The archeological Monte Polizzo site is located 6 km northwest of the town of Salemi, in the Trapani province of western Sicily, on an easily defended hilltop, from which a vast area of western Sicily can be seen, and consists of an interconnected group of ridges, the highest point of which is 725.9 m (2359 feet) above sea level. The settlement has been dated to c. 9th - 4th centuries BC.
The Monte Polizzo Project is a group of international scholars who are interested in the ancient Elymians of western Sicily, and their Early Iron Age origins, development and eventual collapse. It also aims to investigate the process of Hellenisation and the influence of Phoenician and Greek occupations of western Sicily during the archaic period.
The history of excavations at Monte Polizzo
In 1970 Vincenzo Tusa, generally considered to be the father of the archaeology of indigenous western Sicily, launched a campaign of trial excavations in inland western Sicily, including the first organized dig at Monte Polizzo. He opened several trial trenches, uncovering Iron Age remains, associated with 6th century BC Greek pottery.
In 1996, Vincenzo Tusa’s son Sebastiano (Superintendent of Prehistoric Archaeology for the Trapani province and Professor of Archaeology at the University of Naples) created an international project to further understanding of the Elymians, with Monte Polizzo at its core. In 1998 the Sicilian-Scandinavian Archaeological Project was launched, led by Sebastiano Tusa and Kristian Kristiansen (Professor of Archaeology at the Göteborg University in Sweden).
From 1998 to 2001, Christopher Prescott of the University of Oslo directed excavation of House 1, dated c. 550-525 BC, as well as the town dump and areas on the north slope of the acropolis. Excavations were extended to the west in 2002 by Christian Mühlenbock and Kristian Kristiansen from the university of Gothenburg. The new area revealed additional house complexes from the mid 6th century BC. The excavations were drawn to a close in 2006 but the results will soon been published in two major volumes.
In 1999 Stanford University joined the Monte Polizzo project, where a team of students led by Michael Shanks and Emma Blake began analyzing finds from the 1998 excavations. In 2000, Professor Ian Morris (Professor of Classics and Professor of History at Stanford University) began excavating on the acropolis with students and volunteers from around the world. By 2002 the acropolis excavation had become one of the largest archaeological projects in the western Mediterranean.
Excavations on the acropolis were drawn to a close during the 2006 season, although analysis of the backlog of artifacts continues. Annual preliminary reports in English are published in Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, and in Italian in Sicilia Archaeologica.
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