Sicily 2017

EXCAVATIONS IN SICILY 2017

THE GERACE PROJECT

gerace-general-view

The setting of the Roman archaeological site of Gerace

  1. Introduction

A fourth season of archaeological excavation will take place at the site of Gerace (province of Enna) between mid-May and early June 2017, co-sponsored by the University of British Columbia’s Centre for the Study of Ancient Sicily and the Soprintendenza ai Beni Culturali Ambientali di Enna. The proposed excavation will last four weeks, commencing on Monday 8th May and ending on Saturday 3rd June 2017. An excavation permit from the Sicilian Regional Government for 2017 has already been requested and is likely to be issued before Christmas 2016; permission to dig from the landowner has already been obtained.

  1. The excavation site

Figure 7: A tiny fraction of the carbonized seed deposit from one of the two storerooms.

Deposit of thousands of carbonized seeds, mainly barley, found in 2015

The site is that of a Roman villa in the heart of Sicily, situated in fertile agricultural land surrounded to the north by an amphitheatre of gentle hills. It was discovered by accident 22 years ago when a drainage ditch burst its banks and cut through one corner of an ancient structure, exposing a mosaic. Subsequent limited excavation discovered the ground plan on the surface of a small villa with five rooms and an irregular L-shaped corridor. Trial trenching descending to floor level suggested that there were geometric mosaic pavements in at least two rooms, well preserved beneath a tile fall at the time of the building’s destruction. This building was further partially investigated in 2007, but still has not been completely uncovered. Five rooms and two corridors, one of them mosaic-paved, were partially uncovered in the 2013, 2015 and 2016 seasons, when a new chronology for the building was established: the villa was built c. AD 370 and destroyed a century later by fire. There were signs that it had never been completely finished. An important deposit of several hundred seeds (including different species of wheat, barley and lentils) in a storeroom in this villa, carbonized because of the fire, was discovered in 2015. Approximately 190 stamped tiles belonging to a single production, either marked PHILIPPIANI (for one, see the photo below, p. 4) or alluding to him, have been found in the 2013–2016 excavations, his name occurring in nine different dies. Brick stamps also bearing his name were recovered from a kiln on the site in 2016. Philippianus was almost certainly the name of the owner of the Gerace estate who built the late Roman villa c. AD 370.

Before the latest series of excavations began in 2013, UBC carried out, in May 2012, preliminary investigations at the site, in the form of a geophysical survey conducted by a team from the British School at Rome; the work was completed by a further survey that took place in October 2013. This research defined the location of further buildings apart from the small villa structure excavated in 1994, 2007 and 2013–2016. One (A2 M1 on the plan, p. 3), 50 m long, has been partially excavated and found to be paved with an intact stone floor; built c. AD 325/50, it served as a storehouse for grain and other agricultural produce from the estate. It collapsed, possibly in an earthquake known to have shaken Sicily in AD 361/3, and was never rebuilt; it was partly covered by structures belonging to the late Roman villa. The discovery of a further building (M2) in the geophysical survey, and the location of five kilns (M4 and M5), have also added to our knowledge of the site.

Fig. 1

Part of a geometric mosaic pavement uncovered at Gerace in 2016

In 2016, excavation investigated building M2 for the first time. Part of a freestanding bath-building was discovered, with heated rooms, mosaic pavements and marble lining on the walls. The impressions of the hollow tubes which conveyed hot air vertically up the walls were still clearly visible in the apse of the hot room (caldarium). It was roofed by creating a semi-dome of interlocking terracotta tubes, of which 212 intact examples were found as well as fragmentary examples of many more. It was probably built c. AD 400 and decommissioned perhaps fifty years later, when the building was stripped of its tiles and its bricks, for use elsewhere – an interesting instance of late Roman recycling. Part of a Byzantine structure of the sixth century, overlying late Roman features, was found further north again.

Fig. 13

Late Roman bath-building, part of a heated room

 

Fig. 8

The heated pool in the apse of the caldarium

The continuing aims of the project, more generally, are

(a) to excavate the Roman structures more extensively and to understand their function;

(b) to refine further the chronology by confirming both the construction and the destruction/abandonment dating of the various different phases;

(c) to recover ceramic remains (pottery, lamps, amphorae, tile), with a view to understanding both local ceramic circulation in the Roman period, and to evaluate the extent of imported ceramics, so as to understand better Gerace’s trading links with other parts of Sicily and of the Mediterranean during the Roman period;

(d) to recover faunal and carbonized seed remains in order to establish the range of plants grown and animals raised (or at any rate consumed) by the inhabitants of Gerace.

