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Medieval sword hilt discovered in Palermo

The remains of a medieval sword of the Aragonese period, dating from the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth century AD, have been discovered in a tomb under the Casa Martorana on the Via Maqueda, where archaeological excavations are currently underway in collaboration with the University.

Medieval sword hilt discovered in Palermo
Credit: La Repubblica
"The tomb in which we found the sword hilt had been preserved thanks to the restoration work in the seventies of the Casa Martorana," says Stefano Vassallo, director of the archaeological section of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of Palermo.

"The sword hilt, which is characterized by mercury gilding, was probably part of a funerary outfit that also included body armour," explains Vassallo.

"Embellishing the pommel are two coats of arms of the Kingdom of Sicily, fundamental for the dating of the sword, and also Latin inscriptions that reproduce passages from the gospels of Luke and John, along with medieval formulas of Christian prayer," adds the director.

"This finding, which is the only example of its kind and marks the return to excavations in the heart of Palermo after at least forty years, will soon be exhibited at the Castello della Zisa".

Medieval sword hilt discovered in Palermo
Medieval sword hilt discovered in Palermo
Credit: Magazine Le Vie dei Tesori
However, this quadrant of ancient Palermo has recently offered other surprises, of equal if not greater importance, all the result of the combination of restoration work and archaeological investigations.

Among these recent finds is a funerary tombstone with a Greek inscription, dedicated to Irene, the learned wife of the Byzantine Admiral George of Antioch, commander of the fleet of the Kingdom of Sicily at the time of Roger II and founder of the Church of Martorana.

"It is a very special find because it is also worked on the back, a sign that the tombstone was carved using a structure of the previous era on which a bas-relief was made," says Bellanca.

"Another very important result of the excavations... in the foundations of Palazzo Santamarina on the Via del Celso, was that of a road from the Roman era," explains Vassallo, "but which in reality is even older, given that the historical eras that follow one another start from the Phoenician period of the 4th century BC and end in the Middle Ages".

Medieval sword hilt discovered in Palermo
Credit: Magazine Le Vie dei Tesori
"Palermo is, after all, a vast repository of historical evidence that will inevitably come to light. Up to now, these excavations have not been planned but are linked to different operations financed by private companies", says Vassallo.

The most significant new development of the last year is the discovery of a necropolis beneath the Via Guardione following the work on the sewage system, and which was initially identified as a mafia graveyard, but has since been dated to between the fourth and eighth centuries AD.

"Currently," concludes Bellanca, "the only operation planned concerns the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti and is aimed at improving the presentation of the pre-existing archaeological excavation there.

Source: Magazine Le Vie dei Tesori [June 15, 2019]


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