The intensive archaeological field survey of the chora of Metapontum, begun in 1981, was the first project of its kind at a Classical site in south Italy. Together with the Crotone survey, it remains the principal evidence for the chronological and geographical distribution of the ancient Greek and Roman, as well as the prehistoric and medieval, populations in southern Italy. This pioneering work has evolved over the years, in terms of both scope and direction. The 1999 field season combined research and cultural resource management (CRM) as it identified sites threatened by the imminent construction of buried pipelines carrying oil and methane from deposits in mountainous western Basilicata across the Metapontino to a refinery in Taranto.
Since 2005 the guiding research question behind the survey has shifted from describing settlement in the colonial "heartland" of the low marine terraces immediately behind the ancient city to identifying the "contact zone" separating the colonists and their Italic neighbors in the rugged highlands some 20 km inland. Future work will strike a balance between research and CRM as the survey team assists the local archaeological authorities in monitoring illicit digging and the ICA survey database is expanded to include the data from across the chora acquired by the authorities over four decades, creating a single, shared source of knowledge for the entire landscape.
A crucial feature of the survey project's evolution in the last few years has been the adoption of geospatial technology for use both in the field and in the office. Among the most important technological developments are Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, which have become regular tools for the acquisition, management, and analysis of data. Remote sensing from above the ground has been an essential tool of archaeologists since the end of the Second World War, when aerial photography became widely available. Archaeology in Basilicata, for example, gained international standing in the 1960s thanks largely to the photographic studies promoted by Dinu Adamesteanu, whose contributions in this area are universally recognized.
In recent years photographic coverages have been supplemented by digital satellite imagery and digital elevation models (DEMs) of the landscape, all of which have been incorporated into the study of the Metapontino through GIS. The potential of ground-based remote sensing (magnetometry, electrical resistivity) for revealing specific sub-surface features is only now being explored. (See ICA poster-presentation in PDF format on how geospatial technologies can be applied to field survey projects.)