In 2017, work will concentrate on (i) identifying the outline plan of the bath-building first discovered in 2016; (ii) investigating whether a further residential building lies alongside it; and (iii) excavating at least one of the kilns on the site. Very few Roman villas have been excavated in Sicily, and no project in Sicily has hitherto been designed to understand the agricultural basis of the estate on which it lay. Assessing evidence for the overall economy of Gerace is, therefore, a key aim of the project.

Full details of the 2013 excavations are available in the published report in the journal Mouseion in 2015, available on-line. In addition a paper on the 99 examples of stamped tiles found in the 2013 excavations was published in Journal of Roman Archaeology 27 (2014) 472–86. Excavation did not take place in 2014. A brief summary of the principal results of the 2015 excavations can be found at http://cnrs.ubc.ca/for-undergraduates/archaeological-field-schools/archaeological-field-school-2015-sicily/and those of the of the 2016 season at http://cnrs.ubc.ca/for-undergraduates/archaeological-field-schools/sicily-2016/

fig-2-copyThe geophysics plot at Gerace, mapped in 2012. Blue shows still buried walls, red floors or tile falls, yellow tile scatter,and green kilns. In 2017 building M2 and part of M5 will be further investigated.

  1. Training excavation

This will be a training excavation, and two site supervisors, experienced archaeologists, will be employed to supervise the excavation and the recording. Training will be given in such skills as trowelling; stratigraphy; context sheets; surveying; planning; interpreting, recording and drawing archaeological sections; identifying and handling small finds; pot-washing and marking; photography. It is intended that excavation will take place for 6 days each week, a total of 24 days. There will be opportunities for two students to stay up to a week longer, at no extra cost, helping with post-excavation work after the conclusion of actual digging. Any student who wishes can enrol on the UBC fieldwork courses, CNRS 335a for undergraduates, CNRS 535 for graduate students: for details of these courses, see http://cnrs.ubc.ca/people/rja-wilson/ and then choose ‘Teaching’. The tuition fee for this is not included in the cost stated in § 7 below.

Fig. 3

A brick with the monogram of Philippianus, found at Gerace in 2016

philippianus-tile

A roof tile with the name stamp of Philippianus, found at Gerace in 2013

  1. Accommodation

Accommodation, within walking distance of the excavation site (approximately 10 minutes), will be in a bed and breakfast (agriturismo) called Il Mandorleto: see www.ilmandorleto.it. Dinner will also be provided there; lunch will be a picnic, eaten under shaded cover in the garden of Il Mandorleto after the conclusion of each morning’s work. Among other amenities, Il Mandorleto has a swimming pool. Internet access is severely constricted; cell-phone coverage does not normally reach Gerace, although patchy contact in certain locations is possible. You have been warned! Successful applicants must expect in advance to be largely without internet or phone contact for the four weeks’ duration of the project.

il-mandorleto-cabina

The garden and one of the chalets at our base, Il Mandorleto

il-mandorleto-piscina

The swimming pool at Il Mandorleto

  1. Daily routine

Work begins on site at 0700. Pause on site for ‘second breakfast’ at 0930. Digging stops at 1400. After lunch, siesta until 1615. 1630–1830: one group will wash and mark the day’s finds near the potshed; a second, larger group will return to site for further excavation. Dinner 1930. Bed: 2200. We will be working a six-day week. On the seventh day there will be optional excursions (at no extra charge) to other archaeological sites in Sicily, to Agrigento, Syracuse, Morgantina, and to the Roman villa at Piazza Armerina.

  1. Numbers

The group will consist of approximately 23 people, including the director, a draughtsperson, a palaeobotanist, an archaeozoologist, a ceramicist and two site supervisors. There are vacancies for up to 15 UBC students. Preference will be given to those with prior archaeological experience. No application for a period less than the full excavation season of four weeks will be considered. Applications are invited on the attached form, which must be filled out and handed in to the CNERS office, Buchanan C 227 (for placing in my box), not later than 12 noon on Thursday 12th January 2017. Alternatively, if you have access to a scanner, your signed application form can be sent by e-mail attachment (as a pdf) to roger.wilson@ubc.ca. If you have any questions before you apply, please contact the Director, Roger Wilson, at that e-mail address or by telephoning him at 604-221-9407. You are encouraged to apply, however, well before the closing date. Interviews of applicants will probably take place in the third week of January. I hope to let applicants know whether or not they have been accepted by Tuesday 31st January 2017. The Director’s decision is of course final.

