Exploring the Archaeology of Regime Change

A five-year Research Project by the Universities of York, Rome Tor Vergata and Salento

About the project

The Project

The Departments of Archaeology at York and Rome 2 (Tor Vergata) began a joint research project in 2014 investigating the Byzantine-Arabic-Norman- Swabian transition (sixth to thirteenth centuries AD) in Sicily, with special focus on changes in social structure, agriculture and trade. Assemblages from previous excavations, Survey in four parts of the island and new investigations at Castronovo di Sicilia provide our data.

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The Team

The project is directed by Alessandra Molinari (Rome) and Martin Carver (York) with the collaboration of Girolamo Fiorentino (Salento) and the support of Stefano Vassallo of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali di Palermo.

We are grateful to the Mayor, Commune and people of Castronovo for their warm and valued support.

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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 693600

Title

The title of the Project is The archaeology of Regime Change: Sicily in Transition abbreviated to the acronym SICTRANSIT. The ERC action number is 693600.

Aims

The project's purpose is to explore the changes of demography, agricultural production and trade of Sicily through five successive regimes.

These are:

Byzantine—Greek speaking Christian imperial power based at Constantinople (Byzantium, now Istanbul), active in Sicily 6-8th century with a headquarters at Syracuse Aghlabid—Arabic speaking Islamic North African power of the Abbasid (Sunni) confederation based at Baghdad in Iraq, gaining control of Sicily in the 9th century and making its headquarters at Palermo

Kalbid—Arabic speaking Islamic North African Fatimid (Shi'ite) power based at Cairo in Egypt, exercising control over Sicily in the 10-11th century from a principal base at Palermo.

Norman—Latin/French speaking Christian power from Northern Europe exercising control over Sicily and southern Italy 11th to 12th century from a capital at Palermo (Roger II).

Swabian—Latin/German speaking Christian power from Germany exercising control over Sicily and much of Italy in 12th-13th century with its Sicilian base at Palermo (Frederick Barbarossa, Frederick II).

Sources and Method

The archaeological data sources are:

  1. Assemblages from previous excavations
  2. Investigations at Castronovo di Sicilia, focussing on the sites of Monte Kassar (7/8th century Byzantine stronghold), Colle San Vitale (possible 9-11th century Arab then Norman citadel), Casale San Pietro (Byzantine then Arab agricultural centre), Castronovo town (Arab, Norman, Swabian and extant town.
  3. Landscape and paleoecological survey in the vicinity of Castronovo, Palermo and Piazza Armerina/Sofiana

Figure 1: Our sources. 1. Agrigento (5th-7th) 2. Castronovo, Monte Kassar (7th-9th), San Vitale (9th-11th) 3. Castronovo, San Pietro (6th-13th) 4. Catania, Chiesa di Sant'Agata (8th) 5. Contrada Colmitella (7th-13th) 6. Contrada Sant'Agata (5th-6th) 7. Entella (11th-13th) 8. Mazara del Vallo (10th-14th) 9. Palermo, Castello San Pietro (9th-10th) 10. Monte Maranfusa (12th-13th) 11. Palermo Town (9th-13th) 12. Piazza Armerina (10th-12th) Rocchicela de Mineo (9th) Segesta/Calatabarbaro (12th-13th) 15. Segesta (13th) San Vito Lo Capo (12th-13th) 17. Sofiana (7th-9th)

The method is to investigate the experience of the people on the ground using settlement forms and patterns, pottery, animal bone, human bone and paleoecology.

The line of argument (FIG 2) is that data collected from our sources (coins, seals, pottery, plant remains, faunal remains and human remains from cemeteries and settlements) will be analysed using scientific procedures (thin section, organic residues, stable isotopes, aDNA) to reveal the character of peoples, farming, diet, industry and trade and the way these changed between the sixth and thirteenth centuries.

Figure 2: Overall structure of research

Samples to be analysed are as follows:

  1. ceramics and other artefacts at Rome (Tor Vergata)
  2. human bone, animal bone and organic residues at York (Bioarch)
  3. botanical remains at Salento (Lecce)

Timetable

Our timetable is shown in Fig 3.

Two seasons of Evaluation were carried out in 2014, and 2015 and the Project was designed in 2014-2015. The implementation stage of the project begins on 1 Aug 2016 and will run for five years. The fieldwork season is (currently) the month of September in years 1-4.

