Archaeological fieldwork within the site of Akrai, conducted on behalf of the University of Warsaw, began in 2009. At that time, according to due permissions and agreements of cooperation signed with the Soprintendenza dei Beni Culturali e Ambientali of Syracuse and then with another institution, the currently non–existent Parco Archeologico di Eloro e Villa del Tellaro e delle aree archeologiche di Noto e dei Comuni limitrofi, research began and some of its stages are discussed in the present monograph
In appreciation of the stature of a site such as ancient Akrai, but above all its prestige and scientific significance, the archaeological mission of the University of Warsaw commenced its proceedings with a series of non–destructive investigations aimed at a thorough reconnaissance of the town and its vicinity, in order to start future excavations in a deliberate and responsible manner. The research was conducted in 2009 and 2010 and included: geophysical research, geodesic surveys, aerial photography, digital terrain modelling and photogrammetry of the site, followed by an archaeological survey around the ancient town. The array of data collected this way allowed for a careful selection of the excavation site.
The research underway in Akrai is something more than mere excavations unearthing artefacts and stone constructions. These studies attempt to address the important and difficult questions revolving around the fusion, interweaving and prevailing local Greek traditions with foreign Roman elements. The area of south–eastern Sicily, including Akrai, remained out of Roman reach for the longest time and due to its deep and lasting Greek roots seems the be the most suitable place for carrying out such research.
A crucial and innovative constituent of these studies was the supplementation of traditional methods of artefact analysis with archaeometry thereby improving comprehensiveness and credibility of archaeological research through the implementation of practices used by the natural and social sciences. Up–to–date measuring methods, three–dimensional geo–localization, photogrammetry and interactive databases linked to the GIS system were employed in order to allow for deeper understanding of the phenomenon studied.
The units, planned and opened during the excavations, have been chosen in these places, because the geomagnetic analyses indicate the existence of structures - the first zone of anomaly corresponds to the remains of a streets and insulae (units of town houses).
The works in 2011–2015 were focused on exploring and documenting the Late Roman and Byzantine strata with architectural remains, built with re–used blocks and architectural elements, which more or less copied/duplicated the earlier foundations. These levels were only remains of a secondary use of a Late Hellenistic and Early Roman residential complex.
Currently, the subject of the excavation is a house erected in the Hellenistic period, most probably in the second half of the 3rd century BC, which underwent numerous alterations and adaptations throughout the time of its functioning, i.e. until ca. the 4th century AD. The earthquake ca. 365 AD, which most probably struck Akrai among other towns of the Mediterranean, was in all likelihood responsible for the destruction of the residential district. At the turn of the 4th century AD, after a few decades of stagnation demonstrated, for instance, by a lack of inflow of new currencies, the ruins of the house were adapted for commercial and productive activity. That phase was marked by its sloppiness of construction, random use of architectural details, and fragments of stone mortaria and olive presses. A levelling layer meticulously evened out the rubble, but new structures and subsequent room divisions, despite adhering roughly to the original walls of the house, did not form any sort of stable or logical building complex.
The results of geophysical survey (2009) and at least two phases of architectural complexes in the residential part of the town,mentioned in the literature, were corroborated by the excavations conducted. The structures uncovered so far indicate that the plan of this fragment of the residential district, located in the central part of the plateau, was most probably built in the Hellenistic period and possessed striking regularity and an ordered layout.
All works are useful to reconstruct the grid of city streets and building, which is almost unknown. As well as organization of town in the living area. Till know Akrai as town is known just only from the public buildings: a theater, buleuterion, fragments of agora and temple, as well as part of huge street (plateia/decumana) and beginning of the stenopoi (and intersection).
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