The Archaeological Museum of Atina and the Comino Valley (this is the new name that from 2010 replaces that of the original Civic Museum established in 1978) is housed in a former school building that, with its elegant classical-style façade, overlooks Via Vittorio Emanuele II. The building was built in the 1920s at the expense of the well-deserving citizen Giuseppe Visocchi and is named after him.
Together with the Museum, the building houses the well-stocked Municipal Library with a rich section dedicated to local history and archaeology. The attention to the knowledge of Atina’s archaeological heritage has been kept alive over the years also by the activity of the local cultural association, which now plays a fundamental role in the dissemination and enhancement in collaboration with the authorities.
The museum collection, originally housed in the hall of the Duke Palace, has increased in recent years both the number and the quality of the archaeological finds, recovered not only in Atina, but also from research and excavations carried out in the other municipalities of the Comino Valley.
A notable impulse to the development of the museum structure derives from the activities carried out in the Liri Valley area by the Archaeological Superintendence for Lazio and by the various Municipal Administrations.
These activities brought materials from the excavations of the Italic Sanctuary of Pescarola in the municipality of Casalvieri and from the necropolis of Ominimorti in the municipality of San Biagio Saracinisco to the Atina Museum. The availability of the finds has allowed the launch of a programme of periodic exhibitions desired by the Municipal Administration and dedicated in particular to the study of the pre-Roman era. At the same time, the museum provides regional funding for periodic restoration work on both the material in storage and that coming from the most recent discoveries.
The exhibition, inaugurated in the new premises in 1997 and gradually implemented, is characterised above all by a wide repertoire of pre-Roman impasto ceramics, ranging from the well-known ribbed amphorae of the “Alfedena” type and the ovoid ollae attributable to the archaic culture of the Liri Valley, to the elegant jugs (oinochoai) in purified clay and bucchero that document a certain commercial penetration of the Etruscans into these inland areas.
Among the oldest and most precious finds, of particular interest are the bronzes from the easternising period (8th-7th centuries BC) found at the beginning of the last century at the foot of the village of San Marciano. ) found at the beginning of the last century at the foot of the village in the locality of San Marciano and now kept at the Pigorini Museum, of which a number of exemplary reproductions are on display (anthropomorphic and zoomorphic pendants, bracelets, perforated leaf fibulae) that document for the proto-urban centre of Atina not only the flourishing of metallurgical production based on the exploitation of the Meta metal deposits, but also the existence of dominant aristocratic groups that certainly held control.
The local metallurgical tradition characterises the entire pre-Roman period and can be seen in the numerous iron and bronze weapons (spearheads and javelin tips called sauroteres, which in some cases still have the remains of the wooden shaft), in the accessories of the warrior’s equipment, such as the embossed bronze foil belts, or in the iron horse bits. All these elements enlighten us on the fighting spirit of the Italic peoples who, like the Samnites, occupied the Atinate countryside before the Roman conquest of 293 BC.
A number of reconstructive models are intended to evoke, especially for younger visitors, the climate of continuous belligerence between Romans and Italics that characterised the Liri Valley for many decades and that went down in history as the ‘Samnite Wars’.
In the Archaeological Museum of Atina, two burials from the necropolis of San Biagio Saracinisco have been reconstructed: an older one (6th century BC. ), consisting of a pit bordered by stones with the intact skeleton of a warrior accompanied by a rich trousseau, the other with a double-pitched roof of large tiles and cobblestones called “a cappuccina”, of more recent age (IV-III century BC) and with a single black painted bowl that accompanied the meagre remains of the deceased.
The lapidary, on the other hand, brings to life the population and society of the now Roman city and its surrounding area. Thanks to the epigraphs and sculptures from the republican and imperial periods, it is possible to take a virtual tour of the urban and suburban monuments of Roman Atina (a populous centre mentioned by Cicero himself as praefectura florentissima) and to encounter, among the tombstones of citizens, freedmen and slaves, that of Munnia, a priestess in charge of the cult of Ceres, or of the local quaestor Gaius Timinius Gallus, or of the well-deserving citizen Titus Elvius Basila who donated 400. 000 sesterces for the sustenance of young Athenians.