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Morgantina Studies, Volume IV: The Protohistoric Settlement on the Cittadella

Morgantina Studies, Volume IV: The Protohistoric Settlement on the Cittadella

by Robert Leighton

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Excavations conducted at Morgantina by Princeton University and the University of Illinois have revealed substantial Iron Age remains beneath the Greek town on the Cittadella hilltop. In this volume Robert Leighton presents a full study of this extensive protohistoric settlement in Sicily. The broad scope of evidence, particularly the survival of long houses and tombs


Excavations conducted at Morgantina by Princeton University and the University of Illinois have revealed substantial Iron Age remains beneath the Greek town on the Cittadella hilltop. In this volume Robert Leighton presents a full study of this extensive protohistoric settlement in Sicily. The broad scope of evidence, particularly the survival of long houses and tombs with much of their structures and contents preserved, permits an unusually thorough examination of indigenous cultural traditions prior to the foundation of the Greek town in the Archaic period. An illustrated catalogue of the finds presents more than 700 artifacts from the site, most of which are previously unpublished.The author discusses all the excavated protohistoric areas in detail, and presents a full range of maps, plans, excavation photographs, reconstruction drawings, and radiocarbon dates. The diverse body of finds includes a wide variety of pottery forms as well as tools and ornaments of both metal and stone that document local crafts, metallurgy, and numerous aspects of daily life. In studying these objects, Leighton draws on parallels with material from the Italian peninsula and considers the evidence of the historical sources, revealing links between Sicily and Italy in the protohistoric period.

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The Protohistoric Settlement on the Cittadella

By Robert Leighton


Copyright © 1993 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-04015-8


The Excavations

1. Area III, Farmhouse Hill, Trench 2, Probe A/F

The excavations in 1967 and 1968 on the summit of the Cittadella hill (Farmhouse Hill) brought to light evidence for occupation during the Iron Age, Archaic, and later periods. Trench 2 was located close to the summit of the hill, at about 568 meters a.s.l., in the most prominent location of Area III (Figs. 2–5; Pis. 4 and 6:b). A well-preserved naiskos of the Archaic period (sixth century B.C.) was revealed in this trench and a number of probes were made in the vicinity with the intention of tracing the development of the building and dating its construction. The earliest levels beneath the floor of the naiskos were found in probe A/F.

In 1967, probe A (about 1.60 x 2 m.) was opened beneath the floor of the building between lateral walls B and C (Fig. 3). Three earlier phases of occupation were revealed in strata 6, 7, 7A, and 8 (Figs. 4 and 5: section b–b'; Pl. 7:a). In the subsequent year of excavation (1968) probe A was extended to include the area around it on three sides for 5.10 m. from north to south, between walls B and C. This extension was called probe F. On the western side, probe F reached as far as the natural scarp of the hillside. On the northern and southern sides, 0.50 m. were left unexcavated against walls B and C and 0.30 m. were left unexcavated alongside the east wall (Fig. 4).

Probe F revealed essentially the same stratigraphic sequence as probe A and they can therefore be treated as one. The only difference in the stratigraphy was the presence in probe F of stratum 6A, a beaten earth floor between strata 6 and 7, which was not identified in the area of probe A. The stratigraphic concordance is as follows:

Probe A Probe F

Strata: 6 6
7A 7A

The first three layers (strata 1–3) were associated with the foundations of the naiskos and are not discussed here. Stratum 4 was a sandy layer with a high content of ash, containing a large quantity of Siculan geometric pottery, Archaic roof tiles, fragments of Ionic B1 and B2 cups, and Corinthian pottery. Whereas the upper four layers (strata 1–4) were quite level, the lower strata in the probe sloped down westward to the scarp. Stratum 5 had no architectural remains and consisted of sandy soil about 0.35 m. deep, probably formed as a wash layer. It is dated to the late seventh century B.C. on the basis of imported Ionic type B1 cups. In the upper part of stratum 5, a deposit of gravel was found, perhaps intentionally laid down in order to level or build up a floor. Stratum 6 was a destruction layer, about 0.90 m. beneath the naiskos floor, between strata 5 and 6A, which covered wall A and the floor and contained a large quantity of daub, with individual pieces up to 0.20 m. in diameter.

