UBC excavations of the roman villa at Gerace, Sicily: Results of the 2018 season

R. J.A. Wilson, David Friesem, Daniella Tsimbaliouk, Jennifer Ramsay, Jonathan Broida, Robyn Veal, Tomoo Mukai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

A fifth season of excavation at the late Roman rural estate of Gerace (Enna province, Sicily) took place in 2018. A rectangular kiln of the fifth century ad, partially excavated in 2017, was confirmed as having internal walls of mud brick, hardened by successive firings. It was reduced in size in a secondary period. Investigation was conducted on another of the vertical shafts, extraordinarily hacked through the thickness of parts of the mud-brick walls of this kiln in the sixth century, in order to create rudimentary furnaces, but their function remains unknown. In the bath-house of ca. 380 ad, the rest of the frigidarium, partly investigated in 2017, was uncovered. The geometric mosaic floor has an inscription on all four sides, uniquely so in the Roman Empire; it names the estate as the praedia Philippianorum. Roundels on the mosaic include monograms of ‘Asclepiades’ and ‘Capitolini’, both also named in the inscription. The text of the inscription is discussed, and possible interpretations of what it might mean are offered. Excavation found that the walls of the cold room were never finished and a horseshoe-shaped cold pool on its north side was never installed, suggesting that the baths were left incomplete, although they were used. Further evidence was found of serious earthquake damage that occurred in the second half of the fifth century. It may have happened at night if burn marks on one part of the mosaic come from dislodged torches; they and a glass lamp suggest that night bathing was practised, in line with its increasing popularity elsewhere in late antiquity. An attempt was made to repair the baths after the earthquake, but this was aborted while still in full swing, and the baths were abandoned. A small part of the early Byzantine settlement which replaced the elite buildings on the estate soon afterwards, was excavated nearby; three phases were identified, belonging to the sixth and seventh centuries. Five appendices present evidence of kiln temperature, animal bones, carbonized seeds, and wood charcoal, as revealed during the 2018 season, as well as a selection of pottery from key deposits which aids the dating of individual phases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-212
Number of pages118
JournalMouseion
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

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