Archaeology / Cultural Heritage / History

[Archaeology] [twocolumns]

Anthropology / Human Evolution / Linguistics

[Anthropology] [twocolumns]

Palaeontology / Palaeoclimate / Earth Sciences

[Palaeontology] [twocolumns]

Evolution / Genetics / Biology

[Evolution][twocolumns]

Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily


After centuries of neglect, the Hellenistic theatre of Agrigento is the latest archaeological pearl to emerge from the Sicilian earth. In fact it had always been there, silent, waiting for the fortunate intuition of some scholar.

Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Archaeologists excavating the ancient theatre of Agrigento 
[Credit: Marco Merola]
Although it suffered from successive despoliations over the centuries to build the city we know today, it still retained its original appearance but no one, until today, had managed to find it.

The last to try was the Veronese Pirro Marconi, in the 1920s. Marconi, however, made an unforgivable error of interpretation that put him on the wrong track. Of course, he didn't have a georadar with which to probe the ground. Thus the theatre's location remained a mystery for decades to come.

Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
View from drone of the Hellenistic-Roman quarter in the park of the Valle dei Tempi di Agrigento
[Credit: Giuseppe Grizzaffi]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Ceramic finds from the theatre area 
[Credit: Giuseppe Cavaleri]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
View from drone of the ancient theatre of Agrigento 
[Credit: Giuseppe Grizzaffi]


In 2016, after weeks of instrument-based investigations, findings, hypotheses and observations, archaeologists concluded with reasonable certainty that an unmarked limestone embankment only a few hundred metres from the Temple of Concord (the undisputed icon of the Valley of the Temples) actually concealed ... the theatre.

"For months we didn't call it the theatre", jokes archaeologist Maria Concetta Parello, "due to both a certain reluctance on our part and because we also struggled to recognize its structure".

Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Restorer cleans a fragment of red-figure ceramic 
[Credit: Marco Merola]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
The follis of Costante II - Siracusa, 654-659 BC, found in the area of the Theatre of Agrigento
[Credit: Giuseppe Cavaleri]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Gorgon mask found in the area of the theatre of Agrigento 
[Credit: Marco Merola]
The only written source on the subject dates back to the middle of the 16th century. The Dominican friar Tommaso Fazello who had written the De Rebus Siculis Decades Duae, the first 'printed' book on the history of Sicily, after visiting Agrigento reserved only a few words for the theatre. "I barely recognize its foundations," he wrote. A sign that at that time many blocks of stone had already been removed to build the new city.

"Yet we managed (between the end of 2017 and the first part of 2018) to identify the summa cavea and the seats for spectators," continues Parello, as he guides us through the archaeologists who are still working to free the lower part of the structure.

Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Archaeologists excavating the ancient theatre of Agrigento 
[Credit: Marco Merola]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Small carnelian necklace depicting a winged figure 
[Credit: Marco Merola]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Archaeologists excavating the ancient theatre of Agrigento 
[Credit: Marco Merola]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Structures of the ancient theatre of Agrigento already excavated, on top of the rocky embankment
[Credit: Marco Merola]


In keeping with the architectural practice of the Hellenistic period, the tiers of benches were built up on the side of a hill, while the upper part of the theatre was built above ground "with walls more than ten metres high", explains the archaeologist.

The structure underwent a major renovation in the late third century BC, when ancient Akragas became the Agrigentum of the Romans. "But the theatre already existed a century before and only after the conquest was it enlarged, perhaps up to the remarkable size of 95 metres in diameter. Not bad for a provincial theatre."

Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Fragment from a dedicatory inscription 
[Credit: Marco Merola]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Silver coin of the early Imperial Age 
[Credit: Giuseppe Cavaleri]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Element in terracotta with relief decorations 
[Credit: Marco Merola]
Almost every day the excavation has yielded marvels, including very significant objects. "In the filling of the cavea we found a deposit of artefacts related to a propitiatory rite. These are vessels of daily use, utilized for drinking and for holding liquids, including a small vase with spout, a guttus (a sort of baby bottle), as well as masks, oil lamps, jewellery, effigies, all immediately entrusted to the hands of restorer Marilanda Rizzo Pinna."

Work is now at a standstill and will resume in the spring of 2019. The aim was to bring to light the orchestra, the architectural space that stood between the koilon and the skene.

Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Restorer cleaning a mosaic in the Hellenistic-Roman quarter of the Valle dei Tempi di Agrigento
[Credit: Marco Merola]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Archaeologists at work in the Hellenistic-Roman quarter of the Valle dei Tempi di Agrigento
[Credit: Marco Merola]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Workers dig a Roman column in the area of the thermal baths of the Hellenistic-Roman quarter,
Valle dei Tempi di Agrigento [Credit: Marco Merola]


But the theatre was not the only surprise in the recently completed excavation campaign.

Archaeologists, in fact, have also intervened in insula IV of the nearby Hellenistic-Roman quarter, a vast expanse of buildings that had already been brought to light in the 1950s with the funds of the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno.

Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Archaeologist Giorgia Moscato places in storage some boxes of finds from the Hellenistic-Roman quarter
of the Valle dei Tempi di Agrigento [Credit: Marco Merola]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Archaeologist cleans terracotta bowl 
[Credit: Marco Merola]
Excavations of the Greek theatre and Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, Sicily
Restorer cleans a togata terracotta figurine 
[Credit: Marco Merola]
There Parello and his team found urban baths dating back to the time of Constantine (4th century AD).

"During the Empire of Constantine very important roads were built such as Palermo-Catania and Palermo-Agrigento," concludes the archaeologist. "Along these roads there were guest-houses and stations with thermal baths. We have a wonderful example of this here."

"No one is prepared to relinquish trowel and shovel just yet because there is still a lot of work to be done and we will be back next year."

Source: National Geographic Italia [August 09, 2018]

TANN

Post A Comment
  • Blogger Comment using Blogger
  • Facebook Comment using Facebook
  • Disqus Comment using Disqus

No comments :


Exhibitions / Travel

[Exhibitions] [bsummary]

Natural Heritage / Environment / Wildlife

[Natural Heritage] [list]

Astronomy / Astrobiology / Space Exploration

[Universe] [list]