Centre for the Study of Ancient Sicily

The Centre for the Study of Ancient Sicily (hereafter CSAS) at the University of British Columbia was created in 2007. The largest island in the Mediterranean, and strategically set at its very centre, at the crossroads of major shipping lines, Sicily is a wonderful laboratory for the study of ancient Mediterranean history. There is an abundant harvest of literary and historical evidence; a considerable amount of inscriptional data; a rich numismatic tradition; and a wealth of archaeology for all periods. There is therefore a huge set of varied data in need of publication and evaluation or re-evaluation; fresh syntheses are constantly required as our perspectives on the island’s past change.

Sicily is also a key area for studying processes of culture contact: between Greeks and native peoples from the eighth to fourth centuries BC; between indigenous peoples and the Phoenicio-Punic heritage of western Sicily over the same period; between Greeks and Phoenicians in the eighth and seventh centuries BC; between Greeks and Carthaginians from the sixth to the third centuries BC; and between the predominantly Greek culture of Sicily and the impact of Rome from the third century BC down into late antiquity. Sicily is a lively academic landscape with enormous potential for study from multifarious viewpoints: the evidence to be quarried is inexhaustible.

The CSAS has the following aims, both at UBC and beyond:

  • to conduct and publish world-class research on ancient Sicily
  • to offer undergraduate and graduate students the possibility of studying ancient Sicily, particularly via a field school
  • to offer graduate students the possibility of studying for higher degrees at UBC on Sicilian topics
  • to conduct first-rate archaeological fieldwork in Sicily

The Sicilian research credentials of its members and current fieldwork are discussed in greater detail below (please see "Membership" and "Fieldwork").

The CSAS has the following members, in three categories:

(a) full members

  • Emeritus Professor Paul Mosca (UBC), a Phoenicio-Punic epigraphist, who also works on Phoenicio-Punic language, culture and religion across the entire Mediterranean. He has been closely involved with both the American and British excavations at Carthage, and is an expert on the stelai from the Sanctuary of Tanit there (the ‘tophet’). He is a leading authority also on the Phoenician and Punic institutionalised rite of infant sacrifice which took place in the tophet, not only at Carthage but at Motya in Sicily and elsewhere, a topic on which he is writing a book.
  • Professor Sam Migliore (Kwantlen University College), a Sicilian-born anthropologist of Sicily and of the Italian-Canadian community, who has written on the role played by the Sicilian antiquities in folklore and identity, and a book on the evil eye (Mal'uocchiu: ambiguity, evil eye, and the language of distress, 1997); he has also co-edited Italian lives, Cape Breton memories (1999). His present research project, funded by SSHRC in 2005, is entitled ‘Culture, well-being and a sense of place’.
  • Professor Roger Wilson (Director) (UBC), an Oxford classicist and ancient historian by training, he is now principally an archaeologist, but one competent at handling a wide range of both historical and archaeological evidence. He has been studying Sicily, often making more than one visit per annum, for 48 years, and is well known throughout the island as the leading expert in the world on Roman imperial Sicily. He has close academic contacts with all the key players in Sicily, both in the universities and in the Soprintendenze of the Region’s Archaeological Service, as well as with other Sicilian scholars world-wide. He has published very extensively on aspects of ancient Sicily, as well as three books, Piazza Armerina (1983), Sicily under the Roman Empire (1990) Caddeddi on the Tellaro: a late Roman villa in Sicily and its mosaics (2016). Since 2013 he has been directing excavations at Gerace in the province of Enna, in which UBC students participate; these have been funded by two SSHRC grants.

