... every corner refers
to the memory of past ages …
The first inhabitants of the area were hunters who occupied some natural shelters along the Mazaro River during the upper Palaeolithic period (about 14,000 /12,000 b.c.). This territory was inhabited since ancient times; Elimi, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans chose this area of Sicily for their settlement due to its position, the mild climate, the amenities of thelowlands and highlands and the abundance of vegetation. They built their cities and created an intense commercial activity.Our archaeological tour can surely start from the historical centre of Mazara toward its periphery, and slowly following the course of the Mazaro River, to reach the hills of Salemi and then come back toward the sea crossing the countryside next to Campobello.
In Mazara, every corner of the historical centre refers to the past. Every home, every pavement, hides ruins and wonders of the ancient dominations. The Palace of the Knights of Malta preserves in its foundations, the ruins of a Punic town dated from the end of the IV century BC and buildings from the Arab and Norman period. Near the parking area of via Ten. G. Romano were found ancient medieval ovens witnessing a great Muslim pottery laboratory. Along the left bank of the Mazaro river below, the churchyard of the Norman church of San Nicolò Regale you can admire the ruins of a roman thermal building, frescoed walls and mosaic pavements dating from the 3rd to the 5th century a.d. , among which stands out the figure of a golden deer running.
Going up to the river, the traces of the presence of man are clear; on the right side of the river, in the Village of Miragghianu, there is one of the most important hypogea in the south of Italy, calledSan Bartolomeo or the Beati Paoli. with the ruins of a catacomb and a chapel with Christian graffiti dating back to the 8th – 9th century a.d.In the village of Costiera, there is Roccazzo, were an extensive excavations have unearthed a settlement of the neolithic period. All the plateau was inhabited by farmers and shepherds, who lived in small agglomerations of huts built in wood with poles planted in the rock. Close to the huts there were the tombs dug into the rock, consisting of small caves with a cylindrical cockpit.
On the opposite side of Roccazzo it was found a settlement of the ancient bronze age ( 18TH century b.c. ), as well as in many other places in the countryside near Mazara. The findings of the Eneolithic and Bronze Age site can be visited at Mirabilia Urbis, an exhibition set up in the former church of St. Bartolomeo, which houses the collections of the Museum of the city and other archaeological finds from occasional excavations in the Mazara area. Important archaeological finds are often discovered from the depths of the sea. Pots and various tools fished by the Mazara’s fishing boats are exposed at the l’Amphoreus (former Church of St. Charles).
In the spring of 1998, it was found the Satiro Danzante, a very special Greek bronze statue caught in the Channel of Sicily. It represents a mythological figure taking part of the orgiastic procession which accompanied Dyonisius, under the influence of wine. The work, larger than the true model, it could be a Hellenistic original, dated between the end of the fourth and third centuries B.C. attributed to Praxiteles or his school. In honour of this important discovery it has been established the Museum of the Satyr inside an interesting architectural location: the former church of St. Egidio, dated inthe beginning of 1400, with a dome resting on an octagonal drum.
Other archaeological finds from excavations and research from the sea in front of the coast of Mazara del Vallo are expoed in the museum, such as the “Elephant Leg”.The Mazaro river, passing through all places of the ROAD, takes us on this walk up till the archaeological slopes of Salemi, a the territory which looks like an extended “archaeological park”,where the traces of man are many. A settlement of the Late Bronze Age is a hill known as Mokarta, about a mile far from the southern side of the city. The various excavations, made over time, led to the discovery of a large cemetery and a hut village.
The settlement consists of circular huts bounded by rectangular or square structures. This uniqueness differentiates the archaeological complex of Salemi from other findings discovered in the same period in Sicily and it can be considered a uniqueness of the Bronze Age culture of the island. The Monte Polizzo is another major archaeological site about two kilometres far from the town. Here, excavations conducted in 1970 have identified, on the ridges and top of the hill, ruins of walls and houses, clay and a significant amount of metal objects dated from the 8th to the 4th century BC. These findings have led to the supposition that the site could be the ancient Halicyae. Moving northward, in the district called San Miceli, (name of the saint to whom it was dedicated to the early Christian basilica of the III – IV century AD.) the presence of a village near the river Vadu is testified by some ruins. The basilica of S. Miceli, discovered by Salinas in 1893, has three mosaic floors overlaid with Greek and Latin inscriptions. Other minor archaeological sites, such as the necropolis of San Ciro and di Pusillesi, mark the territory of Salemi, witnessing the presence of man at different times. Many of the archaeological finds found in the mentioned places are exposed in the archaeological section of the local Museum, on the upper floors of the Collegio dei Gesuiti.
A visit into the archaeological park of Selinunte is a must. It is not possible not to be fascinated by the magnificence and grandeur of its Temples. The huge stone blocks used to erect these buildings come from quarries that ancient people of Selinunte called latomie.The most famous are those called by the Arabs Ramuxara, such as the Cave of Cusa (from the name of the former owner of the funds, Baron Cusa) from which the Greek extracted 150,000 cubic meters of tufa. This unique quarry, long approx. 1.7 km, is located about three Km far from the town of Campobello di Mazara and about 11 Km from Selinunte. Watching the quarry you get the impression that the site is still active and that the work, which was suspended in 409 BC when the Carthaginians destroyed Selinunte, should resume at any moment: sketchy or incomplete blocks were left in their state of progress, others already cut and ready on the ground were abandoned, while those who were being transported to Selinunte were dumped along the road.Here it is possible to read the procedure used to extract the stones. The circular rock engravings shows the preliminary work of extraction, which was followed by digging deep around them, to the point where it was considered possible to extract the drum, once cut, this was probably covered with a wooden frame and transferred to cart pulled by oxen. In addition to the rock engravings, there are the deep cuts around two huge rock still attached to the bottom.A corner of time that gives us the memory of who we were. These are the Cave of Cusa, atestimony of man’s technology, but also the of limits of its land, in front of the fate and historical necessity that erases great civilizations to let revive others.