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Pantalica

Sanctuary of the Madonna of Tears
December 1, 2020
From Hills to Cities
December 14, 2020
Sanctuary of the Madonna of Tears
December 1, 2020
From Hills to Cities
December 14, 2020
© Ph. S. K.

Pantalica, the archeology

 
If you leave the beaten track to venture along the paths that run along the winding canyon carved over millennia by the Anapo and Calcinara Rivers, you'll find yourself in a wild natural setting, the extraordinary site of Pantalica, a place that takes you back into a distant past, where the walls of the canyons seem to echo with long-gone voices of its ancient inhabitants.
The paths which lead here, from Sortino and from Ferla, have two contrasting aspects: one is wilder, completely immersed in an authentic, natural setting, while the other is more ‘man-made’ and follows the now-abandoned railway line that was carved through the mountains to improve transport and communications in the 20th century.
 
Pantalica 5 (Small)
Pantalica 6 (Small)
 
If you leave the beaten track to venture along the paths that run along the winding canyon carved over millennia by the Anapo and Calcinara Rivers, you'll find yourself in a wild natural setting, the extraordinary site of Pantalica, a place that takes you back into a distant past, where the walls of the canyons seem to echo with long-gone voices of its ancient inhabitants.
The paths which lead here, from Sortino and from Ferla, have two contrasting aspects: one is wilder, completely immersed in an authentic, natural setting, while the other is more ‘man-made’ and follows the now-abandoned railway line that was carved through the mountains to improve transport and communications in the 20th century.
Walking in Pantalica, you are accompanied by the gushing of the sparkling water of the rivers, cool and calm during the Summer months, and icy and impetuous during the Winter, you’ll be amazed by the vigour of the plants and bushes that cover the slopes, and by the animals that live there. You’ll be fascinated by the incredible signs that man left there over three thousand years ago, as he carved the rock to create his last earthly dwelling. The rock-faces resemble enormous beehives looming over the river-valleys, known as “cave” which in the Hyblean hill-territory refers to these canyons which slice their way through the limestone plateau. Over 5000 rock-cut tombs are carved into the canyon walls, often in inaccessible places, and watch like dark eyes over the incomparable beauty of the luxuriant vegetation that fills the valley and covers the narrow river-banks.
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"Over 5000 rock-cut tombs are carved into the canyon walls, often in inaccessible places, and watch like dark eyes over the incomparable beauty of the luxuriant vegetation that fills the valley..."

 
These signs speak of a people identified by the great archaeologist Paolo Orsi as the Sikels of historical tradition, and are still partially shrouded in mystery despite many excavation campaigns carried out by Orsi himself between 1895 and 1910 and by the other great archaeologist Luigi Bernabò Brea between 1962 and 1971. Despite the presence of the large necropolis, it has not yet been possible to find the settlement associated with it, except for one building which appears to be a palace, known as the Anaktoron or Prince’s Palace. Presumably the political and economic centre of the settlement, Orsi found objects within its walls for the fusing of metal, a privilege which probably only the men of power were afforded.
The creation of the tombs excavated into the rock-faces, was most certainly a life-long enterprise and not without risk. According to Orsi, the Sikels were lowered down on ropes from above to reach the most inaccessible places, and they carved the rock (perhaps also using fire and water) to create rooms, usually elliptical in shape, where the bodies of the dead were placed in a fetal position, wrapped in cloth. The deposition of the body was always accompanied by grave goods which represented everything that would be needed in the afterlife; vases with supplies of food and water, blades, daggers, arms, and ornamental objects. The tomb was then sealed with rubble or with large slabs of stone.
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These personal objects that accompanied the dead towards the afterlife are the things that bring them back to life for the visitor; in the rooms of the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum at Siracusa, bronze objects like mirrors, buckles and coins, vases on high pedestals, combs of bone, tell us about the everyday lives of the men and women who lived in Pantalica thousands of years ago.
 
According to the tradition recorded by the historian Diodorus Siculus, Pantalica was the seat of the wise and powerful King Hyblon, whose kingdom covered the entire Hyblean region, from Monte Lauro to the coast between Augusta and Siracusa. It was to him that the colonists from Megara in Greece under Lamis turned in their search for a piece of land on which to found their city. Their request was approved by the magnanimous king, and the city that they founded was given the name Megara Hyblaea as thanks for his generous gesture.
However it was other colonists from Greece, the Corinthians under Archias who had already founded Siracusa and who were beginning to push inland to expand their power, who ultimately determined the end of the civilisation that had flourished in Pantalica for seven centuries, probably in the period between 733 and 664 BCE.
The struggle between Greeks and Sikels, probably violent and drawn out, ended with the defeat of the Sikels and the abandoning of the site. Only many centuries later, during the Byzantine period, was the site reinhabited and the ancient tombs became places of refuge from the Saracen pirate raids along the coast, leading to the formation of small rock-cut villages complete with chapels and oratories with frescoes, faint traces of which survive today.
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An evocative site of extraordinary magic and incredible archaeological importance, the Necropolis of Pantalica has been included in the Unesco World Heritage List since 2005, together with Siracusa. For anyone fascinated by history, it is an unmissable opportunity to travel back in time; for lovers of nature, it is a wild and unspoiled mountain and valley environment a few kilometres from the coast.
November 2020
 
NICOLETTA LONGO

Dopo gli studi e una breve ma intensa esperienza nel campo dell’Archeologia, la sua carriera professionale si è orientata all’insegnamento. Oltre alla passione per la musica e per il fumetto, in lei l’amore per l’archeologia, l’arte e il territorio non è mai tramontato e, attualmente, dedica il suo tempo libero all’associazionismo culturale e scrivendo per SiracusaCulture.
 
Pantalica
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