UBC excavations of the Roman Villa at Gerace, Sicily: Results of the 2017 season

R. J.A. Wilson, Kathleen M. Coleman, Charles French, David Friesem, Tomoo Mukai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A fourth season of excavation at the late Roman rural estate of Gerace (Enna province, Sicily) took place in 2017. Two areas of kilns were investigated. In one, fragmentary evidence for six kilns was found, of which the latest was constructed of bricks bearing the monogram of the estate owner, Philippianus. In its back-fill were wasters of two roof-tile types stamped Philippiani, confirming that these were an estate production. A substantial rectangular kiln was also found 40 m to the east, with exterior stone walls but internal structures which appear to have been built of mud brick, hardened only by successive firings. This kiln too produced roof tiles (unstamped), probably in the fifth century. A smaller kiln was inserted within it in a secondary period. Later still, vertical shafts were, extraordinarily, hacked through the thickness of parts of the mud-brick walls in order to make rudimentary furnaces for an unknown purpose; this occurred in the sixth century, as shown by radiocarbon analysis of a burnt sample. In the bath-house of ca. 380 ad up the slope, the rest of the tepidarium partly investigated in 2016 was excavated, as well as a second, smaller tepidarium adjacent. The geometric mosaics of both rooms had been smashed to retrieve the bricks from the hypocausts below when the baths were decommissioned, but enough survived for the floor patterns of both to be reconstructed. Fragmentary wall veneer included coloured marbles imported from Greece, Turkey and Tunisia. Part of the frigidarium was also identified and a cold pool, one of two, was completely excavated. It had a marble floor except for one slab of sandstone, possibly a non-slip device. A fissure in the pool’s back wall suggests that an earthquake was responsible for the building’s abandonment, sometime in the second half of the fifth century. One wall of the frigidarium used pisé, highly unusual in a bath-house. The room’s floor mosaic was partly uncovered; it appears to have an inscription on all four sides, possibly uniquely so in the Roman Empire. One roundel nearer the centre of the floor was also exposed; it bears the name of Philippianus in monogram form. Study of the animal bones revealed an unusually high number of horse bones; this together with the discovery of foal bones and an equine milk tooth suggests the possible presence of a stud at Gerace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-342
Number of pages94
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements My first thanks go to the proprietor of Gerace, Signora Antonella Fontanazza Coppola, without whose permission to enter her land in order to conduct the excavation, this research would not have been possible; as always, she followed our results with great interest. Nor would the excavation have been possible without the financial support of an Insight Grant made by The Social Studies and Humanities Research Council of Canada, to whom my debt is profound. Great gratitude is further due to the Regione Siciliana, and in particular to its Direttore Generale dei Beni Culturali e dell’Identità Siciliana, Professor Gaetano Pennino, who granted UBC the honour and the privilege of a convenzione di scavo through the good offices of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Culturali di Enna. I would particularly like to thank the Soprintendente of Enna, Arch. Salvatore Gueli, and the Director of the Sezione Archeologica, Dr Pinella Marchese, for their constant help and encouragement. Dr Enza Cilia Platamone, the first excavator of Gerace in ?攃攃?, has been as ever an inexhaustible source of support, friendship and advice, and followed the results of our excavation with the greatest enthusiasm. The constant support and practical assistance of the entire Stellino family at Agriturismo Il Mandorleto was as ever an unshakable central pillar in the success of the whole expedition; their kindness to us knows no bounds. The owner of the adjacent property, Dr Carmelo Fontanazza, was also a source of constant encouragement, help, practical support, and wise advice; he also kindly put an out-building at our disposal which served as our pot-shed. Dr Salvatore Burgio (Gela) was our conservator, and I thank him once again for his work. Both Dr Tomoo Mukai (Aix-en-Provence), our pottery expert, and Sally Cann (Matrice), who drew the finds, demonstrated exemplary skill, unending patience, and constant good humour; the project is truly fortunate to have their experience and expertise at its disposal. Dr Lorenzo Zurla (Ragusa) once again wove his magic in creating magnificent aerial photographs of the excavations at the close of our four weeks of labour; the care he devotes to preparing the finished results in his studio afterwards, together with his desire to attain the highest standards, is truly

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Mouseion.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Classics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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