EXCAVATION CAMPAIGN 2002
Director: Michele Piccirillo
Field equipe: John Abela, Carmelo Pappalardo Nicola Tutolo, Andrea Costa and Antonio Rojek
Sections: Samanta Deruvo, Alessandro Ravasio, Carmelo Pappalardo
Plan: Samanta Deruvo, Alessandro Ravasio
Photographer: Michele Piccirillo
Work force: 12 local workmen
This year's archaeological campaign focused on four areas all in the vicinity of the complex of the Church of the Tabula Ansata. One area is that comprising the zone to the west of the same Church and delimited to the North by the Church of Wa'il. The second area excavated lies to the North of the Church of the Tabula Ansata where last year we had already performed two probes. A probe was also performed next to the Northwest corner of the Castrum. Finally we had to intervene in the presbytery of the Church of Wa'il due to a clandestine dig carried out by anonymous gravediggers which destroyed its central mosaic panel to reach a tomb lying under the presbytery. Restoration works on various walls in the area of the Tabula Church were also carried out.
The western courtyard
The excavation to the west of the Church of the Tabula revealed a large open space simply delimited by an L shaped wall (23.35m the longest and 5m the shortest arms). The whole area had been interested by at least three different phases witnessed by the same number of superimposed threading floors. Last year's excavation had revealed a door which led from the courtyard (R1108) to a corridor in a Western direction. Departing from this door all the corridor was cleared. It led on to the large open courtyard which interested this year's excavation. This courtyard was only partially excavated and only in some areas we went down to intercept the various threading floors. Along the south wall of the Church of the Priest Wa'il a large area was excavated to the threading level which was in relation to a door leading to the above mentioned Church, a door which was blocked in a later phase. In the corner created by the West wall of the Church of the Tabula and the South wall of the Church of Wa'il a probe was performed revealing an intermediate threading floor and a lower one (at about 60cm deep) which is in relation to a door which led to the Tabula Church. Both walls preserved large pieces of plaster. The door in the western wall of the Church of the Tabula is 75cm above the floor of the Church itself. On the southern extremity of the excavation some walls witness to a later use of the area. A low rough wall in a East-West direction delimited this area and it had an access door inserted in it. This led to two areas divided by a wall in the North-South direction. In the western area a deep probe was performed revealing the foundations of the dividing and the perimeter walls. Removing the debris in the courtyard some architectural elements came to light: a small column base found near the short arm of the L shaped wall; two window arches: one having a semicircular frame with two incised crosses on the sides while the other was obtained reusing a stone having an encircled cross incised; a long stone with a hemispheric bulge on one side.
Area to the north of the Church of the Tabula Ansata
We moved our excavation to the North of the Church of the Tabula Ansata, to the area where last year we had already dug two probes in correspondence to the doors of the above mentioned church. Extending and deepening the probes we encountered two independent areas but communicating with the Church. The area to the west (R1122 already R1114) had passed through various phases of usage. The most ancient is witnessed by an irregular stone slabs floor which had been laid on virgin soil. In a second moment, to the West, in relation to the door of the Church, a second stone slabs floor was laid. It was made up of regular rectangular slabs. It was completed to the East by a pebble bed covered by a soil threading floor in order to bring it to the same level of the new stone slabs floor. A flight of two stone steps was laid on the new stone slabs floor in front of the Church's door and it led to a doorway of which the threshold and door posts are still in situ. This door led to a corridor (R1124) lying about 60 cm higher. A further phase of use is witnessed by the blocking of the Church's door and by the filling of the area to bring it to the same level of the adjacent corridor. On this new threading floor a level of calce viva and two cumuli of ashes. A large niche on the eastern wall was also blocked, most probably, at the same time as the door. Here too we witnessed the devastation of the gravediggers who destroyed a large part of the north wall by their probe and upset the stratigraphy of the area.
The northern corridor (R1124) was delimited to the north by a wall having also a door in the northern direction being at the same height of the door which communicated with R1122. Most probably the lintel found in the fall of this corridor belonged to this door. The north wall was explored up to the foundations which rested on a very compact threading floor which though had ad irregular surface, witness to an earlier phase. On the south side of this corridor, and to the East of R1122, another area (R1123 already R1115) is delimited by a wall which cuts through the ancient threading floor of the corridor. This area is in communication with the church through a door which opened on its northern wall. The presence of the irregular stone slabs floor and the pebbled bed with its threading floor are witness to a parallel use with the adjacent area (R1122) at least until both were in communication with the church. The presence of two fireplaces on the silt soil are witness to the sporadic later use of this area.
Extending the excavations of the corridor to the east, reaching the eastern wall of the Church of the Tabula, we started uncovering another portion of the northern wall which here is made up of regularly cut stone bringing to light also a door and arch ashlars lying among the debris. An ancient threading floor was found in this area (R1125). Its antiquity is witnessed by the shards and by the fact that the perimeter wall of the Church of the Tabula cuts through the same threading floor. This area is still to be investigated.
Probe at the Northwest corner of the Castrum
We moved also to the Northwest corner of the Castrum where a probe was dug on the outside. The probe revealed, after removing some huge stones coming from the fall of the walls, the presence of at least four threading levels prepared using also a mixture of small stones and plaster. All these threading floors were attached directly to the walls of the Castrum of which we revealed five more rows. We halted the probe at the fourth level due to the hardness and compactness of the surface.
Intervention at the Church of the Priest Wa'il
Even this year we were somehow conditioned by the activity of the gravediggers. During the on site inspection before the beginning of the campaign we realised that the mosaic of the presbytery of the Church of the Priest Wa'il was seriously damaged. The gravediggers performed a rectangular probe in the mosaic floor revealing, at more than 2 meters deep, an elongated tomb. It measured about 4 metres by 60cm and was about 40cm high. The tomb, in an East-West direction, lied exactly at the centre of the presbytery. The tomb resulted dug out in the very compact virgin soil of the area, a soil we already met in the probes performed in the Church of the Tabula. Rectangular stone slabs delimited the burial place on three sides; the tomb and its appendix to the West were covered with the same type of stone slabs; a strange U shaped stone most probably served to divide the tomb from the access to the tomb. Inside the tomb we found the remains of the lower part (from the abdomen) of two bodies, an adult and an infant, placed one on top of the other. The legs of both bodies were still covered by what must have been the funerary tunics while the infant was still wearing a leather sandals. A metal bracelet and two small rings, a small bronze cross and fragments of a necklace made of copper and pasta vitrea escaped the probe of the profanators of the tomb. All these made up part of the funerary attire.