History of Sicily
1 Prehistoric Sicily
1.3.2: Age of Metals: Eneolithic and Social and Cultural Development


Il Eeneolithic period (3500-2300 BC), also called the copper age, marks the beginning of the metal age; in this period agriculture progressed considerably thanks to a series of innovations such as the use of the wheel, the wagon and the plow with animal traction. The latter was actually a wooden stick curved at the tip [1], only much later towards the latterplow2st century AD the plow is perfected with the metal ploughshare. Cereals, legumes, olive trees, vines and probably also pear and apple trees are grown. Man learns to make better use of animals in fact the breeding of animals (mainly cattle, sheep and pigs) no longer serves only for the production of meat but also for derived products such as milk and wool [XNUMX].


In the Eeneolithic period there is an increase in the inhabited areas, even if, probably, the frequentations in caves were still abundant; as evidenced by many findings including that of Major Grotto located near the Maggiore Hospital in scicli [3].

In addition to the huts with a circular or oval plan, there are buildings lying on the rock in which part of the environment is obtained directly from the carved rock and part is built with dry stone walls, in some cases as a Zubbia di Palma di Montechiaro, delimitation structures of the built-up area have been identified [4].

The urbanization process pushes towards a first social differentiation of the population. Various trades are born, including specialized crafts. The artisans of the time were specialized in the production of food containers, vases and cups and, later during the Middle Bronze period, also in painted pottery of Aegean imitation, bronze swords and daggers. The trade has already existed since the Neolithic [5], especially that of obsidian, a hard volcanic stone, very sharp and therefore used before the discovery of metals for the construction of tools, especially knives and scrapers. The obsidian trade was particularly flourishing on the islands Aeolian. The increase in requirements, not only primary, and the search for material not immediately available such as copper favors the development of trade and related activities. As evidenced by the types of burials, ceramics and metal objects found throughout Sicily, in the Metal Age the island was at the center of important trade with mainland Italy, Sardinia and Malta.

dagger in copper

The technique of ceramic processing evolved considerably in the Eneolithic period. You see a type of pottery with decorations and paintings (Conzo, Serraferlicchio, S. Ippolito), there is also a type of ceramic belonging to the so-called "Culture of the Bell-shaped glass”(S. Ippolito) typical of central and western Europe, testifying to contacts between Sicily and Europe already in the Eneolithic period.


Castelluccio ceramic


Culture of the "Bell-shaped glass"


"Bell-shaped glass"
Bird Goddess

Ancient bronze

The period of Ancient bronze (2300-1600 BC) sees a type of housing consisting mainly of small villages arranged in places where agriculture was propitious or in points favorable to the control of communication routes. An example in this sense are the Aeolian Islands which become an important point for trade with mainland Italy, with the coasts of Sardinia and even with Malta. These places will be among the first to see the first imports of Aegean pottery.



Centers in which a work specialization is highlighted have been identified a Monte Tabuto, Piano Arceri and Calaforno in the Ragusa area (flint extraction). In particular, in Monte Tabuto, about ten caves-mines have been identified, for the extraction of flint, produced in series and exported to most of Sicily. Some of the mines, once abandoned, were used as collective graves for the numerous deaths that occurred among the miners forced to work in inhuman conditions and without even a shred of union to protect them.


The huts of the Early Bronze Age are often small oval in size like those of the village of Montagnola of Capo Graziano a filicudi, in which the houses are partially underground and with stone bases [6], or like those of Castiglione close Ragusa [7].

Most of the villages do not show signs of defensive structures, some are however arranged in heights or in any case in easily defensible places, the first fortified villages are born such as ThapsosTimpa Dieri, Branco Grandepresso Camarina e Baravitalla not far from Modica.

In some settlements it has been noted that among the huts that made up the village there was one larger than the others. TO Lipari the largest hut is enclosed by an enclosure and the presence of minor structures adjacent to the enclosure gives the impression of seeing the prototype of what will later be the structure of the building [8]. It probably constituted a collection center or perhaps the home of eminent people in society. In fact, the phenomenon of the socio-economic diversification of the population, with trade and the specialization of work, will certainly have created the first distinctions between rich, less rich and poor, thus favoring the birth of hegemonic groups, as some necropolises in which some burials stand out from the others, for their richness and breadth [9]. As can be seen, certain habits of man have ancient origins.


 During the Ancient Bronze Age, especially in western Sicily, the culture of the bell-shaped glass, coming from Sardinia, did not come to significantly interest Eastern Sicily, which was instead interested in a different cultural phenomenon linked to the beginning of Mycenaean frequentations which will have particular importance for the innovations made in the field of burials and ceramics.

The phenomenon linked to relations with the Mycenaean world probably falls within a migratory context of groups from Eastern Asia. The contacts with the East are evidenced not only by ceramics, but also by the discovery of imported metal material from the eastern Mediterranean such as ornamental pearls, daggers and the characteristics. "Bones to blood cells".


Bones to blood cells

The globule bones are elongated objects obtained from bones and carved so as to be decorated with a castelluccio_osso_globulisuccession of adjacent raised globules, the surface decoration is completed with very fine engravings. Such objects had a certain diffusion throughout the Mediterranean basin since the Eenolithic age. It is not sure what meaning to attribute to these objects, whether schematized idols or everyday objects. In Sicily they have been identified within what is called "Culture of Castelluccio”Which spreads in eastern Sicily and southern Sicily and which takes its name from the prehistoric village of Castelluccio about twenty kilometers from Noto. 

