The history of Matera begins in distant times, ranging from prehistoric times to the various metal ages up to the advent of Christianity.

Matera is considered one of the oldest cities in the world as into the Gravine Materane several objects dating back to Paleolithic age have been found.

The discoveries by Domenico Ridola, a doctor with a passion for archeology, founder of the National Archaeological Museum of Matera, highly accredit the human presence since the Paleolithic. Evident traces of villages dating back to the Neolithic, on the Murgia Timone, Murgecchia, Serra d’Alto and on the Civita hill suggest in that period the settlements became more stable.

After going through the phases of prehistory, including the different metal ages, Christianity characterized the history of Matera. Small monastic communities emigrated following Iconoclasm from Cappadocia, Armenia, Asia Minor and Syria. They took refuge in the already existing caves, they built others and used them as homes and places of prayer. Thus the splendid Rock Churches were born, precious treasures of art and culture.