The excavation in progress this year suggested from the very beginning that the human presence on the acropolis of Selinunte is several millennia older than previously assumed. In fact, below the first level of the Greek settlement, under a natural deposit more than a metre deep, pottery shards of the Early Bronze Age were discovered, as well as evidence of a Mesolithic stone industry (about 8000-6500 BC).

The discovery was announced today by archaeologist Clemente Marconi who, together with Rosalia Pumo, leads the teams of archaeologists from New York University and the State University of Milan who are carrying out important excavations at the Archaeological Park of Selinunte. 

Remains of animals and fragments of coal were also found in association with the first level of the Greek presence in the area, which will be analyzed by radiocarbon.

"The excavations confirm that the layer in which the spears were found stuck in the ground at the end of the last campaign corresponds to the oldest level of Greek occupation in our area. The discovery of numerous animal bones and charcoal should make it possible to date this layer with a certain degree of precision, thanks to the radiocarbon analyses that we will undertake in the coming weeks. At present, the layer is dated, based on the pottery and its position in the stratigraphic sequence, to the founding phase of the Greek settlement. Below this first level of Greek occupation the earth is clean, with no trace of an indigenous level from the Early Iron Age. This year's results, like those from the last ten years' excavations in the southern sector of the large urban sanctuary, suggest that when Selinunte was founded, the site had been uninhabited for many centuries."

The focus of the archaeologists' investigations will be on the period prior to the foundation of Selinunte by the Megarians in 650 BC in order to reconstruct the history of the territory in its entirety. In this context the foundations of Temple C were uncovered.

"It's an exciting finding and I see that the foundations are a bit below ground level. This will allow us to date with certainty the start of temple's construction, which is dedicated to Apollo, and which ancient sources date back to 540 BC, while the completion of the structure is said to have taken place in 510 BC."

The excavation campaign will continue in the coming weeks and will focus on the acropolis of the Greek city.

Image credit: La Repubblica