The site that is now part of Laos Archaeological Park is one of the largest and most interesting in Calabria. Visitors here can follow the path of a city that was of fundamental importance in the economy of antiquity, given its strategic position on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Founding of Laos
Situated on a hill between today’s rivers Lao and Abatemarco, the city was founded by the Sybarites, perhaps after their own city had been destroyed by the Crotonians. There were also Lucanians living here, who took it over permanently, and joined it to the galaxy of Italic cities. After the third century, the city was most probably abandoned, even if there are no traces of traumatic events.
The site provides an insight into the city’s residential layout, with relics of buildings bordered by streets. In one of them, the ‘House of the Mint’, minting dies were found for minting local coins with the characteristic incusetechnique.
As you walk through the streets of ancient Laos, you will notice the typical chessboard layout of Greek cities, with rectangular blocks separated by intersecting streets at right angles.
Two dwellings are particularly interesting: the ‘House of the Mosaic’, named after the light-blue tiled mosaic floor, and the ‘House with the Ramp’, with an access made of stone slabs. Another highlight is the ‘House of the Shops’ with large rooms probably used for commercial activities.
The city was defended by walls on at least three sides, still clearly visible today.
Of note is the presence of a craftsmen’s quarter, in the south-west part of the city and clearly separated from it, where pottery kilns were found.
Precious Materials found in Laos
Very wealthy families must have lived in Laos, according to the precious materials frequently found in the necropolis just outside the settlement. Highlights are a gold signet ring depicting Aphrodite weighing two Herotes on a scale, a gold diadem, and some decorated pottery.
However, the most important find is undoubtedly an embossed decorated armour, consisting of two parts linked by chains, which was a characteristic armour of Italic populations.
All these artefacts are now on display in the National Museum of Reggio Calabria. Inside the park there is a small but well-kept Antiquarium, displaying all the artefacts that keep being exposed by still ongoing archaeological excavations.