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Survey in the Inland Area of Lilybaeum
Annapaola Mosca
Sapienza Università di Roma
email: [email protected]
Abstract
This survey focuses on the situation of the
landscape and the ancient settlement of Lilybaeum
in the countryside behind the modern centre
of Mazara del Vallo. Based on the survey, the
knowledge of the archaeological sites was applied
to create an overview of the settlement dynamics
in the territory. Evidence points to a widespread
settlement, developed approximately from the
end of the fourth century BC but established in
the second century BC. It was linked mainly to
the available water and environmental resources,
especially agriculture, pastoralism, the quarries,
the Mazaro River and to the easy possibility of
trade, especially with North Africa. What stands
out the most is the organisation of the settlements:
it was possible to identify both large settlements
and sometimes veritable villages, extending over
several hectares, in this case similar to what
has been found in other Sicilian districts, and to
identify minor sites, probably functional to the
villae or villages. The surface of a site in the San
Miceli area, located near the banks of the Mazaro
River, behind the port on the estuary of Mazara is
exceptional. It has a very wide extension compared
to other sites. Some of these sites, with remarkable
signs of growth in the Late Imperial Age, especially
in the fourth-fifth centuries AD, do not seem to
survive beyond the sixth-seventh centuries AD.
In a few cases we witness a continuum in the
settlement, albeit in different forms compared to
the previous periods, almost until the eleventh
century AD in sites tied to the presence of wells,
mills and, presumably, a road network. It was
possible to redact an archaeological map from the
archaeological data collected in the territory.
LAC2014 Proceedings | DOI 10.5463/lac.2014.46
Keywords: Sicily; Lilybaeum; Mazaro; Mazara;
Survey.
Premise
Archaeological research in this part of Western
Sicily is set in the context of topographical
and archaeological studies conducted by the
University of Palermo, Dipartimento di Beni
Culturali, and the Soprintendenza Beni Culturali
e Ambientali of Trapani. The research goal is to
understanding the living patterns of the island
in antiquity (Costituzione di poli formativi per la
ricerca nel campo dei Beni Culturali, con finalità
culturali e di conoscenza dei siti della provincia di
Trapani). In this context, surface research was
conducted, beginning in 2012, and continued
under a multidisciplinary approach, with particular
emphasis on non-invasive survey methods. In
the course of recent surface surveys, the field of
research was broadened compared to previous
surveys (Di Stefano, 1982-1983; Fentress, Kennet
& Valenti, 1986) to provide a more in-depth
understanding of the settlement dynamics in
the territory east of Lilybaeum and north of the
urban centre of Mazara, between the fiumara
Sossio (or Marsala) to the west and the Mazaro
River. The surveyed area lies between the IGM
maps 257 NO Paolini; III NE Baglio Chitarra; III SE
Borgata Costiera. The archaeological potential of a
portion of this territory had been perceived before
the definition of the project. An archaeological
excavation campaign was conducted at Timpone
Rasta, in the Mirabile district, which unearthed
a residential building dating back almost to the
second century BC, with various stages of life.
1
Fig. 1. A) San Miceli; B) Carrebbe quarries.
2
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Fig. 2. Giudeo Maggiore: the site
These excavations allowed the archaeologists to
discover the presence of a widespread settlement
in the territory from the fourth century BC to the
sixth century AD (Fentress, 1998; Fentress, Kennet
& Valenti, 1986; Molinari & Valente, 1995).
Survey Method
As a first stage of research and in parallel with
surveys on the ground, we examined the historical,
literary, epigraphic and itinerary sources. We
LAC2014 Proceedings | DOI 10.5463/lac.2014.46
analysed the information contained in the archives
of Palermo (Centro Regionale per il Catalogo
e la Documentazione; Ufficio Regionale delle
Regie Trazzere), Trapani (Archivio di Stato;
Soprintendenza Archeologica) and Mazara del
Vallo (Archivio Diocesano and Archivio di Stato).
