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An aerial view of the 1,700-year-old Roman site.

Archaeologists discover Roman settlement on the Palomba-Catenanuova route

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Archaeologists working with the civil engineering company, Italferr, have unearthed a Roman settlement and necropolis in Sicily during the construction of the new Palermo-Catania-Messina railway link. 

A company under the Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane Group, Italferr, has been at the forefront of integrating archaeological expertise with modern engineering practices dating as far back as the 1990s; an effort to preserve cultural heritage. 

The ancient settlement is located on a hill overlooking the Dittaino River. It dates back from as early as the mid-1st to the 3rd century AD. Its strategic location was likely chosen as it enabled control over the Dittaino Valley and key communication routes. 

The Roman Republic would not acquire the island of Sicily until the middle of the 3rd century BC at the conclusion of the First Punic War with Carthage. 

Known as a villa rustica, excavations revealed a well-organized rustic villa complex which looks to have played a central role in the settlements agricultural and livestock activities. That is, it was more than a place of residence but also played a productive role, linking it to the region’s agricultural economy. This is further emphasized by the discovery of nearby remnants of pavements and collapsed structures. 

One of the graves found in the necropolis of the Roman settlement. 

One of the graves found in the necropolis of the Roman settlement. (Courtesty of Italferr) 

Archaeologists have also unearthed a necropolis located to the West of the settlement, containing 168 burials ranging from simple earth pits to monumental tombs, signifying social diversity from within the community. 

One of the most notable discoveries in this necropolis is that of a cinerary urn made from Carrara marble and bearing the dedicatory inscription to a “Magnus Magister Pecoris” who was an official responsible for overseeing sheep breeding. 

The marble urn found at the ancient Roman settlement. 

The marble urn found at the ancient Roman settlement. (Courtesty of Italferr) 

To the East of the settlement, magnetometric surveys have identified what could potentially be a cult area. Archaeologists have found the remains of burnt animal bones, ash layers, among other items nearby, indicating ritual activities. 

Initiated in 2020 in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Beni Culturali e Ambientali di Enna, excavations continue with the aim of documenting and preserving the archaeological site. 

Top image: An aerial view of the 1,700-year-old Roman site. Source: Courtesy of Italferr 

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Petros Koutoupis

Petros Koutoupis is an author and an independent historical researcher, focusing predominantly on the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age periods of the Eastern Mediterranean and general Near East. Fluent in modern Greek, Petros has additional knowledge in languages that... Read More

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