Dinamiche Insediative nel Territorio di Canicattini Bagni e nel Bacino di Alimentazione del Torrente Cavadonna (Siracusa) tra Antichita’ e Medioevo: Presentazione del libro 26 ottobre 2016

Mercoledi 26 ottobre 2016 alle 17 nell'Aula Consigliare del Municipio di Canicattini Bagni (SR)
Presentazione del libro Dinamiche Insediative nel Territorio di Canicattini Bagni e nel Bacino di Alimentazione del Torrente Cavadonna (Siracusa) Tra Antichita e Medioevo (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 2016) di Santino Alessandro Cugno.

Santino Alessandro Cugno. Dinamiche Insediative nel Territorio di Canicattini Bagni e nel Bacino di Alimentazione del Torrente Cavadonna (Siracusa) tra Antichita' e Medioevo. BAR International Series 2802, 2016.

Estratto da una recensione in corso di stampa in lingua inglese/excerpts from review in press: " This volume is a structured and richly detailed presentation of topographical and archaeological data for human settlement in the area of a small city, Canicattini Bagni, about 20 km southwest of Syracuse on the island of Sicily. The author, Santino Alessandro Cugno, an area native, surveyed the territory around the Cavadonna river bed from 2008-2016 for material evidence to better document the chronology of the communities that have lived in the Canicattini environs from prehistoric times.

The main body of the study concentrates on the historical period from which most of the monumental remains can be dated, though not precisely, to the Late Antique-Early Medieval eras (the book's upper chronological limit is around the start of the Islamic occupation of Sicily in the 9th century CE). Due to the limited amount of scientific archaeological excavation that has been conducted in the Canicattini area to date, most of these monuments are funerary in nature: numerous, fairly accessible, but anonymous, with a few exceptions, one of which being a rock cut tomb chamber in the necropolis of Cugno Case Vecchie (table XXV.c) that preserves in part an incision or graffito into the wall of a seven-branched object, possibly the menorah, the most commonly-used cultic motif of Judaism in Late Antiquity. This is an amazing detail to detect and recover, considering that the area tombs continued to be vandalized and re-used over the centuries, leaving only the bare bones - pun intended - of their architectural form. Cugno and his collaborators, in fact, were only able to document this apparently decorative (and proprietary) feature in March of 2016 after its presence was reported in the local press, using special illumination techniques to bring out the distinct scratches in the wall, which, from their placement and distinctive form, do appear to be ancient.

This likely example of menorah seems to be accompanied by other motifs common to Late Ancient Jewish contexts (in many examples of tombs, in community spaces, such as synagogues, and on smaller objects, like gems, glassware, and seals) - Cugno cautiously proposes a shofar, an ethrog and perhaps a candle snuffer - but from the published photograph, it is hard to tell. A tomb used by Jews and specifically marked as such has parallels in nearby necropoli - the "Grotto del Carciofo" among the "Grotte dei Cento Bocche" at Noto Antica immediately come to mind, and Eastern Sicily holds others. Like virtually all the structures - funerary and otherwise - illustrated in Cugno's survey, this apparently Jewish tomb has never been excavated by archaeologists, though thanks to the efforts of Cugno and his collaborators from the Pontificia Commissione di Archeologia Sacra della Sicilia Orientale, a helpful site plan now exists (t. XXV, by PCAS inspector Gioacchina Tiziana Ricciardi and archaeologist Azzura Burgio). Curously, Cugno places this tomb in the section devoted to Medieval monuments - though it resembles the Late Ancient tombs in the previous chapter...

... Though not discussed in Cugno's volume, which does not venture into Syracuse proper, Paolo Orsi studied the "Jewish tombs of the Cappuccini" and took note of "many Jewish testimonies on the island" (of Sicily). Like Cugno, Orsi saw this "Jewish evidence" originating in the east, in Syria-Palestine.  New Testament peregrinations aside, it is clear that Eastern Sicily was populated by Jews in the Ancient and Byzantine periods: material traces of their presence survive in the form of epitaphs, tomb decorations, including graffiti, small objects, and - possibly - one or more communal properties featuring ritual baths. Like Orsi a century ago, we hold on to the hope that more Jewish artifacts will eventually be brought to light, as Cugno appears to have done with the example at Cugno Case Vecchie. Together with original color photographs, a conscientious review of prior studies and new research, and a strong sense of mission to put his hometown on an equal footing with the neighboring sites of Syracuse, Palazzolo Acreide, Noto Antica, and other touristy Sicilian towns, Cugno's discovery makes his "Dinamiche Insediative" an exceptional point of departure for future exploration of Canicattini. Clearly, Cugno has awarded himself a life contract for such work."

- Jessica Dello Russo (October 2016)

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