Monte Polizzo, Sicily

Monte Polizzo is a commanding hill-top site (725.9m asl) in the Trapani province of western Sicily, some 6 km. northwest of the town of Salemi, the excavation’s base. The excavations were part of the Sicilian-Scandinavian Archaeological Project and focussed on Monte Polizzo’s cultural development and interaction with neighbouring Phoenicio-Punic, Greek, and native sites. UBC worked alongside Stanford University on the acropolis, where houses and a ritual area were uncovered.

Detailed Description: The archaeology of ancient Sicily has traditionally favoured the study of Greek and Roman remains. The excavations in the native and Punic hill-top site at Monte Polizzo aimed to make a contribution towards rectifying this bias and were part of a similar and wider trend in Mediterranean studies. The excavators explored Monte Polizzo’s cultural development and interaction with neighbouring Phoenicio-Punic, Greek, and native sites. Excavations at Monte Polizzo resulted in the identification of five phases of activity, from the Bronze Age to modern times.

Phase I consists of several fragments of (out-of-context) Bronze Age pottery (ca. 1500-800 BC). After a hiatus comes phase II in the sixth century. Its best known remains are found on the acropolis’ summit (Zone A), where a round building (A1) was discovered, built around 550 BC and identified as a hut shrine. The building is 6.4 m in diameter and subdivided into three chambers, in two of which have been found ash deposits and artefacts, particularly bronze beads, amphorae, and cups, of native, Phoenician, and Greek manufacture. Outside building A1 a stele, one, possibly two, altars, enclosure walls, and a partially paved area were found. The altars were used for burned sacrifices, especially of deer, with the meat consumed elsewhere. Human teeth and part of a jaw of an adolescent aged 12-14 years were found hereabouts, in what may possibly be a disturbed grave connected with the nearby cult. The A1 complex was abandoned around 500-475 BC during a period of political instability, involving the synoecism of native villages (like Monte Polizzo, home to perhaps 1,500 people) with the nearby native city Segesta, famous for its late-fifth-century Doric temple and political dealings with Athens. Phase II-material also was discovered elsewhere on the acropolis in Zones B, C, and D, where various rectilinear structures, with functions still to be defined, were exposed. The structures in Zones B and C may be aligned on some local grid plan (Fig. 1.) After another hiatus, between about 475 and 350 BC, comes phase III. Structure A3, partially preserved, was built on the ruins of building A1. A3 may have been a Punic shrine, as suggested by the discovery of a stele (Fig. 2). This shrine belongs to what appears to be a Carthaginian lookout post connected with the growing political control Carthage exerted over western Sicily. Phase IV comprises a medieval Norman village built on and incorporating the long-abandoned sixth-century structures in Zones B and C. Afforestation in the 1950s represents phase V.