(b) associate members

  • Professor Johannes Bergemann (University of Gottingen) studied at Munich (Ph.D 1987) and Gottingen (Habilitation 1994) before teaching at Leipzig and Bochum, where he was also Dean of the Faculty of Arts (2003-05).  Since August 2009 he has been Director of the Archaeological Institute of the University of Gottingen.  He has directed the Gela survey in Sicily and is now conducting another survey in the Agrigentino.  His doctoral dissertation was on Roman equestrian statues (Romische Reiterstatuen, 1987), and he has published books on Attic grave reliefs (Demos und Thanatos, 1997), on the ancient Albanian city of Butrint (1998), and an introduction to Classical Archaeology (2000).  His comprehensive multi-period survey of the hinterland of Gela was published in three volumes as Der Gela-Survey. 3000 Jahre Siedlungsgenschichte in Sizilien in 2010, and he is currently conducting a similar survey near Agrigento.
  • Professor Ernesto De Miro (Agrigento), long-time former Superintendent of Antiquities for the Agriento Soprintendnenza, and also Professor Emeritus of Classical Archaeologyat the University of Messina, has made in numerable and invaluablec ontributions to Sicilian archaeology over the past fifty years, especially at Agrigento, Eraclea Minoa, and at many indigenous hill-towns of the Sicilian interior, as well as at Lepcis Magna in Libya. His many publications include most recently Agrigento II. I santuari extraurbani. L’Asklepieion (2003), Leptis Magna: dieci anni di scavi archeologici nell'area del Foro Vecchio (with A. Polito) (2005) and Agrigento romana: gli edifici pubblici civili (with G. Fiorentini) (2011). A Festchift in his honour was published in 2003 as Archeologia del Mediterraneo: studi in onore di Ernesto De Miro. He is also the editor of the distinguished periodical, Sicilia Antiqua.
  • Professor Giovanni Di Stefano (University of Cosenza) is Director of the Polo dei Beni Culturali for Ragusa province, as well as Professor of Late Antique Art and Archaeology at the University of Cosenza. His principal research has centred on the archaeology of the province of Ragusa in all periods of antiquity, on which he has written voluminously in the form of academic papers, conference contributions, books, and guides, with a notable focus on the Greek city of Camarina. He has also been Director of an archaeological mission at the Roman sanctuary site at Champlieu in the Forest of Compiegne, France, and of excavations at Carthage in north Africa.
  • Dr Lorenzo Guzzardi (Soprintendenza per i Beni Culturali, Siracusa), currently director of the Polo for the cultural heritage of Syracuse province, and formerly Soprintendente of Caltanissetta province, has conducted numerous important excavations in Syracuse and its province over the past twenty years. A former Director of the Lentini museum, he has also worked in Enna province, where recently he discovered Sicily’s latest example of a Greek theatre, that at Monagna di Marzo. He is the author of numerous contributions on the archaeology of eastern Sicily in learned journals, conference proceedings and books.
  • Dr Maria Costanza Lentini (Naxos), formerly Director of the archaeological park and museum of Naxos, where she has directed excavations for many years; more recently Director of the Polo of the cultural heritage in Catania province. She has published extensively on all aspects of its archaeology, and her most recent books include Vasi del Wild Goat Style dalla Sicilia e dai musei Europei (2006) and Naxos di Sicilia. L’abitato coloniale e l’arsenale navale. Scavi 2003–2006 (2009). She has also co-edited Damarato: studi di antichità classica offerti a Paola Pelagatti (2000).
  • Professor Paola Pelagatti (Rome), formerly Soprintendente alle Antichità in Syracuse (1973–9), and later Superintendent of Southern Etruria and Professor of Archaeology at Cosenza and Viterbo, is an Academician of the Accademiadei Lincei, Italy’s highest academic honour; she is also a Corresponding Member of the German Archaeological Institute and an Honorary Fellow of the British School at Rome. Her excavations at Syracuse, Naxos and Camarina in particular have brought her world-wide renown. She is an acknowledged expert on archaic and classical Greek Sicily, and on ancient pottery in Sicily, both local and imported. A Festschift in her honour was published in 2000 as Damarato: studi di antichità classica offerti a Paola Pelagatti.
  • Dr Jonathan Prag (University of Oxford), Fellow and Tutor at Merton College, Oxford, whose doctoral research concerned Sicily during the Roman Republic, is a historian who is also conversant with the rich vein of epigraphic, numismatic and archaeological evidence; he is the author of several important articles on Republican Sicily, has edited Sicilia Nutrix plebes Romanae: rhetoric, law and taxation in Cicero’s Verrines (2007) and is joint editor both of Petronius: a handbook (with I. Redpath) (2013) and of  The Hellenistic West (with J. Quinn) (2013).
  • Dr Francesca Spatafora (Soprintendenza per i Beni Culturali, Palermo) is Director of the Polo for the cultural heritage of Palermo province and Director of the Museo Archeologico Regionale of Palermo, where she supervised its spectacular new display of the Greek and Roman antiquities on the ground floor; she is a long-time colleague and collaborator of both Professors Wilson and De Angelis. Elected a member of the German Archaeological institute in Rome, she has conducted many excavations in western Sicily over the past 25 years, both in Palermo itself and its hinterland, and is the author or co-author of numerous specialist papers and books, including Monte Maranfusa (2003) and Das Eigene und das Andere: Griechen, Sikaner und Elymer: neue archaeologische Forschungen im antiken Sizilien (2004).
  • Dr Stefano Vassallo (Soprintendenza per i Beni Culturali, Palermo) has directed excavations at the Greek colony of Himera for many years, as well as sites in the hinterland, especially Colle Madore e Montagna dei Cavalli. His books include Colle Madore (1999), Himera: città greca (2005) and (with F. Spatafora) Das Eigene und das Andere: Griechen, Sikaner und Elymer (2004), and he is also the author of numerous specialist papers. His most recent project has been the spectacular excavation of over 7000 burials from the northern necropolis of Himera, which included victims of both the iconic Battle of Himera in 480 BC and of the battle in 409 BC.