The surveys were carried out at different times
during the year: some land, in fact, was not
accessible in the winter and spring months due to
the presence of sheep and goat herds. The surveys
were carried out with GPS systems, descending
and ascending the slopes, taking as a reference
the morphological characters of the landscape
and following the boundaries of the individual
3
fields that went to form the minimum survey units
(Belvedere, 2010; Quilici & Quilici Gigli, 2004). We
used the IGM maps as a cartographic reference,
both the historical maps and recent ones. Both
before the surveys and during research on the
ground, we analysed the satellite imagery (Sicily
Region) and consulted the aerial photographs
at the CRCD, Palermo and at the IGM, Florence.
Because some lands are not accessible since
they are fenced, are open quarries or are outdoor
stalls for animals, we chose two vast sample
areas in order to carry out surveys in depth, one
along the Mazaro river (with an extension of about
940 ha) and the other in the inland area, where
settlements had already been reported (with an
extension of about 3,890 ha). For all the sites we
drew up specific Topographic Unit cards, which,
along with the indications of the maps and a
topographical description of the site, include the
type of environment, the visibility degree, the
surface conditions at the time of survey and a
description of the survey method. Unfortunately,
due to destruction of monumental artefacts
and fragmented remains, partly due to deep
ploughing, it was not always possible to interpret
all the data collected in an unequivocal way, as
is similar to other surveys carried out in Sicily
(Wilson, 1980-1981). It was certainly possible to
define the vastness of the site and to evaluate the
quantity and the type of materials on site, but at
times doubt remains as to the interpretation of the
site function, although many indicators seem to
suggest the presence of settlements. We specify
in the cards if we are in the presence of primary
concentration or dispersion, we report the blocks
and re-employed architectural elements, the type
of pottery found and its quantity, the presence of
shingles and/or tiles, fragments of glass, other
artefacts, bones and any elements useful to a
definition of the site.
The Environment
The most important centre, located near the coast
and further west than the territory examined, was
4
Lilybaeum, characterised, as is well known, by
a significant settlement beginning in the fourth
century BC. Lilybaeum was a presence that soon
obtained an urban organisation following the
arrival of the Punics from the island of Motya
(Diod. Sic. 14.55.62) to the extent that this centre
remains, even in Roman times, a first rank
administrative headquarter in the heart of what
had been the Punic eparcheia formed in Western
Sicily (Di Stefano, 1980-1981; Giglio, 2006; Giglio
& Canzonieri, 2009; Palazzo & Vecchio, 2013;
Schmiedt, 1963). Lilybaeum, therefore, continued
to be a centre where multiple cultural elements
converged as well as a prominent maritime
port, with two basins surrounded by a series of
smaller piers designed to allow the circulation
of agricultural products and various goods
coming from the villas in the hinterland (Tusa,
2010). Mazaris, instead, is reported in Itinerarium
Antonini 89, 1 as a statio along a paracoastal
route (Cuntz, 1929; Uggeri, 2004). However, the
port at the mouth of the Mazaro river must have
existed since ancient times, as mentioned by
Diodorus when he recalls the existence, in the fifth
century BC, of a settlement at the mouth of the
Mazaro, emporion or phrourion, perhaps for a time
controlled by the Selinuntines but also contended
by the inhabitants of Segesta (Diod. Sic. 11.46.2;
13.54.6; 23.9.4; De Vido, 1990-1991). The lower
course of the Mazaro, although characterised at
times in spring and autumn by the phenomenon
called “marrobbio”, with sudden changes in water
levels due to atmospheric pressure imbalances,
was also formerly a safe haven for boats (Amari,
1880). At the mouth of the river, a coin closet
was discovered with silver coins from the most
important cities of Sicily and dating to 435-445
BC (Tusa-Cutroni, 1989). The existence of traces
of ancient port facilities at the mouth of the canal
harbour was confirmed in the course of surveys
carried out in 1930 (Bonanno Marzo, 1931). Based
on the epigraphs, it was a centre that perhaps
depended on Lilybaeum (Bivona, 1987), at least
in the third century AD, if not enjoying a certain
independence (Manni-Piraino, 1969). The area
of the Palace of the Knights of Malta, near the
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Fig. 3. Giudeo Maggiore.
