Matera’s origins are very remote, as evidenced by the discovery in the surrounding area of a number of seamless settlements.
The city of stone, Matera’s historic centre carved out of a rocky overhang, has been inhabited since the Paleolithic period. Artefacts dating back to the 13th millennium BCE have been found in the area. Many houses that descend deep into the ravine’s limestone have been inhabited without interruption since the Bronze Age (3000 BCE – 1000 BCE). The inhabitants have handed down the use of the rock and exploited its friability to their advantage creating a complex system of water canalization, conducted in a widespread network of cisterns.
Moreover, several objects found in the caves spread along the Gravine of Matera testify the presence of groups of hunters.
With time, settlements became more stable. Today we inherit clear traces of several entrenched villages, particularly on the Murgia Timone, a hill positioned in front of the city core. The first urban core, that of present-day “Civita”, was then established on the eastern side of the town. Rising on an entrenched prehistoric village, the first urban planning has probable Greek origins.
In the Magna Graecia period, Matera had close relations with the colonies and cities located on the southern coast, and later in the Roman period, it was only a centre of passage and supply.