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Archaeological Mission and Archaeological School in Agrigento, Italy

From the 1st to the 12th of May, 2019 an Archaeological School took place in the city of Agrigento on the Sicily, Italy. It was organized by the Centre of Classical and Oriental Archaeology, IOCS HSE (Prof. Dr.hab. Askold Ivantchik, Prof. Dr. Valentina Mordvintseva, Yuri Svoyski, Engineer). The School was conducted in the frame of an international archaeological expedition (University of Bordeaux-Montaigne, France and HSE, Russia, with the participation of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, USA).

Archaeological Mission and Archaeological School in Agrigento, Italy

The expedition is exploring the Sanctuary of chthonic deities in the western part of the famous “Valley of Temples” (included in the UNESCO World Heritage List) in Agrigento (ancient Akragas). This year, excavations were carried out on one of the temples of the sanctuary, known as the “tempietto” (small temple), as well as a section of the defensive wall of Akragas, adjacent to the sanctuary. Details of the history of the temple were clarified and an unexpected find was made—in addition to votive lamps and terracotta statuettes, a large complex consisting of 28 bronze phialae of different sizes and shapes dating to the 6th century BC was found. The bronze phialae of the archaic period are quite rare, and this discovery became a real sensation. This is an offering to a deity to whom a small temple was dedicated. In addition, an architectural study of the sanctuary structures was launched, including the famous “Temple of the Dioscuri”, the reconstruction of which was done in the 19th century and is often questioned. To a large extent, it will rely on three-dimensional photogrammetric models, the preparation of which was started by Yuri Svoyski and Ekaterina Romanenko on the basis of the material collected by them during the expedition work.

The School was aimed at visiting archaeological sites of Magna Graecia dating to the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods, participating in the international archaeological mission, developing the field archaeological research skills, listening to lectures related to the archaeological sites of Sicily and other key points of the Greco-Roman civilization. Lectures were held in the conference-hall of the Agrigento National Park.

On the 1st of May, the day of arrival on Sicily, the participants visited Villa del Casale, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 and famous for its Roman time mosaics.

On the 2nd of May, the work of the School began. It was opened by Askold Ivantchik’s lecture on the history of the Greek colonies in Sicily from the Archaic period to the period of Roman Principate. It was naturally focusing on the colony of Akragas (Agrigentum) which is excavated by the mission of the University Bordeaux Montaigne and the HSE. The colony was founded ca. 580 BC jointly by the city of Gela in Sicily and by Rhodes and quickly became one of the largest urban centers of the island and the whole ancient world.

In the afternoon, there was an excursion to the ancient Akragas, which was conducted by Laurence Cavalier, the head of the Archaeological Mission of the University of Bordeaux Montaigne in Agrigento, and Valentina Caminneci, archaeologist of Agrigento National Park, as well as a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Agrigento.

On the 3rd of May, Prof. Reine-Marie Bérard gave two lectures. The lecture “Funerary Archeology” was devoted to the archaeological burial sites as sources of historical information, and to the main methods of their research. In the lecture “The necropoleis of Megara Hyblaea”, Prof. Bérard presented the results of her study of the materials of the necropoleis of the Greek colony Megara Hyblaea, located on the east coast of Sicily.

On the lecture of Reine-Marie Bérard.

In the afternoon, an excursion to the site of Megara Hyblaea took place, which was led by the Heads of the French Mission at this site.

At the Megara Hyblaea tour.

On the 4th of May, school participants visited the ancient sites of Syracuse, in particular the Athena temple, rebuilt into a Christian church, which later became the cathedral, the temple of Apollo, the Greek theater and other monuments of the Archaeological Park of Syracuse, the early Christian catacombs of San Giovanni, and also examined in detail the collections of the Archaeological Museum of Syracuse.

On the 5th of May, an excursion to the Archaeological park of Agrigento (the so-called “Valley of the Temples”) was conducted including the visits of the Temples of Juno, Concordia, Hercules, Olympian Zeus, Dioscuri, Hephaestus, the Sanctuary of chthonic deities. During the excursion, details of the Doric architectural order, the main types of masonry, plans of buildings were studied.

On the 6th of May, Prof. Jacques des Courtils (University of Bordeaux-Montaigne) gave an introductory lecture on antique architecture, which was continued by Prof. Laurens Cavalier’s lecture on “Greek Order Architecture”.

Jacques des Courtils (on the left) is speaking about the antique architecture.

In the afternoon, school participants joined the field work at several excavation sites. Russian, French, and American students formed groups exploring these sites.

On the 7th of May, Yuri Svoyski (Higher School of Economics) gave a lecture on “Photogrammetry, 3-D modeling, geo-information systems”, where, in addition to general information, he presented the first results of a study of the Dioskuri Temple of Akragas, which his group was fixing during the Archaeological School, and the preliminary 3-D model of this monument including the adjacent territory. Prof. William Aylward (University of Wisconsin-Madison) gave a lecture on “The Kizilburun Shipwreck and the Temple of Apollo in Claros”.

Lecture of William Aylward.

In the afternoon, work continued on the excavation site.

On the 8th of May, Dr. Emilie Cayre (University of Bordeaux Montaigne) delivered a lecture on “Methods of excavation and field fixation of archaeological data”, and Sofiane Djerad (University of Bordeaux Montaigne) explained methods of field fixation of Greek architectural details to the participants of the school.

Lecture of Emilie Cayre and Sofiane Djerad.

In the afternoon, work continued on the excavation site, at the end of which Sofiane Djerad held a practical workshop on measuring and drawing architectural details.

Cleaning of a masonry.

On the 9th of May, a trip took place to the west of Sicily with a visit to the Greek colony of Selinunte and the city of Segesta, founded by a local tribe of Elymians.

On the 10th of May, the lectures “Methods of Registration, Processing and Studying Ceramics” (Marielle Bernier, University of Bordeaux Montaigne) and “Excavations in Troy” (Prof. William Aylward) were delivered. In the afternoon, work continued on the excavation site, and a seminar was held on the processing of ceramic material.

On the 11th of May, an excursion to the city of Agrigento took place with a visit to the church of Santa Maria dei Greci, which was built on the site of the Temple of Athena on the Acropolis of Akragas, the cathedral and its museum.

Visiting the church of Santa Maria dei Greci. Through the glass floor of the church one can see the foundation of the ancient temple.

Nikolai Sudarev (Institute of Archeology, Russian Academy of Sciences) gave a lecture on “The Greek colonization of Asian Bosporus”, during which he acquainted the audience with materials from the time of the Greek archaic, similar to the finds that the participants of the school studied while visiting the museums of Sicily.

Lecture of Nikolai Sudarev.

After the lecture, the final work at the excavation took place, during which school participants cleared a cultural layer with an altar and remains of cult bronze phialoi of the Archaic period.

Cleaning of the cultural layer with bronze phialai.

Italian media agrigentonotizie.it and in3minuti.it about the discovery of the bronze phialai.

Participants of the excavations.

Classical and Oriental Archaeology