LAC2014 Proceedings | DOI 10.5463/lac.2014.46
5
Fig. 4. Extension of the sites.
canal harbour, has shown various stages of
use since the end of the fourth century BC, with
indications of productive activities, until the
tenth-eleventh centuries, when we have evidence
of a construction phase of the city wall (Giglio,
1998). The sarcophagi preserved in the Cathedral
are dated to the Roman Imperial Age (secondfourth century AD: Di Stefano, 2003; Tusa, 1995).
A number of necropolis probably surrounded the
inhabited centre at the mouth of the Mazaro in
Roman times. It would also seem that one of these
necropolis contributed a sarcophagus treasured in
the Cathedral (Castiglione, 1878; Di Stefano, 2003).
Traces of productive activities are documented in
the north-eastern outskirts in the sixth century or
even before (Molinari & Cassai, 2010).
Altogether, the territory surveyed behind the
present day Mazara del Vallo and east of Marsala,
though apparently uniform and characterised
by a predominantly agricultural and non-urban
landscape, displays orographic and soil diversity.
The part of territory closest to Mazara is a plateau;
the central one is the area called “sciara”, a rocky
soil left uncultivated, as any type of agricultural
farming is impossible here. The “sciara” in the
past was used for the mining of local limestone,
6
with ravine or subsoil type exploitation. Some
quarries near the Mazaro River seem to have
largely been abandoned for centuries. In the
“sciare”, there is a widespread presence of
phrygana, with the “giummare” as part of the
spontaneous vegetation. These are dwarf palms
that could be used in the past to prepare strings
and containers or could provide insulation from
the heat (Plin., HN 13.39; Tamburello, 1990).
The most northern part, with stony soils, is
characterised by rolling hills with a maximum
altitude around 180 m. The plantations are
currently mostly vineyards but also contain olive
groves and cereal crops; the wine-growing culture
took over from the beginning of the nineteenth
century, when a number of British families
increased the production and trade of local wines.
In this area, there are aquifers that are still partly
exploited, with wells covered by domes known as
the “cubbe”. Mazara del Vallo had water collection
tanks in the past in this territory: the aqueduct
dating back to the seventeenth century that served
the town of Mazara del Vallo was supplied with
water from the Chelbi and Mirabile districts. The
historical maps, for instance the one of 1843
preserved in the Archivio Mortillaro di Villarena
in Palermo (Map No. 403), point to the fact that
along the coast were the “margi”, internal lakes,
receptors of a very diversified fauna and with
a peculiar vegetation. These bodies of water,
LAC2014 Proceedings | DOI 10.5463/lac.2014.46
which have now shrunk in size, represented a
contributing factor to the marine intrusion in
the hinterland and were probably an important
source of income for the local economy. In ancient
times, the paracoastal strip was most probably
characterised by the presence of cork oaks (Gini
& Misuraca, 2009). In the countryside there are
small towers and the “guardiole”, multi-storey
buildings from which it was possible to monitor
the extensive agricultural lands and the harvest
in the fields. The most characteristic elements of
the landscape are the “casali”, open farmhouse
settlements and, especially the “bagli”, these
latter being fortified farms, which have undergone
several restorations over the centuries, especially
in the nineteenth century, when the territory was
transformed with the massive introduction of
vineyards and, following the promulgation of the
Corleo Law in 1862, which decreed the abolition
of the ecclesiastical feuds, the structure of the
countryside was reorganised. The constant
changes that involved the surveyed area (new
crops and introduction of heavy machinery,
fencing of properties, use of some agricultural
buildings as stalls, quarries that are still in use
and that necessarily lead to transformations in
the surrounding landscape) may have erased the
traces of the ancient settlement. The landscape,
though, has maintained an agrarian appearance
and has not been upset by urbanisation.
