Researchers from the University of Padua have conducted new research on Palace Hill, located in the center of the city of Udine in northeastern Italy. The hill, about 30 meters high, has long been a mystery to scientists, who could not determine whether it was a man-made structure or a natural mound.
According to legends and reports by medieval authors, the hill was built by soldiers of Attila or Julius Caesar. However, closer to modern times other hypotheses emerged, such as the idea that the main part of the hill was the result of natural tectonic processes.
During extensive excavations in the 1980s, archaeologists discovered burials, remains of medieval and Roman structures on top of the hill, and a pit filled with organics and ceramic shards, the oldest artifacts from which date to the Middle to Late Bronze Age.
New research between 2020 and 2022 has allowed scientists to confirm that Palace Hill is a man-made structure. The researchers sampled five sediment cores by drilling the hill to a depth of up to 40 meters. The analysis showed that under about six meters of cultural remains from historical times begin alternating layers of two types of soil. Scientists extracted fragments of charcoal and sent them for radiocarbon analysis. The resulting dates ranged between 4330 and 1770 B.C., with the older samples being in the overlying layers rather than the younger ones.
According to the research, Palace Hill is the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, which in the Late Bronze Age took between 400,000 and 550,000 cubic meters of soil to build. This structure was erected by people who lived in the north of modern Italy between 1400 and 1300 B.C.