Stratum 6A was the floor of compact, sandy soil beneath stratum 6, to the east and south of wall A. In this floor level were found three circular postholes with the following diameters: a: 0.17 m., b: 0.25 m., c: 0.17 m. (Fig. 4: a, b, c; Pl. 7:b). Wall A was a packing of unworked stones, about 0.70 m. wide, preserved for only one course in height, partly straight in plan and curved at its north end. The southern part was not well preserved and may have been washed away so that the shape of the building to which the wall belonged is uncertain. It was possibly rectangular with curved corners, and similar to the other Ausonian buildings on the Cittadella and elsewhere. The inside of the hut might have been on the west side, although the floor level (stratum 6A) was not identified here. Part of another wall was discovered in the northeast corner of the trench, perhaps related to the same structure, in which case the interior may have been to the east of wall A on the beaten earth surface of stratum 6A.

A hearth, about 1.50 m. in diameter, was found to the west of wall A, associated with the occupation phase of stratum 6A (Fig. 4 and Pl. 8:b). This feature consisted of a layer of clay with a flat, cracked surface, baked hard like terracotta, similar to the sherd bases and terracotta hearths in trench 31 (below). Part of a pithos was found nearby, probably in situ, although so close to the scarp that most of the vessel had disappeared due to erosion of the hillside in this area. It was clear that the west side of the hill had been severely eroded through time, as a result of which the western sides of the buildings in the trench had long since vanished.

Stratum 7, beneath strata 6 and 6A, contained much daub and evidence for burning, including small fragments of charcoal, large pieces of carbonized wood, and some reddened and blackened earth, which was regarded as the destruction level of an earlier building, represented by wall B (Pl. 8:a). This layer was 0.30–0.40 m. thick and sloped down westward to the scarp above stratum 7A. On both sides of wall B, stratum 7 A consisted of slightly undulating, ashy soil about 0.05 m. thick, which was tentatively regarded as a floor level, but was not easily distinguished from stratum 7 above it. Wall B was a substantial construction, but only a small section, about 1.10 m. wide, was preserved. A low stone bench like those found on the inside walls of the huts in trenches 16 West and 31 ran along its northern side. The wall was aligned approximately north-south, by contrast with walls A and C, and there were traces of daub, perhaps used in its construction, overlying the uppermost stones.

Below stratum 7A in the northwestern part of probe F, wall C had an average width of 0.70 m. and was built of smaller stones placed against the natural bedrock, which had been cut back (Fig. 4 and Pl. 8:b). It curved southward from the north edge of the trench in stratum 8, but the preserved portion was not extensive enough to reveal the form of the building. Part of it continued beneath wall B. While the curvature of the wall was pronounced and suggests that it may have been part of a circular hut, it cannot be discounted that it was the rounded corner of a structure with straight sides.

The floor level associated with wall C lay on the west side of this wall, about 0.15–0.20 m. beneath the floor of wall B. It consisted of a layer of compressed clayish and sandy soil with inclusions of ash, charcoal, and a little gravel. On the floor was a roughly circular depression in the form of a shallow basin, 0.70 m. in diameter and 0.05 m. deep, lined with baked clay, the purpose of which is unknown (Fig. 4: d). This feature and the floor itself had been cut out of the natural sandy soil typical of this part of the Cittadella hill. Unfortunately, it was apparent that most of wall C had also long since eroded down the hill.


In sum, the excavations in this area were not extensive, while the state of preservation of the architectural remains and the quantity of artifacts recovered were not comparable with that from the other contexts described below. Nevertheless, probe A/F is particularly significant for revealing three successive occupation phases associated with buildings beneath the naiskos floor. These occupation phases date from the later Iron Age (see chapter IV) and document a period of occupation at the site which succeeded that of the earliest Ausonian strata in trenches 16 West, 29, and 31 and preceded the foundation of the Hellenized town in the sixth century B.C.

The stratigraphic sequence in probe A/F may be summarized as follows:

Stratum Description

5 wash layer
6 destruction layer
6A floor associated with wall A
7 destruction layer
7A floor associated with wall B
8 floor associated with wall C

2. Area III, Trench 10/10B

In June 1957 and May 1958, a number of trenches were opened on the northwest slope of the Cittadella beneath the summit of the hill between about 518 and 520 meters a.s.l. (Figs. 2, 6–9). The purpose of the excavations in this area was to investigate a substantial wall and associated buildings of the Archaic settlement (strata 1–3). In the course of excavation, the lower levels (strata 4–6) in trench 10/10B revealed traces of prehistoric occupation at the site for the first time.