One of the problems was to verify if a certain
regularity in the arrangement of the limits of the
crops could correspond to a fragmentation of
the territory in antiquity. What is striking indeed
when we look at the remote sensing images and
cartography, is the organisation of the landscape
with even-spaced divisions. Traces of the divisions
no longer in use are made apparent by the
presence of broken lines tracing field borders,
dirt roads and orthogonal intersections clearly
visible from a reading of the aerial photographs
and satellite imagery. But these tracks don’t
seem to correspond to ancient measures, even
if the survey attests to the presence of a diffused
ancient settlement. Some orthogonal elements
of the landscape that appear in the maps, and the
development of certain settlements, such as the
house excavated in the Mirabile district, starting
from the beginning of the second century BC,
suggested the possibility of a centuriation, valued
about 105 km2 and closely linked to the situation
in Sicily from 210 BC, when it presumably became
necessary to reorganise the territory after the final
inclusion of Sicily in the Roman world (Fentress,
1998; Fentress, Kennet & Valenti, 1986). However,
it was not possible to link the information gathered
to precise map references. It is necessary to
remember that the problematic Liber Coloniarum
(Grelle, 1992) suggests for Sicily (Campbell, 2000:
166-67) a case of land division in the districts of
Panormus and Segesta under Emperor Vespasian.
This division, destined for veteran soldiers and
for members of the Emperor’s household, as it
is described, was made with borders of Tiburtine
stones or of olive stumps placed at a variable
distance, with intervals between 150 and 550
pedes and, as such, traces on the ground are
very hard to discover. For the district under
investigation, highly decentralised with respect
to the area described in the Liber Coloniarum, the
available cartography appears to indicate a regular
fragmentation from the end of the nineteenth
century onwards. However, we know from archival
data that the land surveyors intervened on
several occasions to carry out measurements or
agricultural divisions. The most massive division
was undoubtedly the one carried out after the
abolition of the ecclesiastical feuds in 1862 and the
redistribution of the land to new owners. Traces
of this fragmentation can still be found in the
maps drawn up by the land surveyors themselves
between 1863 and 1866, after the Corleo Law
and kept in the Archivio di Stato, Trapani. What
is noticeable on these maps is that the land has
been divided into several quadrangular plots, very
similar to each other, but not all of the same size.
Especially interesting is the comparison between
an 1835 map, preserved in the Archivio Diocesano
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7
Survey result
of Mazara del Vallo, reproducing the Ferla feud,
and another map, reproducing the same feud
drafted in 1865. We can see that, while the map
of 1835 has no internal division, the next one is
organised with regular plots, which don’t seem to
correspond to any ancient land division. Not even
the overall shape of the feud represented in the
map of 1835 appears, however, to be related with
ancient measures.
As far as we can assume from gathered data,
there is a strong relationship between settlement
selections, regional resources and water supply,
as attested by the proximate Salemi - Mokarta
area (Di Miceli & Spagnolo, 2009). In regards
to water supply, the firm relation between
aquifer availability and the presence of ancient
settlements is evident. It can be seen that still
working, covered wells are arranged around
antique and medieval establishments, as for Casa
Perrone/Sinubio, Chelbi and Casale Nuovo. Among
territorial resources connected to the settlement
patterns we find quarries, farming land, the easy
connection to the harbours of Lilybaeum and,
above all, to the port at the mouth of Mazaro as
well as pastoralism. Indeed the area is crossed by
the “trazzera” no. 591, which follows the coast and
probably perpetuates an ancient road, and the no.
23, which enters the inland lining the Mazaro River
and probably follows a previous track as well.
Protohistoric settlements and coeval necropolis
are placed along the river Mazaro (Calafato,
Tusa & Mammina, 2001; Ingoglia & Tusa, 2006);
therefore this concentration suggests this river as
the reference element for early sites.
