The Siculians and agriculture

The Siculians and agriculture

The Siculi, a term deriving from Sikeloi, the name of the presumed king Siculo Sikelòs (in Greek Σικελός), was a population, among the first occupants of Sicily who, together with the Sicani, the Elimi, the Phoenicians and Morgeti found the Greeks when they arrived in Sicily in 756 BC According to historical sources the Siculi reached Sicily around the fifteenth century BC and around 1000 a.C. they made the Sicani populations withdraw in the south-western part of Sicily. This people, which occupied the eastern part of the island, practiced both pastoralism and agriculture for some time, in some cases, already very advanced. In this contribution we will see precisely the relationship between the Sicilians and agriculture and the activities connected to them. As for pastoral activities, there are not yet many paleophonistic analyzes in Sicily. Findings of the Middle Bronze period at Thapsos (Θαψός in ancient Greek) – prehistoric site located on the peninsula of Magnisi (from the Arabic Mismar, nail), in the municipality of Priolo Gargallo, in the province of Syracuse – compound remains were found compound in prevalence of bones of caprovini and cattle, with a good presence of pigs.


Subsequently, other findings on the island of Lipari, in the period of the final bronze, make it clear that pig farms were already growing strongly. Subsequently, in the Iron Age there is a predominance of the cattle on the sheep and goats, while the incidence of pigs among the breeding animals decreases; in this period, however, does not lack the consumption of wild animals (wild boar and deer), which still indicates the integration between hunting, sheep farming and livestock. The growing importance of breeding finds evidence and indirect evidence in the frequent presence of decoration of bovine shapes of the bowls, and in the activities of spinning of wool, with the recurrent presence of fuseruole in female clothes. In this period there are also evidence of craftsmanship related to the consumption of meat and slaughter of animals. In fact, there are frequent findings on the manufacturing activity in the field of leather and leather processing, bone and horn processing and in spinning and weaving. Testimonies of wool processing processes, such as carding, are documented in Morgantina by a comb made from an animal bone. Other testimonies would be linked by the discovery of special jars destined to the production of cheeses which, obviously, would be linked to the cheese business.
As far as agriculture is concerned, the findings make us understand who it was about sorts based on barley and naked wheat (soft and hard wheat), whose threshing and preservation techniques were already known for long periods; the rotation technique is not certain, but certainly legume crops like vetch and broad bean must have been important for the contribution of non-animal proteins. In the period of the Middle Bronze Age the cultivation of the olive tree was already known; oleastro leaves were found on vases found near Comiso, Cozzo del Pantano and Ustica. The knowledge of grafting technique and the ability to produce oil are not yet known. Other testimonies concern the vine; a grape seed was found in a hut of the early Iron Age of Morgantina; this is of the uncultivated variety (Vitis silvestris). Interesting is the correlation between progress of agriculture and development of ceramic technologies necessary for the manufacture of containers for storage and storage of production surpluses. This testimony is found in the monastery of Thapsos, with the pithoi preserved in warehouse environments and other finds were found in some huts in Morgantina; they are different types of jars / dolia and pithoi containers: the different morphologies and dimensions presuppose a destination for different contents; probably not only for foodstuffs, but also for water, at least in the case of not very large mouth shapes. Also the presence of impressions of wheat seeds on fragments of semi-cooked clay indicate the well-established function of grain conservation. However, the Thapsos site, due to the quantity of Aegean-Mycenaean findings or in any case oriental, is considered to have been a great commercial destination. This makes us think that the Siculians had already intensified agricultural production and that these were aimed not only at domestic consumption, but as a commercial and exchange base with external peoples. In the final bronze, diversified tools have also been found that make us understand how agricultural techniques were already diversified (cereal farming, arboriculture, etc.) and more specialized. Bronze finds such as hoes (pierced cannon axes) and roncole, often, and not coincidentally, associated have been recovered in storerooms of Niscemi, Noto Antica and Castelluccio di Scicli. However on the Siculians still much history of agriculture and its techniques must be written.

Guido Bissanti

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