Culture Programme
Education and Culture DG
Progetto Ricerca Interesse Nazionale
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CRHIMA - CINP project

Cultural Rupestrian Heritage in the Circum Mediterranean Area

Common Identity - New perspective

Universitas Florentina



Knowledge, Conservation and Improvement of HAbitat RUpestrian MEditerranean

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The rupestrian habitat is a hallmark of the Mediterranean landscape. Settlements excavated in the rock are situated from the Anatolian plateaus to the deserts of Egypt (Nubia), from Ethiopia to Tunisia, from Balkans to Italy, France and Spain.
In this anthropological and ethnographic context, the cave is the 'common house' of the Mediterranean culture. The medieval caves - cave houses and churches - heavily characterize the landscape features in Central South Italy, the plateaus of Cappadocia in Turkey, other regions of Spain, Greece and the Loire valley as far as Saumur in France, and other sites too. All of these settlements represent the tiny individual components of the wider Mediterranean rupestrian habitats and they contain many differences and many common.
In Europe, there are a lot of documentation and information about the Christian rupestrian architecture in the Mediterranean basin, thanks to studies of Byzantine churches and their frescoes; little is known about the Islamic architecture: there are Mosques excavated into the rock in Turkey, North Africa and even in Sicily, some synagogues are in Libya, tombs and temples before the Christian age, (Hittitian, Egyptian, Etruscan, Hellenistic and early Christian structures) in other places.
Recently, the attention has turned down at the urban settlements and housing, certainly less monumental than churches, even though they perpetuate a more remote past. For a long time this has been considered a less expressive phenomenon of the lower classes and for this reason neglected. Since the UNESCO has acknowledged it as a world heritage worth to be protected, centers of Cappadocia (Turkey) and rupestrian areas (Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso) of the city of Matera (ITALY-Basilicata Region), once considered as a past national shame, have begun to be studied scientifically. The exchange of information between countries, aiming mainly for tourism purposes are poor and case of studies are rare.
However, in recent years more active and lively studies, have started taking care of this issue; anyway there is lack of a systematic inventory of the rupestrian architectural heritage in the Mediterranean basin.
Also the cultural unity of rupestrian settlements was, in some cases, damaged or destroyed, and their relevance for 'eco-museums', open air, has not been included.
The natural process of deterioration, that results from aging and weather factors, is adding up to the anthropogenic damage. Particularly evident is the erosive action in the settlements of Cappadocia, whose tufaceous rocks continue to disintegrate.


Main intention of the project is the development of an intercultural and cross-cultural phenomenon which is the culture of living in a cave, with the aim to promote the similarities and differences between the involved populations. This is achieved by supporting their integration with joint actions, involving political events and the cultural representations with players in the area, educators and students of different levels.
The points listed below, will be themes for interdisciplinary and cross-cultural comparison that will be renewed in the closing events planned over the next june.
Surveying the settlements and classifying the hypogean structures;
Promoting awareness of the settlements as urban and bioclimatic centres whilst enhancing appreciation not only of the best known monuments but also of what everyday life was like in these caves;
Promoting experiences and studies which demonstrate the continuity of existence and development in the various regions framing the Mediterranean;
Promoting the conservation and development of these sites by encouraging new perspectives on them;
Representing and divulgation about the rupestrian culture sites and making data on them available.


Among the issues related to the theme of the project, we will give space and deepening to:

Timeline project activities