In the examined territory, in the Zizza area,
a sizeable (2,20 ha) Hellenistic settlement was
discovered. It was placed on a plateau at about
150 m above sea level. The plateau is surrounded
by overhanging faces on three sides, defined by
a noticeable slope to the east. It is a remarkable
agricultural site and it enjoys an extraordinary
view toward the sea to the south and toward the
hills to the north. This site is characterised by
the presence of extremely fragmented flat tiles
belonging to the Hellenistic period (Wilson, 1979)
and of amphorae commonly known as Greco-
8
italic. Although fragmented, these resemble the
Vandermersch V (Vandermersch, 1994) and they
could be dated from the end of the fourth century
BC to mid third century BC (Rizzo, 2014). The
presence of severely ruined coarse pottery and the
absence of black glaze pottery, indicates that the
settlement had an especially agricultural vocation
besides territorial control. The connection with the
coast should have been assured through a path as
far as the sea. The location of the Zizza site allows
comparison with other Hellenistic sites in West
Sicily, for example Rocca Nadore (Bejor, 19721973), in the Sciacca district, and Cozzo Sannita, in
the Himera area (Lauro, 2009) whose development
was connected to their advantageous position
along the routes running from the coast inland.
Presumably the Zizza settlement did not survive
the events following the first Punic war and was
abandoned; on the other hand other sites that
were placed at slightly lower altitudes appear to
be more active in the period after the Punic wars,
probably due to new traffic interests. Three other
Hellenistic sites may have provided territorial
control or could have been used to simplify
farming, according to the restricted size (with
a surface less than 0.50 ha) and their adjacent
position, on the same hill crest. This alignment
probably indicates the presence of a path along
the hill ridge. Rough pottery and fragments of
Greco-italic amphorae resembling Vandermersch
V/VI (in the middle of the third century BC; Rizzo,
2014) and Vandermersch VI (240-220 BC; Rizzo,
2014) were discovered in these sites.
The majority of settlements, which developed
significantly during the Roman period, existed
since Hellenistic Age, as demonstrated by
fragments of Greco-italic amphorae, by
deteriorated and fragmented flat tiles (Wilson,
1979) and by black glaze pottery, comparable to
Campana A or C (Morel, 1981) or to poor quality
local production (Del Vais, 1997). The association
of coarse pottery with black glaze pottery has
not been found in every discovered Hellenistic
site; on the other hand Greco-italic amphorae
and coarse pottery fragments, mainly from big
containers, coexist in some sites. According to this
LAC2014 Proceedings | DOI 10.5463/lac.2014.46
data, these settlements were chiefly designed for
farming and storage. The Timpone Rasta house
in “contrada” Mirabile dates back to the second
century BC and, by now, it is the sole excavated
site in the area (Fentress, 1998; Fentress, Kennet
&Valenti, 1986). In the whole investigated area
there is a preponderance of Greco-italic amphorae
in comparison to Dressel 1A amphorae (last
quarter of the second century to the beginning
of the first century BC: Manacorda, 1989; Rizzo,
2014). According to available information, it
appears clear that in the overlapping of artefacts
of different periods, the earliest phases seem to be
more restricted and cover a less extensive surface
rather than successive phases dated in the central
Roman Imperial period or in Late Antiquity.
Fragments of Italic sigillata were located in
many sites, however its presence is very scarce
compared to African red slip ware, such as in the
site of Giudeo (figs. 2-3). Despite the fact that the
Sicilian agriculture was exalted (Strabo 6.2.7), the
apparent scarcity of Italic sigillata, together with
the rare recovery of thin walled pottery, could
be connected to the loss of strategic importance
of the island due to the Pax Augustea and to the
designation of Italian wheat provisions to Egypt
(Vera, 1997-1998). The majority of the sites
furnished material evidence from the Roman
Empire period, especially D production ceramic, as
well as a small quantity of A and C. In the territory,
red slip ware decorated with water leaves of A
production (Hayes, 1972 forms 2-3 end of the
first century AD - second century AD) is largely
documented. We found fragments of red slip ware
resembling the Hayes form 24 (end of the second
century AD-beginning of the third century AD) and
slightly curved, smooth tiles (Wilson, 1979). The
period between the fourth and seventh centuries
AD seems to be well documented by the large
presence of red slip ware (Hayes forms 50; 61; 86;
91; 99D, 104; 109; for last shapes see Tortorella,
1998) and containers made out of coarse pottery,
presumably of north-African production (LR
Basins; Bonifay, 2004). Fragments of quadrangular
braziers popular in Vandalic Africa (Bonifay, 2004)
were found in Giudeo; cooking pottery resembling
LAC2014 Proceedings | DOI 10.5463/lac.2014.46
Sidi Jdidi types (Bonifay, 2004) and Pantelleria
ware, were discovered in some settlements.
