Traces of ‘Homo Abilis’ and their culture (Stone Age civilisation) have been discovered in major fossil deposits, which go back to the Lower Paleolithic Age, found near Venosa. Here a radiographic analysis of the strata has revealed, among the rhinoceros, bear, deer, elephant, bovine and equine remains, developed Clactonian-type stone works. Other proof of the Lower Paleolithic Age can be found throughout Basilicata. Many bifacial remains are to be seen in the Valleys of the Bradano and the Grotta dei Pipistrelli near Matera, then those in the Valleys of Vitalba and Atella and Accettura, Tricarico and Muro Lucano. The Grotta dei Pipistrelli (the Grotto of bats) and those of Fiumicello on the Tyrrhenian coast have also provided traces of the Middle Paleolithic Age which can be found also in Metaponto. Stone work belonging to the Upper Paleolithic Age has been found in the Grotta Funeraria and that of the Pipistrelli near Matera, and along the banks of the Bradano River and in the surrounding area of Matera, where pots etched with geometric figures have been found. It is late prehistory. The Neanderthals were extinct as long as 35,000 years ago, when from the Middle East, Cro-Magnon man reaches Europe with their culture and artistic stone-cutting. Examples can be found in the Grotto of Tuppo Li Sassi at Filiano.
In 1965 an under rock dwelling was found revealing Mesolithic works and important rock drawings showing hunting scenes or simply deer comparable to those found on the Iberian Peninsula. At the end of the Ice age, better climatic conditions favour animal and farming. The Neolithic Age brings weaving and pottery, the latter especially in the shape of Matera/Capri, which is two or three coloured pottery, and that of Serra d'Alto which etched when raw, was punched and painted with fine circular stripes.
Although the grottoes were still inhabited it was during the Neolithic age that the moated village developed at Serro d'Alto, Tirlecchia, Murgecchia and Murgia Timone on the Matera Murgia and in the Melfi area at Rendina. Settlements of dwellings protected by deep ditches, they dug out of the rock and were situated near water sources. Other Neolithic settlements are at Toppo d'Aguzzo, Gaudiano di Lavello and in the Metaponto district. Traces of the late Neolithic Age are evident in the Grotta di Latronico alongside the metalwork of the Bronze-Anatolic race. The region acts as an exchange/dispute between cultures which will perpetuate down through the ages. Meanwhile it is certain that the Minoin-Micean were present along the Jonian coast and as legend would have it, this is where the heroes of the Troy saga landed. The Apennine people of the Bronze Age are not only involved in farming with seasonal pastures: the region also hosts two distinct cultural features regarding funeral rites with suppine burial (the interment of Aliano and Chiaromonte) or huddled (the necropolis of Incoronata di Pisticci and S. Maria di Anglona). The findings at Timmari are of the late Bronze Age and are the urns of ashes, typical of a protovillanovian culture. The Iron Age in Basilicata sees the arrival of a new people, the Liky who, in 1300-1200 B.C. left Anatolia and settled south of the Ofanto River. This is, interestingly enough, the period in which we see the formation of real townships on the high grounds, such as on Mount Torretta di Pietragalla, on Mount Croccia and on Serra di Vaglio and the social organisation of a democratic nature of free individuals devoted to craftsmanship, breeding and farming where the land is shared out equally and defence is a community concern. There is no social division and in the case of war the ‘Basileus’ is the political-military head of the federate tribes. In the meanwhile along the coasts the first Minoin-Micean explorers, traders and craftsmen make contact with the Autoctone populations (Enotris, Chonis, Morgetis, Italis or Siculis) and making way for the first great colonisation that would take place from VIII B.C. onwards. At the mouths of rivers and on the fertile plains the Greeks founded the colonial ‘poleis’ of the refined Magna Graecia. The prestige of Metaponto, Siris, Heraclea and Pandosia is well-known: their agricultural (mostly wheat) economy is so rich and prosperous that there is an ear of corn on the currency of Metaponto. Their capacity to organise their farming activities is proven by the ‘Tables of Heraclea’ today found in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. The importance of finds kept in the museums of Metaponto and Policoro is endorsed through the related Archaeological Parks. Today silhouetted against the blue skies of Metaponto, we have the fifteen remaining columns of the ancient temple of Hera guarding the Bradano, while beyond the urban spread; we can distinguish the sacred area of Apollo Licia and the ‘cavea’ of the Theatre. At Policoro, on the hill, beyond the Baronial palace, Siris was to stand which, destroyed by the Achaean coalition of Metaponto, Crotone and Sibari, saw the birth of Heraclea (433 B.C.) some evidence of which can still be seen today. Pots and traces of water canals mark the district of the craftsmen while the ovens mark the residential area. Hellenisation of inland towns in Lucania took place along the natural waterways: Bradano, Basento, Cavone, Agri and Sinni. Many of these centres dominated the valleys but of them all Melfi must be mentioned as it was the meeting place of the ‘Daune’ and ‘Enotrie’ civilisations (the candelabra of Melfi) and then Serra di Vaglio, an acropolis built in a very strategic position in the valleys of the Basento, Ofanto and Sele between the Jonian and Tyrrhenian seas. Its importance is endorsed by the presence of the nearby Italico Sanctuary (IV B.C.) devoted to the goddess Mephitis, found at Macchia di Rossano. On Mount Moltone di Tolve we have the remains of the most ancient villa rustica to be found as yet in Basilicata. Dating back to the Hellenistic period (IV-III B.C.), it has the system of a central courtyard which was widespread on the Mediterranean and among the Romans. The order of these Hellenised centres is upset with the arrival of the Osco-Sanniti of the Sabellico peoples, a race of warriors in search of pastures and fertile lands. Their new territory from Sele to Lao, on the Tyrrhenian coast and from Crati to Bradano on the Jonian, is called Lucania and advances on the colonies, worn down by internal strife, is not adequately repulsed. At the beginning of the III B.C: the Romans founded the colonies of Venusia and Grumentum: the Herculian way links them up to the Popilian and Appian ways. The centres found in inland areas depopulate. Metaponto and Heraclea become a ‘castrum’ and a small hamlet respectively. The Romans impose the ‘latifundium’ which will produce a territory studded with lots of ‘rustic villas’ leaving their mark on the toponymy of the Basilicata. One of the best-known is Malvaccaro at Potenza with its beautiful mosaics which have recently been restored. The Amphitheatre, the spa baths and the so-called House of Horace found in the current historical centre of Venosa can still be admired. The Theatre, a Domus with mosaics and one of the oldest Roman amphitheatres in Italy are conserved in the archaeological park of Grumento. The coast of Maratea was intensely travelled especially in Roman times, as testified by the findings of Civita di Rivella, Fiumara di Castrocucco, Capo la Secca and Santavenere. Near Castrocucco and the small island of Santo lanni a large quantity of amphoras, some anchors, two ‘villae maritmae’ and ground earthenware tubs for the production of ‘garum’ have been brought to light.