  1. Cost

The cost for the four weeks will be CDN$2995. All meals and the accommodation are included in this price, except for lunch and dinner on Sundays (see below). Those who wish to take courses CNERS 335 or (for graduates) 535 should register with GoGlobal and pay to them their registration fee ($407); they will then be handling all payments, and will arrange a pre-departure meeting offering general advice. GoGlobal offers a

Figure 6: The earth scorched red by the heat of the final fire in one of the storeooms, after removal of the burnt seeds.

Cleaning an earth floor in a storeroom, burnt by fire c. AD 500

dsc_3759

The dig team at Gerace, 2016

grant to support you (it was $1000 in 2016), provided that you qualify. To learn if you qualify, see http://students.ubc.ca/about/go-global/budgeting-scholarships-and-awards-go-global#global-seminar-program-award. Canadian, US and UK students can enter freely into Italy, so no visas (at the time of writing) are necessary. Please note that your passport must have at least three months’ validity left on it after you are due to return to Canada. Students will in addition have to make their own way out to Sicily and pay for that. The nearest airport is Catania, from where you should take a bus to Enna Bassa; I will arrange collection from there. There will be no extra charge for the Sunday excursions (see above, § 5), but meals each Sunday will be payable by the participant, irrespective of whether the excursion is taken. Pocket money for incidental expenses, e.g. drinks, ice-creams, postcards, stamps, telephone, should also be borne in mind. Successful applicants are strongly advised to obtain insurance cover in case of medical emergencies. A tetanus injection is also essential. Neither the Director nor the University of British Columbia can be held responsible for any mishap that may occur either during the excavation or at any time during the whole expedition: you are required to sign an indemnity waiver below.

 

ars-lamp-3

A lamp made in Tunisia with a Christian Ch-Rho symbol, found at Gerace in 2016; c. AD 450/500

  1. Additional note

Excavation is exhausting and often tedious work, and the Sicilian heat is intense and oppressive in May and June. Every member of the team is expected to be in reasonable physical shape and capable of sustained manual labour. Excavation is an expensive business, and extracting the maximum possible results within the time and limited resources available will be our unswerving goal. There will be a lot of fun, certainly, but the regime will be a tightly disciplined one. Complete dedication to the excavation programme, and constant and consistent hard work, will be expected. Any intending volunteer who has doubts about this, or who thinks that the expedition to Sicily will be an excuse for a holiday in the sun, should not apply.

 

R. J. A. WILSON, 22nd November 2016


 

This application form is also available in paper form in the CNERS office (BUCH C 227)

APPLICATION FORM FOR SICILY EXCAVATION, 2017

Surname………………………………………………….. First names…………………………………………………..

Date of birth……………………………………………… Male or female…………………….

Contact address………………………………………………………………….

…………………………………………….Tel:…………………………..Cell:…………………

Home address (if different from the above)

……………………………………………………………………

………………………………………………………………………. Tel:……………………………..

E-mail address ………………………………… Your student number ……………………………….

Please indicate here your whereabouts if I need to contact you between 1st and 5h May 2017

………………………………………………………………………..

………………………………………………………………………….Tel:…………………………

Do you possess a current passport? Yes/no Date of passport’s expiry……………….Citizenship:…………..

Year in University (and state whether BA, MA or PhD; if third or fourth year, state in what subject you are Majoring)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Previous archaeological experience (indicating any special skills)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Do you have any history of medical illness or any other associated factors (e.g. dietary needs) which you think the Director ought to know about?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Are you interested in being considered for the post-excavation work after the completion of the excavation (no extra cost)? YES / NO

If your initial application is unsuccessful, do you want to be considered for the reserve short-list? YES / NO

I,……………………………………………, understand, if I am accepted as a volunteer for the Sicily 2017 excavation, that neither the University of British Columbia nor any representative of the same (Professor R J A Wilson) will be held responsible in any way, whether legally or financially, for any personal injury, loss or mishap that may occur, to myself or my possessions, through whatever cause.

Date……………………………………… Signed………………………………………………………………….