Figure 3: Timetable

The team

The team is deployed as follows:

At York: Martin Carver (PI), Ol Craig (Organic residue analysis and co-ordination), Jane Thomas-Oates (organic residue analysis), Michelle Alexander (stable isotope analysis), Camilla Speller (aDNA analysis), Veronica Aniceti (animal remains), Malin Holst (human remains), Helen Goodchild (geophysics), Neil Gevaux (digital media), Madeleine Hummler (publication).

At Rome: Alessandra Molinari (Co-director of Research, ceramics), Vivien Prigent (coins and seals), Emanuele Vaccaro (survey), Paola Orrechioni (sample management), Nicoletta Giannini (structural analysis), Claudio Mangiaracina (ceramics). At Lecce: Girolamo Fiorentino (palaoecology), Milena Primavera (plant remains)For contacts see DIRECTORY below; other staff will be added when appointed.

We have an advisory panel who help to frame programmes and interpret results: Stefano Vassalo (Soprintendenza dei Beni Culturali, Palermo), Lucia Arcifa (Professor of Archaeology at Catania), Annliese Nef, Université de Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne, Chris Wickham (Professor of History, University of Oxford), Eduardo Manzano (Centro de Ciencas Humanas y Sociales, Madrid), Giuseppe Barbera (University of Palermo).

Administration. Each University (York, Rome TV, Salento) has a separate contract with ERC. The co-ordinating manager is Jo Tozer (York).


CONTACTS

PI:

Rome:

Rome:

Bioarchaeology—York:

Bioarchaeology—York:

Lecce:

Website:

Advisors

Lucia Arcifa

(Catania)

Guiseppe Barbera

(Palermo)

Eduardo Manzano

(Madrid)

Annliese Nef

(Paris)

Stefano Vassallo

(Palermo)

Chris Wickham

(Oxford)

Directors

Martin Carver (York)

PI

Alessandra Molinari (Rome)

Co-director

Adminsitrative Support

Jo Tozer

Co-ordinating manager

York

Ol Craig (BioArCh)

Organic residue analysis

Michelle Alexander (BioArCh)

Stable isotope analysis

Camilla Speller (BioArCh)

aDNA analysis

Jane Thomas-Oates

Analytical Chemistry

Malin Holst

Human remains

Veronica Aniceti

Animal Bone

Helen Goodchild

Geophysics

Madeleine Hummler

Editor

Jasmine Lundy

(ORA)

Léa Drieu

(ORA)

Aurore Monnereau

Alice Ughi

(Stable Isotopes)

Rome

Vivien Prigent

Coins and seals

Paola Orrechioni

Records

Nicoletta Gianninni

Buildings Research

Francesca Colangeli

Glass and Metal

Antonino Meo

Ceramics

Salento

Girolamo Fiorentino

Palaeoecology

Milena Primavera

Plant Remains

Public Engagement

Publications and Communication

Reports

Interim Reports

2015: FASTIonline

2016: Notiziario Archeologico Soprintendenza Palermo

2016: Interim Report 2016 (English)


Recent Presentations

2016

25 June British Museum Conference on Sicily Culture and Conquest

12 May Palermo Press Conference

28 August Castronovo

22 September Castronovo


2017

11 March Oxford Conference on Movement and Conflict

1 July Oxford Conference on The Normans in the South


Communication

The project website is sicilyintransition.org, which connects to the home websites of the participating institutions; Twitter feed is @sicarch; and the Facebook page is sicilyintransition.

The overall plan for Public impact and research impact is shown in Fig 4.

Gallery

Click an image to start the slideshow

Press

Check back to find links to press articles as they become available.

I want to participate

Sictransit welcomes interest from experienced and inexperienced volunteers willing to contribute hands-on participation in our field season. The work involves picking, shovelling, trowelling, survey, surface collection, pot washing and handling finds and a certificate of attendance is given.

The season takes place at Castronovo di Sicilia in September each year, and board (5 days a week) and lodging are provided. However the project is unable to meet the costs of your travel to and from Castronovo. The nearest airport is Palermo and the nearest train station is Cammerata/San Giovanni Gemini.

The 2017 season will run from 28 August to 6 October.

If you would like to participate please email , giving an outline of your interest and any previous experience and I'll put you on the waiting list. I'll make a selection from the list in February or March and notify you all.

Contact us

You can get in touch via the following link.

If you require a certain person, please mention their name in your communication.