Selinunte, the largest agora in the world discovered. Among the finds an ivory mermaid and the matrix of a scepter

Rome, 23 July 2022 – Anagora of almost 33 thousand square metersthe largest in the ancient world (twice the size of Piazza del Popolo in Rome), a Selinuntean ancient city on the southwestern coast of the Sicily. It is a very important discovery and, during the excavations on the acropolis, the remains of what appears to have been the sacred place of the very first Greek settlers of Selinunte, who arrived in the wake of the founder Pammilo from Megara Hyblea. Also found amulets and objects of great refinement similar to others found in Greece, at Delphi, which add to the mystery of a stone mold perhaps used to melt a bronze scepter.

An amulet in the form of a hawk, image of the sky god Horus

Excavations and finds

After two years slowed down by the pandemic, in June the digging resumed at full speed and the results, Marconi underlines, “went far beyond expectations”. The starting idea was to be able to date the construction period of two of the most recent temples of the acropolis, called A and O, long considered twins. Then digging deep around a third templethe so-called R, built in the sixth century BC and then perhaps rebuilt after 409 BC when the Carthaginians occupied and destroyed the city, archaeologists have identified the walls of a ritual enclosure dating back to 610 BC, not long after the arrival of the colonists led by Pammilo, whom Thucydides fixes to 628 BC and Diodorus to 650 BC. And it’s always here, inside the temple R, that the earth has returned the missing part of one stone matrix (the first was found ten years ago at a short distance) served for the casting of a bronze object, it looks like one scepter. An object so precious, archaeologists now speculate, that it does not have to be replicated. For this reason, immediately after the fusion, the matrices would have been buried in two different places. From that same building, Marconi reveals, they arrive then two objectswhich in the next few days will be exhibited in the Park’s antiquarium: a amulet in the form of a hawkan image of the sky god Horus made in Egyptian blue, which comes from Egypt at the end of the 7th century BC, and a miniature figurine refined of one ivory mermaid, found in fragments in 2017 and rebuilt in recent months in the laboratory. A small wonder, Marconi points out, almost certainly imported from Greece, which “tells of the wealth achieved by the city in the sixth century BC”. Two centuries later the end for Selinunte will be terrible, with the city set on fire by Hannibal’s soldiers. Buried for centuries, the grandeur of that golden age returns today to amaze.

An important discovery: the reactions

These are the findings of the latest excavation campaign led by Clemente Marconi in the Sicilian archaeological park, an enterprise that saw two international missions working together for the first time, that of the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University and of the University of Milan with the team of the Germanic Archaeological Institute. “Results of the utmost importance for the knowledge of Selinunte in the archaic and classical age”, underlines Marconi, the archaeologist who has been studying the remains of the ancient Greek colony for decades. Discoveries that illuminate a new light on the fascinating and brief history of this city and that are announced while in the Sicilian park – the largest in Europe with its 270 hectares of nature and majestic ruins overlooking the sea – an intervention on the vegetation studied by Istituto Germanico has just brought to light the boundaries of the agora, with its enormous dimensions and vaguely trapezoidal shape with the only monument in the center, a tomb, perhaps that of the founder. “An empty basin that impresses with its width and its dense mystery”, smiles the director of the Archaeological Park of Selinunte, Happy Ascending. A space “that gives an idea of ​​the magnificence of this city and its extraordinary essence”, comments the councilor for culture next to him Alberto Samonà.

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