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Biography of Domenico Ridola

A valiant doctor, keen archaeologist, eminent scientist and serious politician, Domenico Ridola was born on 13 October 1841 to Gregorio and Camilla De Gemmis in Ferrandina, where he lived a few months before moving permanently to Matera, in via Tre Corone. Until the ninety-one years of his life he devoted himself uninterruptedly to study, work and research, excelling for his intelligence and for his professional preparation recognized throughout Europe. He successfully attended the Lanfranchi Seminar before enrolling at the University of Naples at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery where he distinguished himself in competitions between students on physics and chemistry theses.

At the age of 24, in 1865, he graduated brilliantly and continued to attend the Neapolitan health places and he worked on the translation of scientific journals in French, English and German, thanks to language courses he had attended. He was first in a competition organized by the Neapolitan Faculty, but did not obtain the sum of the scholarship, since it was awarded to two other students who had not even participated in the competition, but continued his studies in Italy and abroad, for the concern of his parents.

In the following years we find him in Bologna, Milan and Vienna, in contact with eminent scientists of the time. He gave up settling in Naples, where he could have embarked on a brilliant university career, since he returned to Matera due to his father’s infirmity and started his medical office in via Duomo, making available his patients his remarkable scientific and technical knowledge, unknown to his colleagues, anchored in hippocratic medicine.

He was known to have deepened his research on a disease of the mouth, called “Ridola disease”. In 1878 he was unanimously elected municipal councilor and reconfirmed several times; in 1892 he was acclaimed Mayor of Matera and later also provincial councilor, a position he held for 36 years; twice he was our representative in Parliament and in 1913 he was appointed Senator. He died on the evening of June 13, 1932, lamented by all for his righteousness, culture and availability.

Thanks to his passion for archeology, a true pioneer in this field, we can now admire, exhibited in the Museum that bears his name, numerous finds found in the Matera subsoil following the excavations he conducted.
The whole history of this territory emerges, from the Lower Paleolithic to the Neolithic, to testify to the uninterrupted presence of Man. Flints, worked stones, arrowheads, double-sided, cinerary urns, craters, pottery, engraved and engraved ceramics, funeral kits.

Numerous and important are the objects found in the lower, middle and upper Paleolithic sites, such as Serra Rifusa, Selva, Picciano, along the Gravina stream, on the banks of the Bradano, Murgia S. Andrea, Lucignano and Grotta dei Pipistrelli. Thanks to his studies and research, it can be said that the Matera area, in the Neolithic period, is one of the most important areas for getting to know the human settlements of the time.

His strong spirit of observation helped him to discover the first trenches, with the particular color of the vegetation of the circular moat, darker than the surrounding one.
Thirteen Neolithic villages, so-called entrenched because surrounded by a moat, were identified by Ridola in the immediate surroundings of today’s city, in the districts of Murgecchia, Murgia Timone, Trasano and Trasanello and Tirlecchia.

Grotto and tumulus tombs are still visible today, although many of these sites have been damaged, over the millennia, by agricultural works and recent excavations for aqueducts and other constructions.
Thanks to him, Serra d’Alto also represents an important Neolithic site for the refined figulina ceramic, achromatic and painted, with spirals, chessboards, lattices, rhombuses which were given the name of this location and which spread the name of Matera throughout the international scientific environment as a site that identifies the style of a particular type of ceramic, called “di Serra d’Alto”.

He participated in the Congresses of Archeology of Athens, Rome and Monaco and, in 1914, in Syracuse he had the opportunity to compare live the trenches of Matera with the Sicilian one of Sentinello, finding the confirmation of the analogy of the moats, also supported by the conclusions of the famous Prof Bears.
The only difference was in the appearance of the ceramic finds, as those of Sentinello appeared rougher and simpler than the more refined and accurate pottery of the Matera moats.
His intuitions and his work led him to the archaeological discoveries of Timmari, where a necropolis emerged.

He was also a member of the German Archaeological Institute, the French Academy of Archeology, the “Pontoniana” of Naples, the “Magna Grecia” Society and the “Patria History Society”
Despite the constant pressure, he did not want to hastily publish the results of his numerous excavation campaigns, giving the press only the following works, but the result of a definitive and organic study:
– 1) The Palethnology of Matera
– 2) The Cave of Bats and the Funeral Grotto
– 3) Archaic necropolis for incineration at Timmari nel Materano (together with Quagliati)
– 4) The large prehistoric trenches of Matera. Ceramics and the civilization of that time.

In 1926 King Vittorio Emanuele III appreciated the important finds donated by Ridola to Italy, exhibited in the beautiful windows of the new Museum, the current one, which took its name, the homage of a true pioneer of the then nascent Archeology, always considered a simple volunteer.

Among the friends and the many eminent admirers who appreciated his commitment and his conclusions, the English archaeologist ET Peet wrote in a Liverpool Archeology publication: “Whoever persuades himself of the importance of Matera in the study of prehistoric Italy will not refuse to take a trip to what is, or at least will be, the most important prehistoric site in southern Italy “.