Trenches 10, 10B, and IOC were contiguous and formed a single trench (Fig. 6; Pis. 9:a and 9:b). The west side of trench 10 was aligned with the Archaic wall for 8.25 m., while the north side was 6.75 m. wide. The southeast corner was excavated a year later, in 1958, when it was incorporated into the excavation of trench 10B. Trench 10 was divided into four unequal zones: zone 1 (the northwest corner), zone 2 (along the west wall), zone 3 (the wall itself), and zone 4 (the eastern part). Strata 1–3 contained various walls associated with the Archaic settlement (Fig. 6: wall A), while strata 4, 4A, and 4B in trench 10 and stratum 6 in trench 10B were the layers of the prehistoric occupation.

In trench 10, zone 1, stratum 4 consisted of gray-brown soil with ash and a few burnt stones, and was not completely separable from stratum 3 (Fig. 7: section A–A'). It was a mixed layer with many sherds of the Archaic period as well as traces of prehistoric material. Beneath stratum 4, stratum 4A contained almost entirely prehistoric pottery in a darker brown soil, and was tentatively distinguished from stratum 4B, which lay above the bedrock. It is not certain whether the difference between strata 4A and 4B in this zone was significant, since little change was observed in the stratigraphy and stratum 4A was not identified as a floor surface here.

In the northeast of trench 10 (zone 4 NE), strata 4A and 4B were absent, while stratum 4 lay directly upon the bedrock and there was little evidence of prehistoric occupation. The bedrock beneath stratum 4 sloped down towards the south and strata 4A and 4B lensed out against the bedrock in the northeast of the trench.

Strata 4A and 4B were the most significant prehistoric layers in trench 10, and were most consistent in the southern part of the trench (zones 2 and 4 SE). In these zones, stratum 4 lay beneath the level floor of the Archaic settlement (stratum 3) and contained gray-brown soil with inclusions of ash and a few prehistoric sherds. As in zone 1, this was a mixed layer, with material of different periods, probably disturbed by leveling to provide a suitable surface for the overlying floor of the Archaic period.

In the same area (zones 2 and 4 SE), stratum 4A lay beneath stratum 4 and was identified as an occupation floor with a scatter of ash, pottery, and hard-packed burnt soil beside a hearth (Fig. 6: c). This compact surface was probably part of the hearth itself: the soil contained much clay that had become red and hard due to the heat of the fire over an area about 1.50 x 0.80 m. Approximately two meters away, a millstone (Fig. 6: e and Pl. 9:a) was found on the same surface, and a posthole (Fig. 6: a), 0.25 x 0.30 m. in diameter and 0.15 m. in depth, penetrated vertically into stratum 4B. Just to the east of the hearth was a concentration of flat-lying sherds. In the subsequent year of excavation, this occupation floor was seen to extend into zone 1 of trench 1OB, where it was called stratum 6 (see below).

Also in the southern part of trench 10 (zones 2 and 4 SE), stratum 4B was identified beneath the earth floor of stratum 4A and above the bedrock. The soil of stratum 4B, distinguished from that of stratum 4A by its darker color and by the absence of ash, may be equated with the same stratum in zone 1. Stratum 4B in zones 1, 2, and 4 SE evidently preceded the occupation floor of stratum 4A. No floor surface was found in stratum 4B and the natural bedrock under this layer did not show traces of alteration by human activity.

Two short stretches of a rubble stone wall, one course in height, were identified in the southern part of trench 10 (Fig. 6: b and d). The tops of these were visible in stratum 4A, although the stones were set into the soil of stratum 4B. They are features which, on available evidence, might be associated with either or both of these layers, and they are the only prehistoric architectural remains in the trench.

In May 1958, the excavation of trench 10 was extended southward for a further five meters into trench 10B (zone 1). Strata 1–4 in trench 10B were the levels of the Archaic settlement, while stratum 5 contained a few prehistoric sherds mixed with material of the Archaic period. Stratum 6 was the only layer securely associated with the prehistoric occupation (Figs. 8 and 9: sections B–B', B'–C). The few prehistoric sherds mixed with the predominantly Archaic material in strata 3–5 might be explained as residual fragments, the result of disturbance to the earlier layers by later building activity. In fact, the Archaic walls were laid across and partly set into the prehistoric deposits. Underneath strata 4 and 5, stratum 6 was identified as the prehistoric occupation floor, which represented the continuation to the south of stratum 4A in trench 10. It consisted of a hardpacked earth and ash layer.

