Campanaio -- an Agricultural Settlement in Roman Sicily

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Roman Sicily has long been known from classical sources for its agricultural fertility, but little archaeological research has been conducted on the rural economy. The Campanaio project is uncovering a wealth of information about a small (3 ha) hellenistic and Roman rural settlement and its economy, 25 km west of Agrigento. Excavations (1994-95, 1997-98) have revealed seven principal phases. Activity started c. 200 BC, and was intensive for two centuries in the central part of the site. A complex of buildings underwent two complete reconstructions between 200 BC and AD 25; in its last phase (c. 50 BC) it comprised an L-shaped building some 17 m long and 8.40 m wide, with dry-stone wails, earth floors and mud-brick superstructure (FIGURE 1). A rubbish dump outside it yielded much 2nd/1st-century BC ceramic and environmental material, with evidence for contact with Cyrenaica (brazier lugs), Greece (Rhodian wine amphora stamped `Agathokleus') and north Africa (including a mortarium stamped with a ostrich and the letters T and P (FIGURE 2) -- can anyone furnish parallels?). Nearby industrial activity, starting before 150 BC, is attested by two inter-connecting cisterns and a tile kiln. One cistern had an inflow channel (of purpose-made pipes) and an overflow pipe (an afterthought), made up of re-used Punic amphorae with their spikes knocked off (three are stamped, one with the `Tanit' sign) (FIGURE 3). The re-use of amphorae as water pipes is surprisingly rare -- I know of examples at Gela, Eyguieres, Bibracte, Rome, Cagliari, Nora and Gortyn: does anyone know others? The[sections][sections] tile kiln was replaced c. 125 BC by a bigger structure (4.75 m by 4.25 m: FIGURE 4): curiously it has a split-level firing chamber with a brick-revetted step marking the junction -- are any comparanda known for this feature? At this stage the Campanaio settlement was probably quite small, a large farmstead rather than a village proper, although the tileworks represents considerable estate investment. Scanty early imperial activity was followed by renewed building work in the late Roman period (c. AD 375-460). Fresh structures were tacked on to the ruined hellenistic building, a new warehouse was erected nearby, an olive oil separating-vat was built to the west, and elsewhere a lime kiln (the first in Sicily of Roman date), and a whole set of buildings on the eastern side of the settlement were constructed -- in total amounting to a substantial village. These buildings (except the kiln) are also dry-stone with mud-brick or adobe superstructure, demonstrating that this time-honoured construction method continued in Sicily into late Roman times. In this phase there was also evidence for iron-working, possible leather production (a cess-pit) and the manufacture on site of tiles, mortaria and amphorae (represented by wasters dumped c. AD 400 in the disused lime kiln). The amphorae are variants of the flat-bottomed Keay 52, production of which is known also at Sicilian Naxos and at three sites in the toe of Calabria.


All this activity came to a violent end c. AD 460, with vivid destruction levels everywhere, possibly the result of Vandal attack (attested in the sources at this date -- Campanaio lies only 5 km from the south coast). …