kinds of pottery are recognised, positive evidence for their succession is still scarce. This is chiefly due to the lack of fully stratigraphic digging, as well as to a tendency to regard the objects found on any single site as ipso facto contemporary with one another or at least as due to a continuous occupation. Some confusion is probably also caused by the number of separate stations all usually called ‘Matera.’ Even so the main phases are now distinguishable, and the chief differences of opinion are regarding the extent to which the characteristic range of pottery of each of these, with all that that implies, continued alongside of the innovations.
The following account based on war-time reading, and brief visits to Matera museum and a number of sites, will stress the view that there was fairly complete replacement: in this and the resulting division into three distinct periods, tentatively indicated by Rellini in 1929 (14c), it goes beyond the views of most Italian archaeologists, as well as previous English resumes. In particular Laviosa-Zambotti in her recent important study of Italian cultures and their relations with Central Europe and the Balkans (8b), while admitting that the various wares are due to a series of influences from outside, concludes that they are truly associated and therefore largely synchronous. This may be due in part to her leaning toward ‘short’ chronologies elsewhere. However, particularly in view of J. S. P. Bradford's remarkable crop-site discoveries (2), it seems worthwhile to set out the existing evidence for a more elaborate scheme, to be tested by future excavations.