History of Excavations
History of interest in ancient town Akrai/Acrae is associated with a Sicilian monk, Tommaso Fazello (1498–1570), who was the first, in 1558, to correctly identify the ancient archaeological site close to the small town of Palazzolo Acreide. However, only while archaeological excavations made during the first half of the 19th century and led by baron Gabriele Judica, many of the known archaeological features saw the light of day, including the theatre which was discovered in 1824. In 1867 Akrai visited to see a large study by Julius Schubring of Lübeck, who in making a study of Sicilian topography focused on a comprehensive description of monuments known from this city.
In 1888 the necropolis at Akrai, and subsequently, in the period 1920-1921, also the stone quarries, came under scrutiny of Paolo Orsi, father of Sicilian archaeology, director of the museum of archaeology at Syracuse. In 1953 Luigi Barnabò Brea, in cooperation with Clelia Laviosa, carried out the first regular investigation within the city. In the period 1963-65 and in 1969 comprehensive excavation was undertaken by Giuseppe Voza whose main interest was in the city plan. Despite such a long history of investigation the full extent of the city during the Greek and the Roman period is still unclear.
The result of all of this fieldwork was the discovery of a theatre and bouleuterion, open towards the remains of an agora. Traces of Roman settlement at Akrai have been substantiated e.g., by archaeological evidence documenting phases of reconstruction of the theatre which most probably, similarly as the bouleuterion, dates to the reign of tyrant Hiero II, during the mid-3rd century BC. Roman interference is visible on the other hand in the floor of the orchestra and the reconstructed stage, datable to the period of the Empire.
At the highest situated area of the city a discovery was made of a Doric peripteral temple, dedicated, most probably, to Aphrodite, built during the 6th century BC and in use for an unknown period. According to a Greek inscription in Akrai there supposedly were at least two more temples, dedicated to Artemis and Kore, and to Hera, and perhaps, also to Zeus Akraios.
Worthy of special interest are quarries, known as Intagliata and Intagliatella, source of stone for construction, which during the late antique period were used for a necropolis.
Archaeological excavations carried out on Acremonte, indentified a 250 m stretch of road datable to 1st century BC which presumably ran across the city from an eastern gate in the direction of Syracuse, to a western entrance which is mentioned in an inscription as pyla Selinountia – in the direction of Selinunte. The western part of this road suggests an irregularity in the city plan in this part of town. The road abruptly changes course, differ from the East-West axis and turn to NW.
Other changes in the planning of the city are evident also in the layout of partly discovered buildings structures, which in the western part of the town also differ from the earlier planned East-West line.
All in all, the city may have occupied ca. 35 hectares. This is a hypothetical figure since the extent of the site has not been recognised fully, neither by field survey or other non-destructive methods, much less so, by excavation.
One feature very likely to be associated with Greek Akrai are Templi Ferali - a complex of niches carved in the rock, associated with mortuary rites. A site known as Santoni dated to 3rd century BC and interpreted as one of the main sanctuaries dedicated to goddess Cybele may be in a similar relationship with the city.
dr Roksana Chowaniec
Institute of Archaeology
University of Warsaw
Krakowskie Przedmiescie 26/28
PL 00-927 Warszawa
tel. +48 22 5522827
fax.+48 22 5522801