In the whole examined territory the presence of
huge farm-villas is undeniable (with a high average
surface area between 2,2 ha and more than 10 ha),
or proper villages, in sites that were previously
occupied by farms, which progressively grew into
a village (Vera, 1999), as also noted in the case of
Campanaio in the Agrigento area (Wilson, 2000)
and in the western part of Sicily (Belvedere, 1998;
Cambi, 2005) or in Piazza Amerina district (Bowes
et al, 2011). Some smaller sites located in the
countryside could be considered as support for
large farms, as for the ones noted not far away
from Biesina and Casale Amodeo. The presence
of “minor” sites could indicate that settling
organisation was complex (fig. 4). The settlement
found in San Miceli zone covers a remarkable area
of about 19 ha and was presumably used from the
Hellenistic period at least up to the sixth-seventh
century AD. It was probably connected to the
Carrebbe quarries (fig. 1). In this case it would be
more appropriate to think of this site as a sort of
urban centre that rose behind the emporion at the
Mazaro mouth.
Combed tiles used all through the Byzantine
period, but introduced at least in the beginning of
the fifth century AD, were found in different sites
of the territory (Wilson, 1979). In addition there is
an abundant presence of middle sized (Keay XXV:
Keay, 1984) and large size amphorae (Keay LV;
Keay LVII), late red slip ware and spatheia (Keay
XXV, 2; XXVI) which circulated up until the seventh
century AD (Bonifay, 2004). This copiousness of
African containers indicates that, starting from the
fourth century AD, there was a close contact with
North Africa due to food exchange and suggests
the existence of broad cereal farming. The credit
for the intense settling, which started in the fourth
century AD, did not belong completely to the
gained strategic importance of the coast facing
North Africa; preferably, the main cause was the
strengthening of the role of cereal and the fact
that the firm relationship between West Sicily and
the Vandalic Africa in the fifth century could have
advantaged beneficial exchange. This relationship
9
with North Africa kept on until the seventh century.
Because of the problem of prolonging the
artefacts usage as well as the condition of
knowledge concerning local production pottery
(Ardizzone, 1999; Molinari, 2014), it is hard to
establish if there was a settling continuity between
the seventh century and the tenth century. As it
is my opinion that the apparent decline of rural
settlements, noticed in other parts of Sicily during
the seventh century (Corretti et al, 2004; Molinari
& Neri, 2004) could be related to soil depletion due
to years of exploitation with monoculture (Johns,
1992). With the Arab period, some sites seem to
have survived, as Casale Nuovo, where a golden
semissis from the Syracuse mint was found, dated
from 866-867 (Grierson, 1973). In this settlement is
certified the presence of fragments of pottery with
“pavoncella” decoration and monochrome glaze
pottery from the tenth to the eleventh centuries
(Molinari & Valente, 1995) even though the latter
has been used at least up to the thirteen century.
As suggested by the donation made in 1093 by
Ruggero to the bishop Stefano (Starrabba, 1893),
in the eleventh century there was still at least one
living village in the observed area. Some bone
fragments together with ceramic of the tenth –
eleventh centuries, as well as earlier materials,
were found in a field in Chelbi Maggiore, after
the soil had been turned by deep ploughing. This
fact leaves plenty of doubt regarding the site
interpretation. The survival of the Casa Perrone
settlement was aided by the proximity of water
and, probably, by the presence of a mill (during the
survey a grain pit was identified) carried on by the
toponym “la Mola”.
Bejor G, 1972-1973: Scavo del φρουριον punicoellenistico di Rocca Nadore sopra Sciacca, Kokalos,
18, 19, 247-50.
Belvedere O, 1998: Organizzazione fondiaria e
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Bivona L, 1987: Un nuovo Quaestor P(rovinciae) S(iciliae)
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Calafato B, S Tusa & G Mammina 2001: Uomo
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Cambi F, 2005: Segesta. I villaggi di età imperiale,
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