Scanno and the 700,000 year old site of Isernia

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After a very eventful day, we are exploring Scanno by foot today before heading to the Palaeo-Museum in Isernia.

Scanno is a beautiful small mountain village with small alleyways and old hilltop houses. There is a clock tower hidden within and a couple of small piazzas. It is the only village in Italy where some women still wear traditional clothing.


Toni showed us a book yesterday with his grandmother on the cover. He explained that they are women with Albanian background and I realised why he looks different from Italians in other towns, even different from Guido.

While browsing through Scanno, we also find a “mechanic” and Logan discovers a welding machine outside of the small garage. That’s it, we should come back here and get our waste water pipe welded back on! We keep walking through Scanno and buy a few supplies in a small local shop. Instead of 300grams of ham, we get 3 slices. This is what happens, when there is a language barrier. Let’s hope we won’t have the same problem when asking the mechanic to weld our pipe back on! Back at the van we take it down to the mechanic and Logan shows him the pipe and points at the welding machine and then at where the pipe used to hang off the van. He asks: Is that possible? The mechanic smiles and says: Yes, possible! Within 10 minutes the pipe is back in place and we pay him 20 Euros for his spontaneous help.

Windy roads around Scanno:                                                          Lago di Barrea:

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In the Lonely Planet I read about Isernia and Europe’s oldest excavation site Once in Isernia, it is quite hard to actually find the site and museum and we soon find out why: They are still busy digging and the museum is also still being built. We are the only visitors and aren’t even sure, if we are allowed in?! We bravely walk into the building and a nice lady there, speaking English, takes us into the museum and gives us a FREE personal guided tour of the site and findings. I’m amazed. Amazed about the friendliness and amazed about 700,000 years of history lying in front of us. So far 80,000 pieces of animal bones and tools have been found and 5000 are visible to us in the small museum.

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There are three 4 stratigraphic layers and these bones where found in layer 3A, covered by volcanic ashes. A multimedia computer with a touch screen is placed in front of the findings. The lady goes through the menu with us, picking different animals and then a certain body part, let’s say the elephant’s tusks, and they are then highlighted in different colours on the screen and you can find them within the real bones displayed.


I always wondered how palaeontologists know which bone piece belongs to which animal? Do they extract the DNA? No, she said. The bones are too old; there is no DNA to be extracted anymore. They simply compare bones and fragments to earlier findings. The bones found are all from animals like rhinos, elephants, deer or wild boar. They have been found accumulated in an area of 65 square meters, together with stone tools. So far there have been no human bones found and chances are 50/50 that they will. It may have been possible that those early humans were nomadic hunters and gatherers and after they had exploited the area, moved on to another place. Two young Italians then guide us down to the actual excavation site.


I’m surprised how small the area only is, how close to the surface these bones actually are and how many bones are sticking out. Impressed we leave Isernia and make our way towards the east coast. On the way we stop at a gas petrol station asking the attendant whether it is possible to fill up our gas bottle with the same gas. He doesn’t speak one word English but nods the head and lets us wait about 10minutes. Then we move the van towards the gas station but then looking at our gas bottle, he shakes his head, pointing at the different adapters. Great. So we can’t refill our gas bottle in Italy without the right adapter. Let’s hope we’ll be able to buy one in Rome!

The day ends like so often: We can’t find the campsite. It is dark and we are getting tired, so we end up just parking on a farmer’s field.



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