Campanaio -- an Agricultural Settlement in Roman Sicily

By Wilson, R. J. A. | Antiquity, June 2000 | Go to article overview

Campanaio -- an Agricultural Settlement in Roman Sicily


Wilson, R. J. A., Antiquity


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.

[Figures 1-4 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

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). …

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Campanaio -- an Agricultural Settlement in Roman Sicily
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