Unknown graves found beside a medieval church in Sicily

The first season of excavations of a team of Polish archaeologists at the church of San Michele del Golfo (also known as Santa Maria di Campogrosso) resulted in dating the origins of the building and documenting new, unknown walls and graves next to the present ruins of the structure. The research taking place on Sicily, east of Palermo is led by prof. Sławomir Moździoch and prof. Tadeusz Baranowski of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Excavations conducted by students of The Institute of Classical, Mediterranean and Oriental Studies of University of Wrocław with local heritage office official dr Gabriella Albamaria Calascibetta (1st right) and director of fieldwork prof. Sławomir Moździoch (2nd right) (by Anna Kubicka)

The research concluded that the church originates from 11th-12th century, from the period when the Norman ruler Roger I freed Sicily from the rule of Arabs. The location on a hill was chosen wisely, so the church would stand out from the landscape. What is interesting is the fact that the fortified structure was erected before the nearby Palermo was freed from muslim rule.

Aerial view at the ruins of the San Michele church (by Piotr Wroniecki & Marcin Jaworski)

The research is aided by non-invasive techniques and the scope of the work is aimed at recognising the vicinity of the building. So far magnetic, geoelectric and GPR survey revealed relics of walls in the direct vicinity of the church. They are presumably the remains of a monastery existing by the church, of which some historic documents inform.

Non-invasive survey south of the church’s ruins conducted by Piotr Wroniecki and Marcin Jaworski (by Błażej Stanisławski)

Undertaken excavations revealed two burials consisting of a infant skeleton covered with roof tiles and an adult. The infant seems also to be buried in the foundation ditch of the church, which forms a bit of a mystery as to the motives of choosing such place for a burial.

Burials excavated in the trench by the south wall of the side apse (by Anna Kubicka)

New archaeological fieldwork started May 1st and is conducted by scientists of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of The Polish Academy of Sciences in Wrocław and University of Wrocław. The research of San Michele church are a part of a project aimed at evaluating the contribution of Normans in the process of shaping Medieval culture in Europe.

(after Nauka w Polsce, Anna Kubicka, Piotr Wroniecki, Marcin Jaworski & Błażej Stanisławski)

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