(c) research associates

All graduate students at UBC who have research interests which embrace some aspect of Sicily will be invited to become research associates of CSAS; but any graduate student who can demonstrate an interest in and knowledge of res Sicilianae may also request enrolment from the Director.

Fieldwork is an essential part of historical research: it provides the oxygen of fresh discoveries which allow the subject to be continually re-assessed and our knowledge about the ancient world to be ever expanding. Student involvement in this fieldwork will be strongly encouraged and promoted through the establishment of field-schools in Sicily. This is providing UBC students, both undergraduate and graduate, with experiential education, in which valuable skills, particularly scientific and life skills, will be gained.

UBC’s recent and current Sicilian field projects:

  • The Kaukana project is designed to investigate the character and economic context of the late Roman and Byzantine village of Kaukana near Punta Secca, on the south coast of Sicily in the province of Ragusa. The site was noted but not published by Paolo Orsi early in the twentieth century, and was only brought to scholarly attention in the mid-1960s, when building expansion for holiday homes encountered ancient structures. Surface clearance identified a village settlement of some 25 individual structures scattered haphazardly along the coastal strip, and some of these were partly investigated at the time by Professor Paola Pelagatti, in a series of campaigns which lasted until 1972. One of those structures, the church, has also been investigated more recently, by Professor G. Di Stefano, who is also co-director of the present project. The Kaukana project has concentrated on Building 6, where excavation has taken place between 2008 and 2010, funded by the Social Studies and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Reports on this work have been published in Journal of Roman Archaeology (2009), Minerva (2010), Current World Archaeology (2010), American Journal of Archaeology (2011), Kalos (2011), Antike Welt (2011), International Journal of Osteoarchaeology (with C. Sulosky Weaver) (2012), Mouseion (2013), Phoenix (2013),  Sicilia Antiqua (2013) and Sicilia Archeologica (2017). See also the text of the XIth Byvanck Lecture delivered by Professor Wilson in Leiden in 2017: http://www.babesch.org/downloads/BABESCH_Byvanck_Lecture_2017_Wilson.pdf
  • The Gerace project, launched in 2013 and running at least until 2019, is designed to study a Roman villa in Enna province in its historical, social and economic context. This has been generously supported by two SSHRC Insight Grant awards. For more details, see the excavation reports posted on this website, via 'Archaeological Field Schools' on the Home Page.