A new fascinating and important archaeological discovery in the heart of the Mediterranean


ustica archaeological remains
Ruins of prehistoric houses near the wall that surrounds the village of the Middle Bronze Age (1400-1200 BC) in Ustice.
Lorenzo Pasqualini Lorenzo Pasqualini 6 minutes

An important discovery resulting from geophysical surveys conducted in “Villaggio dei Faraglioni”, an ancient settlement on the island Ustica originating from the Middle Bronze Age (Sicily), feasts new light on the construction techniques of defensive structures in Mediterranean prehistory.

The study was carried out by a team of researchers from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) in collaboration with the Archaeological Park of Himera, Solunto and Iato from the Sicilian region, the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples, the Literary Village Association of Ustica, the Laboratory Museum of Earth Sciences of Ustica (LABMUST) , University of Siena, Department of Mathematics and Geosciences of the University of Trieste and the Ministry of Culture.

search resultsRevealing the hidden system of fortifications on the “FaraglioniA Middle Bronze Age village on the island of Ustica (Palermo, Italy) through ERT and GPR perspectives”, were recently published in the international scientific journal Journal of Applied Geophysics and reveal details on a wall structure as long as the main surrounding walls of the Villaggio dei Faraglioni, thus strengthening the hypothesis of a complex and sophisticated defense system.

The ancient village of Faraglioni on the island of Ustica

“The village of Faraglioni flourished between 1400 and 1200 BC, on a stretch of coast jutting out into the sea in the northern part of the island,” explains Domenico Targia, Director Himera, Solunto and Iato Archaeological Park.

Ustica prehistoric sea stacks
The Middle Bronze Age village of Faraglioni in Ustica and the long arched defensive wall. (Drone photo V. Ambrosanio, 2022). The orange rectangle indicates the GPR investigation area, while the green polygon indicates the ERT investigation area.

“Archaeologists thought one of the best-preserved Mediterranean settlements of its timewas characterized by an orderly urban plan with dozens of huts built on the edge of narrow streets and a massive wall, 250 meters long and 4 to 5 m high, that surrounded the city to defend it from attacks and raids”.

L’The island of Ustica is a small island of volcanic origin lies in the Tyrrhenian Sea, a few tens of kilometers from the northern coast of Sicily. It is a nature reserve and is surrounded by waters in a protected marine area.

A research campaign that has involved geologists, geophysicists, architects and archaeologists it started with the need to study some using non-invasive techniques semi-buried buildings which occasionally emerge on the ground outside the defensive rampart.

Non-invasive scientific instruments for archaeological research

“We brought to Ustica some scientific instruments used by INGV researchers to perform geophysical survey such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and electrical tomography (ERT). Thanks to them, it was possible to precisely and completely non-invasively locate the deep foundations of the antemural structure as long as the wall, which fulfilled the functions of the first defensive barrier”, adds Vincenzo Sapia, INGV researcher.

According to scientists, this village consists of a a case study in a Bronze Age Mediterranean contextbecause it shows that already at that time there must have been an urban plan, the task of which was to arrange huts and access roads in an orderly manner, and to design a long and high defensive wall, together with other antemural structures, such as have been discovered today thanks to geophysical investigations.

According to scientists, this village consists of a a case study in a Bronze Age Mediterranean contextbecause it shows that already at that time there must have been an urban plan with the task of arranging huts and access roads in an orderly manner

Franco Foresta Martin, director of the Laboratory of the Museum of Earth Sciences in Ustica and associated with INGV, states: “Our discovery opens a new window in the understanding of this ancient village, suggesting defensive complexity that exceeds expectations. Geophysical technology has allowed us to uncover hidden layers of history and paved the way for further exploration without the invasive use of excavation”.

“The new discoveries are fueling interest in this extraordinary place. We now want to deepen our investigation by responding to them.” still open questions regarding the design and function of the defense system, and outline a clearer vision of the daily life of this advanced Middle Bronze Age community”, add architect Anna Russolillo and archaeologist Pierfrancesco Talamo.

“This highly multidisciplinary study,” concludes INGV researcher Sandro de Vita, “shows how the application of non-invasive examination methods in combination with geological, geomorphological and archaeological observations of the surface area, can indicate in detail and in a timely manner the areas that should be further investigated by direct investigation, thus avoiding tests and excavation campaigns that are expensive from an economic and time point of view”.


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