The excavations in 2017 has been possible thanks to the grant of National Science Centre On the borders of Syracuse. Multidisciplinary studies of the ancient town Akrai/Acrae, south-eastern Sicily, Italy (UMO-2016/21/B/HS3/00026), as well as grant of Ministry of Science and Higher Education (SPUB 2016-2017). Director of both projects: Prof. Roksana Chowaniec.

In the course of archaeological campaign in 2017, the archaeological and conservation works related to Late Hellenistic-Roman residential area were done. The excavations were focused on the unearthing a household, whose basic plan was created in the Late Hellenistic Period. Precisely the complex was developed in the late 3rd century BC or early beginning of 2nd century BC, already under formal Roman administration. The rooms surrounded three sides of a courtyard with scant remains of the portico and a cistern. The organization of the space is still not entirely clear because the residential complex underwent numerous reconstructions, adaptations, and might have changed owners during its exploitation. It seems to have fulfilled its residential function until the mid–4th century AD, when it was drastically damaged by a natural disaster in town. At the end of the 4th century AD, after a few decades of stagnation, the rubble of the house was adopted for production and household usage, and set up by new inhabitants.


Since few years the research here has also opened an avenue for understanding processes of acculturation and assimilation of introduced Roman elements with local Hellenistic traditions. Because the relative peace enjoyed by the provincia Sicilia created an exceptional opportunity for tracing such cultural mechanisms, which were barely identifiable in other regions conquered by the Romans.

Different sizes and decorations of the rooms, and the homogenous material of Roman provenance, confirm the rearrangement of the house plan by adding or adjusting certain parts of it after 212 BC. The date of these changes can be further clarified. The prevailing number of ‘purely’ Roman artefacts may indicate the beginning of the 1st century AD a new group of settlers might have arrived in Akrai, who found the local living conditions and the local material culture less than satisfactory. One may risk claiming that the settlers brought familiar items with them or quickly ensured regular delivery of such. It could also be related to the beginning of intense cultural changes, which could take a place in Sicily, but not before Octavian Augustus.




The excavations in 2017 has been possible thanks to the grant of National Science Centre On the borders of Syracuse. Multidisciplinary studies of the ancient town Akrai/Acrae, south-eastern Sicily, Italy (UMO-2016/21/B/HS3/00026), as well as grant of Ministry of Science and Higher Education (SPUB 2018-2020 and 2020-2022). Director of both projects: Prof. Roksana Chowaniec.

The new stage of archaeological work yielded archaeological material dated from the end of 3rd century BC up to the beginning of 8th century AD, which provides a vivid picture of the settlers’ life. The research unearthed the households, whose original basic plans were created in the end of the 3rd century BC. The earlier construction phases of the houses hitherto are unknown. The building works seems to have taken place during the final phase of rule of the tyrant Syracuse, Hiero II and/or at the beginning the formal Roman administration (after 212 BC). Residential complexes were rebuilt in the Late Republican/Early Imperial period, later used in Imperial period, destroyed by natural disaster in the 50s–70s of 4th century AD, intentionally levelled in the late 4th century AD, and reused as place for various activities until the 8th century AD. Also the field survey and non invasive investigations brought informations about vicinity of town.

Since the very beginning, each aspect of material culture has been investigated by a team of experts, and such studies dealing with all the relics, even ‘ordinary and mundane’ objects, provide insights about the ancient town and the everyday life of its citizens. This multidisciplinary research makes use of various archaeometric methods, such as archaeobotanical, lipid, isotope, physical-chemical, and petrographic analyses. These special methods are geared towards reconstructing ancient landscape, technology, and diet of the town’s residents. The scope of the project includes identification of local production, and circulation of goods between the peripheral town of Akrai and Syracuse, a major urban centre and harbour, as well as other production centres. The research results may be extrapolated to achieve a reconstruction of the ‘Roman’ period in the history of Syracuse, so far poorly-investigated because modern housing in Syracuse, unlike Akrai, preclude any complex archaeological excavations. Akrai was spared modern intrusions (there are no cultural layers younger than early-Byzantine), and previous research already confirmed settlement continuity: Hellenistic, Republican, Roman, and Byzantine. This makes Akrai a unique place within the island, offering unique insights into Sicily’s ancient history.
The current state of research comprises the examination of plants and animals (along with information on husbandry, fishing, hunting), quarries, and water usage, etc., based on geological, archaeobotanical, archaeozoological, stable isotope and mineralogical and chemical analysis. The interdisciplinary research enabled the observation of degradation of the local environment and changes in land usage due to breeding, farming, building, manufacturing, etc. which begun in the period of the Greek occupation and have intensified in Roman and Byzantine periods. Intensive exploitation of natural resources resulted in deforestation and depletion of hydrological resources in the region, which became particularly visible in the Late Roman and Byzantine age. These changes also affected the diet, the local economy and crops, investment, and productivity. The presented research provides insight into the historical degradation of the landscape and human impact on the Mediterranean environment.


dr Roksana Chowaniec
assistant professor

Institute of Archaeology
University of Warsaw
Krakowskie Przedmiescie 26/28
PL 00-927 Warszawa
tel. +48 22 5522827
fax.+48 22 5522801
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