AND A NECROPOLIS
Where the remains of the Antiche Mura can be seen today, a short distance from the Late Antiquity Mansio, stood a place of worship, a small church with a single nave, probably founded in the 5th century.
Later on a second, larger church was erected, a triple-aisled basilica with a pavement completely covered in mosaic. This decoration is particularly valuable because it records the names of the people who at the time financed this magnificent work. The fragments recovered during the excavations performed last century are still on display in an exhibition room in Jesolo.
However, during more recent excavations archaeologists have unearthed an extensive burial ground where the inhabitants that worshipped in the Early Medieval basilica (6th-7th century) were given a proper burial, a short distance from the religious building. Only much later, between the 11th and 12th centuries, a third church was constructed, the large Romanesque building of the Cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, whose impressive ruins are still clearly visible today. This important monument today is a reminder of the splendour of the diocese of Equilo, a bishop’s see until the 15th century. In fact, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, with its mighty bell tower was one of the largest to be built in the Middle Ages in Venetia, and was second only to Saint Mark’s.
Next to the 6th-7th century basilica, a large burial ground is laid out, which was partially explored during archaeological research carried out between 2013 and 2016.
The archaeologists discovered 63 graves, well spaced apart, without any overlapping or cuts. This suggests that the space set aside for the burial ground was extensive and that probably each tomb was recognisable. We do not know if simply mounds of earth were visible above ditches or if there were any proper grave markers, because farming over recent decades has disturbed the superficial layers of the burial ground.
The tombs are almost all simple bare earth ditches, running west-east like the church, as was customary amongst Christians. The interred are of both sexes and of almost all ages, with a distinct prevalence of young people and new-borns. These were often buried inside large amphorae used for transportation, as was customary in those times.
No trace has been found that suggests that wooden coffins were used, nor any parts of clothing, not even those that are more easily preserved, such as belt buckles or metal hooks, but it cannot be ruled out that the dead were buried clothed or wrapped in a shroud. One type of object is however often found: a comb made of bone with a double row of teeth, an artefact that is very common in Early Medieval burial grounds and also forms part of the grave goods at Equilo.
The recovery, study and analysis of skeletal remains enables a great deal of information to be collected, not only about the gender and age at death but also the diet, living conditions, health status and physical activities most commonly practised by the inhabitants of Equilo in the early centuries of the Middle Ages.