In trench 10/10B the excavation was delimited by the Archaic walls and by the baulks, while the prehistoric deposit was not found on the sloping bedrock of zone 4 northeast. The Archaic layers in trench 10C rested on the natural bedrock. In trench 10B the prehistoric floor level was traced to the south as far as the dotted line (Fig. 6: x). When the finds from the floor surface of stratum 6 had been removed, no further excavation took place beneath this layer. Its exact nature and extent, therefore, remain uncertain. However, the excavator did observe that another prehistoric stratum lay beneath stratum 6, just above the bedrock, as was represented by stratum 4B in trench 10.


The discoveries in trench 10/10B may be summarized as follows. A prehistoric occupation surface (strata 4A and 6) was discovered beneath the layers of the Archaic settlement for a maximum extent of 10.25 m., extending from trench 10 zone 1 into trench 10B, zone 1. The original form and size of this floor is unknown. Near the center of the excavated area was a hearth surrounded by a scatter of pottery and a millstone located on the hard-packed earth and ash surface. Despite the presence of two stretches of stone wall, a posthole, and a considerable quantity of daub, there is not enough evidence to allow any reconstruction of the form of the prehistoric building associated with this occupation floor. It might be assumed that the floor lay within a hut of the same kind as those discovered in trenches 16 West, 29, and 31, but this is not absolutely uncertain. Between the floor and the bedrock was another deposit (stratum 4B) which was excavated in trench 10 but not in trench 10B. This layer indicates that there were at least two phases of prehistoric occupation in this trench.

More problematic, however, is the fact that the finds from these layers consist of a heterogeneous assemblage of varying date. The majority of the material is characteristic of the Ausonian occupation, as represented also by the assemblage in the other trenches described below. However, a few fragments mixed with the latter appear to be of much earlier date. The shape of the relevant sherds points to a date in the late Neolithic or early Copper Age, while the form and chronology of some others are uncertain (e.g., nos. 82, 83, 84, and 91; see chapter IV).

These fragments were found in strata 4A and 4B mixed with the protohistoric material and were not in a restricted deposit in the trench. Unfortunately, most of the finds from strata 4A and 4B cannot be separated from each other (i.e., nos. 79–94). It seems likely, therefore, that an earlier prehistoric deposit on this part of the hill was disturbed by building activity during the Ausonian period. While the sherds in question are not numerous, they clearly imply some activity, and perhaps a settlement, on the Cittadella hill in the late Neolithic or early Copper Age. There are no structures or other deposits in Area III that can be dated to such an early period of occupation, although more substantial remains of Copper and Early Bronze Age date have been found on the nearby Serra Orlando ridge.

The stratigraphic sequence and concordance for the various zones of trenches 10 and IOB may be summarized as follows:

Trench 10, Trench 10, Trench 10, Trench 10, Trench 10B,
Zone 4 NE Zone 1
Zone 2
Zone 4 SE
Zone 1

Stratum 4 Stratum 4
Stratum 4
Stratum 4
Stratum 5
Stratum 4A Stratum 4A Stratum 4A Stratum 6

Stratum 4B Stratum 4B Stratum 4B Unexcavated


Strata 4 and 5: mixed deposit beneath the levels of the Archaic settlement with a small quantity of prehistoric pottery.

Strata 4A and 6: floor surface of the Ausonian period associated with a hearth, posthole and millstone, and possibly with two short walls.

Stratum 4B: earliest deposit of the Ausonian period beneath stratum 4A, associated possibly with two short walls.

3. Area III, Trench 12

In 1958, evidence of protohistoric settlement on the northeast of the Cittadella hill came to light in trench 12, although this was not closely investigated until excavations began in trench 16 West in 1961 (see below). Trench 12 lay only a few meters to the northwest of trench 16 West on the upper platform of the hill, and contained extensive remains of the Archaic period in strata 1 and 2 (Fig. 2). In zone 2, a small probe was made beneath the hard-packed sandy floor (stratum 3) of a building of the sixth-century town. This revealed a thin layer of dark soil, 0.10–0.20 m. deep, resting upon the bedrock. The fragments of the plumed vessel (no. 144) were found in this layer. No traces of an associated dwelling were apparent and the superimposed buildings seemed to have practically obliterated remains of the protohistoric occupation here.


Excerpted from The Protohistoric Settlement on the Cittadella by Robert Leighton. Copyright © 1993 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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