Sicily in the Bronze Age

With the Bronze Age came the prehistoric period in which bronze was the most important metal alloy used to make craft weapons and a lot of other artefacts. Bronze was widely traded in the Mediterranean world and across Europe. The earliest bronze objects found in Sicily were daggers made of copper with 7-10% arsenic or antimon, and were probably produced locally. Later bronze alloys were based on tin that was transported over long distances from as far as Afghanistan and southern England. While initially bronze was rare, at the end of the Bronze Age the alloy was more widespread and available to more people.

The Early Bronze Age (2500 - 1500)

The Early Bronze Age is roughly divided in two periods, the first from 2500 BC to 2000 BC and the second from 2000 BC to 1500 BC. In Sicily these periods are characterised by the pottery of type Castelluccio in the south and the pottery of type Capo Graziano in the north, this last type of pottery has affinities with the south Italian early bronze age (Protoapennine).

Castelluccio (South Sicily)

The settlement pattern reveals a number of settlements on higher strategic points, along rivers or near fertile land. This might indicate a mixed type of agriculture with animal herding. The settlements consisted of oval shaped huts with a stone base and built up with wattle and daub or wood with clay. Stone walls have been found that could have served as defensive walls or as demarcation in the case of sanctuaries.

The graves were chambers cut out in the rock or even depositions in natural caves, but also a number of dolmen are known. The entrance of the grave chambers were closed by a rectangular slab, sometimes decorated with spiral motives. These motives are also used in funerary contexts as decoration on the walls of the chambers. Important graves with a more elaborated entrance can be found in Cava d'Ispica and Cava Lazzaro (Modica). The gravechambers resemble somewhat the Domus de Janas on Sardinia. On flatter grounds graves consisted of a small pit with a single inhumation.

Capo Graziano (North Sicily and the islands)

The pottery of Capo Graziano is named after a settlement on the island of Filicudi, one of the Eolian islands north of Sicily. The settlement consisted of oval huts. There was a mixed type of agriculture and the people had contact with Lipari. In the Early Bronze Age various islands had settlements, including Pantelleria where the settlement of Mursia has been found. On Pantelleria near the settlements stone buildings are present of an elliptical form, a single entrance and a chamber. These constructions are called sese. In some cases they contained graves. The Sese Grande is 7 metres high. Whether the sese are similar to the navetas of the spanish Baleares is doubtful, there are several large islands with tower like structures in stone like Corsica, Sardinia and Malta.

In northern Sicily the Capo Graziano culture seems to have orginated in the Conca d'Oro near Palermo, although it is not clear how it developed. It is also not clear why northern and southern Sicily differed so much in pottery and culture. There are indications that southern Sicily had direct or indirect contacts with the eastern Mediterranean and local Sicilian products have been found in northern Italy.

The middle and late Bronze Age

In southern Sicily the Middle Bronze Age (1500-1200) and Late Bronze Age (1250-1050) are characterized by intensifying contacts with the eastern Mediterranean, Mycene and Cyprus. The main site of the Middle Bronze Age is that of Thapsos where the remains of an urbanized centre and maritime port have been found. Another important site is that of Pantalica, an extensive necropolis in the natural setting of a canyon of the river Anapo. The estuary of the river Anapo is at Syracuse, another important site in the Bronze Age. From both Thapsos and Pantalica the pottery can be admired at the archaeological museum of Syracuse.

On the islands and in northern Sicily the Capo Graziano culture changed into the culture of Punta Milazzese (Panarea). Just like Capo Graziano the culture of Milazzese has much in common with southern Italy. One of the main differences is that the pottery was hand made while in southern Sicily already the turntable was used. Important sites of the culture of Milazzese are Lipari and Mursia (on Pantelleria).

Last updated 08/03/2016
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