During the early Bronze Age, the iblei area is strongly characterized by the so-called Castelluccio culture. Examples of the use of the façade of the tomb with false pillars obtained from the rock are a Lazzaro quarry o Cava grande (between Modica and Rosolini), a Cava D'Ispica - Calicantone and Cava D'Ispica - Baravitalla. On the latter site a real fortified village and a necropolis with about fifty tombs with artificial caves were found.


Cava d'Ispica - Baravitalla

In south-eastern and southern Sicily there are hundreds of settlements belonging to the Castellucian period, sometimes only a few kilometers away from each other, some of these sites are: the aforementioned Branco Grande and Paolina, Castiglione, district on the road between Comiso and Ragusa, Mount Tabuto e Mount Racello near Cannicarao, Spool cap e Aranci, near Chairamonte Gulfi, Monte Sallia, Cava dei Servi, between Frigintini and S. Giacomo, Ragusa Ibla, S. Croce Camerina,


Remains belonging to the early Bronze Age have been found in Calaforno, Giarratana (location Donna Scala), scicli (Grotta Maggiore), ispica (Contrada Scalaricotta), Big Pack (near S. Croce camerina) e Contrada Paolina .

Eneolithic and Social and Cultural Development

Castelluccio: tomb with false pillars

Middle bronze

Il Middle Bronze Age (1600-1300 BC)  sees an increase in economic exchanges in particular with the Aegean world, thanks to its location in the Mediterranean, Sicily is a strategic point for navigation from the Aegean to Europe. Aegean influence is significantly present a Thapsos, although destined to extend throughout eastern Sicily.

In the Aeolian Islands and in the north of Sicily, on the other hand, there is a strong presence of Apennine-type ceramics, testifying to privileged contacts with mainland Italy.

The socio-economic stratification described in connection with the Early Bronze Age intensifies in the Middle Bronze. Dominant classes are formed in society. It seems that the new power groups favored the Aegean cultural element. This would be testified by the fact that often the funerary equipment of some of the most monumental tombs is made up of prestigious objects of Aegean import but also by the particular structure of some settlements and centers destined for worship, clearly inspired by the Aegean.

Recent and final bronze 

Il Recent bronze (1300-1200 BC) is the final one (1200-1000 BC. approximately) mark a decline of the inhabited sites of the Aeolian Islands with the exception of the island of Lipari. In the whole island starting from the recent bronze, there is a retreat from the coastal sites, probably due to external threats that push the natives towards sites located on heights and therefore better defensible. The retreat towards the interior would be confirmed by studies carried out by L. Bernabò Brea on the villages of the eastern coast of Sicily and in some inland villages (Pantalica, Monte Dessueri, Cassibile).


During this period the Mycenaean influence is always present but begins to give way to a type of culture of the Apennine and sub-Apennine type, due to migratory phenomena of populations from southern Italy which will lead to new cultural influences also the use of iron [10]

The sites of Milazzo in the province of Messina where a type of culture called Ausonio appears which will join the culture of Thapsos. The Ausonio culture that affects the Aeolian Islands and north-eastern Sicily takes its name from the people of Ausoni coming from southern Italy and that in this period extended its influence to the Sicilian territory. Another particularly significant site is that of Pantalica who initially interested in a Mycenaean influence, in a later period shows auxonic influences.


The recent Bronze Age presents a type of ceramic of the sub-Apennine type made by hand (Lipari) but also ceramic made on the lathe and on high-temperature ovens (Pantalica). These latter processing techniques demonstrate how the Aegean influence was not limited to the importation of Mycenaean pottery. The fact that it came on site, made of Mycenaean pottery made some ask whether this pottery was made by craftsmen from the Aegean or if by local artisans who had learned the techniques of ceramic processing.

In the final Bronze Age there was an increase in the use of the lathe, and also the appearance of a more refined type of pottery with feathered painted decoration and geometric decorations [11].


With bronze it was possible to build more effective weapons, and we know that once you have the tool to resolve any dispute to your advantage, not much is done to avoid it, indeed it is tempting to create it. It is probably no coincidence that the Bronze Age coincides with the period in which wars became more frequent and with destructive effects for the losers. In the same period, in the Middle East, the first aristocratic states emerged, headed by powerful groups of warriors.


[1] The earliest evidence of the use of the plow was found in the Mesopotamian city of UR where a figure of a plow was found in the necropolis consisting of a stick curved at the tip.

[2] Guidi and Piperno: Prehistoric Italy p.483

[3] Giovanni Di Stefano: Small Guide to the Prehistoric Stations of the Iblei pag. 135.

[4] Guidi and Piperno: Prehistoric Italy p.479

[5] Mailand A. Edey: The ancient Aegean civilization .. p.28

[6] Guidi and Piperno: Prehistoric Italy p.479

[7] Giovanni Di Stefano: Small Guide to the Prehistoric Stations of the Iblei pag. 36.

[8] Maithland A., Edey: The ancient Aegean civilization p. 29

[9] Guidi and Piperno: Prehistoric Italy p.494

[10] Jaques Heurgon: The Western Mediterranean - From Prehistory to Archaic Rome p.32

[11] Guidi and Piperno: Prehistoric Italy p.490



History of Sicily by Ignazio Caloggero 

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