pp 1–17 | Cite as

Matera’s Old Quarries: Geological and Historical Archives That Need Protection and Valorization

  • A. E. BonomoEmail author
  • A. M. Acito
  • G. Prosser
  • G. Rizzo
  • A. Munnecke
  • R. Koch
  • M. Bentivenga
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Geoheritage: the foundation for sustainable geotourism


The Sassi of Matera, UNESCO site since 1993, represents a human settlement completely integrated in the natural landscape. There, the development of the community is closely connected to the geology since prehistoric times. The Calcarenite di Gravina, a Pleistocene poorly lithified limestone onlapping a large area of the Apulian foreland in southern Italy, is the building stone that people used to carve their houses inside, and build the town outside. The use of calcarenite for housing began in the prehistory with the first human settlement, deepening natural caves which served as dwellings, while the mining activity began in the third century B.C., increasing until the nineteenth century in connection with the urban development of Matera. The calcarenite was carved out on site and used to build houses. In the eighteenth century, the great urban development of the city gave way to large mining activities in the northern area of Matera. Geomorphological analysis through aerial photographs and a geological survey in this area have been carried out to investigate the historical quarrying activities. In the present study, six quarry areas along the Appia Antica road are valuated: the Madonna delle Vergini topographic high; Cava della Palomba; Parco Scultura–Cava Paradiso; Cava del Sole, the Monumental Quarry Remains; Via Ridola inside the Piano, the highest area of Sassi. They represent peculiar and important examples to be safeguarded and valued. Their geomorphological, geostratigraphical and palaeontological elements provide useful information for understanding the territory evolution in the last two millennia.


Geo-valorization Geological itinerary Soft limestone Mining activities Reused quarries 



The authors thank Dr. Silvia Padula for her advice and for the historical review of the use of materials, with particular attention to the historical documents of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Thanks are also due to people who work in the Quarry Office of Basilicata Region in Potenza, and in the Rupestrian Churches Natural Park office of Matera for providing the data and documents from their databases. We also thank the ExtraGEO Academic Spin Off of the Basilicata University for organizing the first excursion along the geological itinerary of the Matera quarries in October 2018. Comments provided by two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript.

Funding Information

This study was financially supported by the University of Basilicata research funds.


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Copyright information

© The European Association for Conservation of the Geological Heritage 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. E. Bonomo
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. M. Acito
    • 2
  • G. Prosser
    • 1
  • G. Rizzo
    • 1
  • A. Munnecke
    • 3
  • R. Koch
    • 3
  • M. Bentivenga
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ScienceUniversity of BasilicataPotenzaItaly
  2. 2.Studio Acito & Partners S.R.L.MateraItaly
  3. 3.FG Paläoumwelt, GeoZentrum Nordbayern, Loewenichstr. 28Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-NurembergErlangenGermany

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