Museum of Adrano, archaeology and history under the volcanoMuseum of Adrano, archaeology and history under the volcano

The center of indigenous Mendolito

The town

In the district Mendolito, to the south-western of slopes of Etna, at 8 km from Adrano's today,  was born  one of the most important sicilian centers in Sicily. The site is situated on a basaltic terrace  near the east bank of Simeto, an area of about eighty hectares. The excellent opportunities for water and fertile volcanic soil justify the choice and the employment of the site in antiquity.
His great extension would seem to militate in favor of a territorial occupation type Paganico (from the Latin word pagus "village"), that's to say for groups of scattered houses among which are to imagine large spaces of land used by indigenous communities for purposes related to livelihood, for grazing and cultivation. The indigenous settlement was identified by some with the city of Piakos, based on the discovery of some rare coins, the hypothesis, however, although suggestive, needs further confirmation.

The walls

Around the sixties of last century, the Superintendency of Syracuse explored a southern stretch of the fortification.
The imposing wall of defense is built with large lava rocks not worked and has two parameters with riempimento interno a sacco  made up of crushed stones.


Hypothetical reconstruction of the southern gate

The fortification was to encircle the city on the sides North, South and East, leaving free the western side, of course defended by tall cliffs. During the excavations we found the southern door flanked by two towers plant with a horseshoe dating to the second half of the sixth century. a. C. The discovery in the compartment of the gate, between the two towers, of a layer of tiles falls ago assumed the presence of a sort of canopy above the opening between the two bastions, unique example in the panorama of the island.


Southern Gate (excavations 1962-63)

In eastern jamb of the gate was inserted the famous sandstone block, now preserved at the Regional Archaeological Museum "Paolo Orsi" of Siracusa, containing  an important  inscription in anellenica tongue(not Greek).  This is a continuing scriptio graffita from right to left on the external side and on the short side of the block. The reading and the meaning of inscription have been repeatedly  interpreted differently, but with little results to date convincing.
Although not sure the interpretation of the inscription is clear that it, addressed to those who came to the city of Mendolita through the southern gate, should be self-celebratory for the indigenous community. The epigraph, besides being the only public inscription in the sicula language (we know several others, but  of private and funeral type, both in same area of Adrano and in many towns of eastern and central Sicily), it is important also because its location could suggest a connection with southern Italy.


Public inscription in Panhellenic language

The public houses and buildings

Ruins of houses, dating from the sixth and fifth centuries. a. C., were discovered by the Superintendency of Syracuse in the excavation campaigns of 1962-1963. Other data can be inferred from the excavations conducted by the Superintendency of Catania in 1988 in the south of the ancient city, during which were made in light portions of town. In one case was identified a large extended rectangular building in the North-South and divided into four rooms of varying extent, separated by three interior walls.
The walls were made completely dry using lava rocks of different sizes. The building was to be covered by a roof covered with terracotta tiles. The adoption of the straight plan and use of a type of stable coverage show the  acquisition in archaic age, from this and other natives centres of Sicily, of techniques of building of greek type more suitable to ensure the insulation of homes from the atmospheric agents. Before the arrival of the Greeks, in fact, indigenous people used to live in huts to plant oval or circular, with roofs made perishable material (straw and mud).
 


Plan a dwelling older archaic (excavations 1988)

Unfortunately, almost nothing is known of the buildings of worship and public using, despite being exposed to the museum several important architectural elements in lava rock. These are three capitals, including one inspired to Doric style and two others to Ionic style, and of some portions of the octagonal columns. Various types of antefixes also have been found. The most numerous are antefix in the form of a female head, but also specimen at protome leonina and gorgonica.
The local translation of models typically Greek, made by craftsmen of the place as regards the architectural elements in lava rock, suffers from a clear influence Calcidesi perhaps be put in relation to the pressure on Etnea and the center of Mendolita by groups Greeks from Catania, certainly since the second half of the sixth century. BC. About the location of places of worship or public function within the establishment little we can say, although Paola Pelagatti states that she has found in the excavation of 1962 some of the architectural remains above in the 'inside of the door. "  Such an indication would suggest the presence of some building of worship or public sector in the southern ancient city within the city walls, near the door urbica.


Antefixe a protome gorgonica (525-500 BC)

Capitals in lava rock inspired to ionic style (VI century BC)

Antefix in the form of a female head (VI century BC)


The necropolis and the funerary

A southern city of Mendola, at "Skiing Manganelli, there are the remains of some graves with a circular structure built in dry masonry with small lava rocks not worked,arranged in concentric rows gradually jutting  one on another , To form a simple pseudocupola.
Through the sketches on notepad kept by Paolo Orsi that, around 1898, saw some were in a good state of preservation, it is possible to reconstruct the height of the so-called tholoi (1.50 m. ca.)and to understand they are accessed through a single low opening, topped by a monolithic lintel.


Sketches of notebooks from Paolo Orsi.
From top to bottom: plant, the prospectus and a section of the tomb of "Skiing Manganelli"

Paola Pelagatti there led a campaign of excavation in the years 1962-1963. During these searches were found 15 tombs consisting of a single circular environment which is accessible through a short dromos (corridor). The tombs, built directly on the bench lava, were scattered on the ground. These burials often are intended to accommodate more individuals almost certainly belong to the same family. For this reason the objects were belonged to different corredi composed of locally produced pottery in style Licodia Evia, associated with poor copies of Greek imports, several items of bronze and some pseudo-Egyptian beetles  in faïence. The materials allow to affirm that the necropolis was in use between the seventh and fifth centuries. a. C. Important is the discovery of materials egittizzanti because it testifies  the liveliness of the center involved in the trade with the East.
The burials of Mendolita are fairly isolated in the Sicilian landscape.
In the south-east of the island the tombs built by the indigenous populations of archaic age (sixth century. BC) are like "a grotticella", dug into the rock containing multiple depositions. Until a few years ago, in the absence of references closest to the site of Mendolito, the archaeologists believed that the structure of these tombs derived from Mycenaean Aegean funerary buildings. Recently the discovery of a circular tomb on the hill of San Marco, at Paternò, although more ancient, allowed to assume that the choice to build similar structures were dictated by the need to adapt to specific geological conditions of the land . Both in the case of Mendolita and of Paternò , in fact, the presence of lava soil, hardly workable, would have discouraged the construction of traditional and more usual type of burial "grotticella" artificial dug into the rock.


General view of of necropolis "Sciare Manganelli"
(from notebooks of Paolo Orsi)

The so-called tholos tombs are not the unique kinds of sepolture present in Mendolita. In Stissi properties were also found "Cappuccina" deposition of greek type  the first half of the fifth century. a. C. At the seventh-sixth century. a. C. are to be allocated some burials of very young children found in earthenware containers, placed below the floors of homes. The custom of burying babies in the home and not in the necropolis could mean the death of an infant, considered devoid of individuality social and legal concerns only the family and not the entire community.


Beetles and plate with cartouche in faïence from
the necropolis of Sciare Manganelli (VI century BC).

 

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