Pantelleria Project

Student Blogs, Week 1: Getting our feet wet

Roy . Blog Photo 1

Even coming back to the island for a second time, I find that I am still faced with many new and amazing things. For the past few days, I have seen a flock of flamingos out on the lake, which is both beautiful and strange to watch, looking like a group of lightly dyed swans on stilts. We have also gone to some of the archaeological sites on the island; my personal favourite was the Roman “bath complex” and the possible garum production site which demonstrates the degree which the Romans utilized the local landscapes of this island and other provincial sites to continue the traditions from Rome. Seeing the other sites has made me twice as excited for starting on our own dig.


Pantelleria is an island full of surprises, every nook and cranny hiding something unique that s
atters your preconceptions. It’s a harsh volcanic landscape that opens into fertile plains in the South. It’s an island without fresh water that has maintained a population intermittently since at least the Bronze Age, and consistently since Punic settlement sometime after the 9th century BCE. An island where agriculture is preferred to fishing with just two main, natural harbours, yet now bears little livestock. The small population throughout its history has managed to build an enormous and impressive array of terraces and low stone walls just about everywhere one sees. The dammuso we reside in is inconspicuous from any angle of the lake but is large, homey and cool. I await the coming weeks with anticipation, hoping that the excavation will be full of as many surprises as the island.


It’s been an interesting few days. I travelled around Italy before flying to Pantelleria so I took a later flight then everyone else; we ended up circling the island for an hour before diverting off to Trapani. After ruin
ing the schedule by showing up a day late [not at all, Michael, CAM], we left to see the Bronze Age site, Mursia, and it was really interesting. We see a lot of pictures of remains from this time and they are often only the foundations but this was well-preserved, especially the large wall there. After the information session on Friday it was good to see the remains of the Roman baths at Scauri, although not very large, they gave a good impression on their functionality on the island. Saturday was marked by a tour by a local historian called Peppe. It was a long hike but he was really knowledgeable about many different aspects of the island which kept us going, the dip into Lago di Venere was greatly welcomed afterwards.


When the wheels of the plane hit the runway on Pantelleria it was really exciting animage001d it seemed surreal. Settling into the houses and sitting on the patio with the perfect lake view is so far the best part of the trip. I cannot wait to start working, and now after the first few days of vacationing and hanging out with the group, we feel like a little family. This is going to be an experience that none of us will ever forget and we are definitely going to make some friends for life on this trip. It took a long time to get here, and we all survived the follies of the airports, and the intense heat on the planes, so it can only get better from here.


Our first day here on Pantelleria we took some time to get to know the people with whom we would be spending the next month working. On the second day, after our last companion had arrived, we went and visited the ruins of a Bronze Age site, as well as walking through the town. On Friday we went and visited the Roman baths and got some information on the site, and what we would be doing. Saturday we went for a very extended hike with a wonderful and informed tour guide in the morning and afternoon, who educated us. In the evening we went into the town and sampled some of the local cuisine.


So we have finally arrived on the island of Pantelleria and it is everything and more than I ever imagined! Everything is absolutely beautiful, the landscape, the sea views, and of course Lago di Venere. It has only been three days since we have all arrived and we have already seen so many wonderful things! Like the Bronze Age site of Mursia and the Sesi that are the tombs of the ancient peoples of that particular site, we have seen Scauri which is a Roman Period site that was right on a natural harbour and had wonderful views of the sea and also had a natural hot spring there so the Romans did not have to build huge bathing complexes like in other areas of the Empire, we also went on an amazing, but tiring, hike up and between a few volcanoes where the views were stunning. Tomorrow we start to get down to business and I am really excited for that and more amazing adventures on such an amazing island.


We arrived on the island of Pantelleria on May 11th and moved into our houses on the shore of the Lago de Venere. The first few days have been spent doing leisurely rather than starting archaeological work immediately and organizing the responsibilities of the team members and a listening to a lecture on the history of the island and the archaeological methods that are to be used during the excavation. The first thing we did was a a group was visit the Bronze Age site of Mursia where we examined the foundations of huts and the Sesi,
a type of tomb used by the inhabitants of the settlement. We also visited the site of a Roman bath near Scauri on the coast of the island. This site was located very near to an industrial structure believed to have been used for the production of garum.



What strikes me the most about Pantelleria are the vivid colours. The deep blue of the ocean as the sun is getting low on the horizon and the way that the air and the water seem to sparkle. There are the red poppies that grow wild in the fields and by the side of the road, the hibiscus that overflows with pink flowers and the tiny yellow and violet wildflowers that grow between the cracks in the stones. For an island that has limited water it is amazing how abundant the foliage and the crops are. Grape vines, olive trees, fruit trees and vegetables grow everywhere on the terraces that can be seen cascading down the sides of the mountains. This is truly a beautiful place.



It’s been almost a week here at Pantelleria and so far it seems so unreal. The island is so unique, it’s nothing like I have ever seen before, and pictures don’t do it justice. After several plane rides it feels great to be able to unpack and settle down but I can’t wait to start working. It’s nice that even though some of us don’t know each other, we still get along really well. I can tell that this is going to be an experience of a lifetime!


To culminate this week’s experiences is difficult. My first few days in Italy were unbelievable; it feels as if this is a surreal and out-of-world experience. The airplane flight from Trapani to Pntelleria was very quick; it was fascinating seeing the view image001of the thriving island in
contrast with the dense clouds. Taking adventurous drives through the countryside to ancient sites was awe-inspiring. Overall, the best part of Pantelleria thus far is being able to pursue my dreams of archaeology and bond with a fun group who share my passions.


At Pantelleria on Lago di Venere, I live in a house of five students. During the last two days we have visited local dammusi, and Bronze Age and Roman sites. These included Bronze Age huts and Sesi tombs (literally a pile of rocks). It is obvious to see and just as amazing to understand the resourcefulness of how the people of Pantelleria have designed their buildings using the materials available on the island, which is predominantly volcanic rock (about the size of your head). There are no large trees on the island to use for timber and the most abundant plants appear to be shrubs and cacti. Other sites included a small Roman bath by the seaside and where they made garum, which is a common Roman fish sauce.



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