The Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Landscape of Interior Western Sicily

Article excerpt

The archaeology of complex societies in western Sicily has traditionally focused upon Greek and Phoenician colonization rather than the development of the indigenous peoples of the interior. The Salemi regional survey project in western Sicily was conceived as a means to track long-term landscape change of this interior `indigenous' landscape. From 1998 to 2000, this survey has conducted an extensive survey of 150 sq. km of the Salemi region, an intensive survey of 8 sq. km around a nearby Late Bronze Age (LBA) hilltop settlement of Mokarta (Mannino & Spatafora 1995; Spatafora & Mannino 1992; Tusa 1992), and an intensive survey of 25 sq. km around the Early Iron Age (EIA) hilltop settlement of Monte Polizzo (FIGURE 1). Survey work is part of the Sicilian--Scandinavian ardmeological project (Morris et al.in press; http://dig.anthro.niu.edu/sicily), an international team of scholars who are undertaking large-scale excavations at Monte Polizzo (FIGURE 2). Preliminary survey results reveal that these LBA and EIA peoples relied on an intricate valley hinterland around their hilltop residences. Moreover, marked differences exist between the LBA and EIA valley hinterlands.

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Over the course of two field seasons, 339 ploughed fields have been surveyed so far using intensive pedestrian survey (10-15-m sweeps). A total of 42,901 non-diagnostic artefacts have been identified, sorted into major chronological categories and counted in the field. An additional 3066 diagnostic artefacts have been collected and analysed in the laboratory. The EBA landscape is tightly concentrated around the top of the small hill of Mokarta (c. 400 m asl). Five residential clusters (less than 1 ha in size) were identified (FIGURE 3), and included surface scatters of diagnostic pottery and other domestic items (flag stones, roof tiles, metal slag, whorls and hammer and grinding stones). A total of three LBA necropoli of rock-cut chamber tombs are located on the steep slopes near by. Five major `off-site' distribution areas of moderately concentrated coarseware were also identiffed, and correlate with at least two modem-day springs. These areas are indicative of field areas.

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Four smaller residential clusters around Monte Polizzo (c. 600 m asl) are more broadly distributed with distances of up to 3 km from the hilltop itself (FIGURE 3). Three areas of off-site activity were also located on the southern slopes of Monte Polizzo and the neighbouring mountain of Montagne Grande. Various tombs have been identified, including a major necropolis below Monte Polizzo. …