Archaic Morgantina

The first urban settlement, dating to the first quarter of the 6th c. BCE, was located on the eastern end of the ridge, a locality called la Cittadella (Area III in Princeton's scheme). This town replaced the earlier, Iron Age settlement of longhouses on the slopes of this ridge.

Archaic Settlement, 1960s excavations (Princeton)

The new settlement pattern was marked by several new features. First, different topographical features were used in different ways: the highest point, called Farmhouse Hill, saw construction of a large naiskos with elaborate terracotta roof; the central plateau seems to have been the focus of the town itself. At the end of the 6th c., the lower plateau also became a temenos with at last three different naiskoi located at this lower, but still commanding, position, just above a rich cemetery of chamber tombs. Construction was markedly different from the Iron Age traditions; the new methods used mudbrick on stone foundations – some of which were much more than socles – and there is evidence for terracotta roofing on houses, public buildings, and sancutaries alike. The organization of the settlement is more nucleated. The town's buildings had doorways that opened onto streets running up and across the central plateau, some of them with steps built in, suggested food and animal traffic but not wheeled vehicles.

Roof decoration, Farmhouse Hill naiskos

A degree of continuity or co-existence between the two ways of life, and perhaps populations, represented by the longhouses and the urbanized settlement on the upper plateau may be inferred from the existence, until sometime after the middle of the 6th c., of one or more longhouses on the lower plateau. Imported Attic and Corinthian pottery on the floor of one of these traditional buildings provides both the late date, and attests to the hybrid nature of the settlement at this time. It is unknown if those living on the lower plateau continued the ancestral ways by choice, or if a class or status distinction is indicated.

Destroyed Sikel house and retaining wall for temenos

But with the demise (by fire) of these last traces of the Sikel architectural tradition, the area became reserved for ritual activity: a monumental terrace wall of cut ashlar masonry was created at the crest of the plateau, presumably the setting for the three naiskoi whose roofs can be reconstructed from the extant fragments.

The artefacts recovered from this town (which Diodorus called a city worth talking about, polis axiologos), are a varied assemblage of local shapes and decoration (Siculo-Geometric matt painted pottery but also incised and stamped wares often, incorrectly, associated with the western part of the island), and imported and locally-produced Greek pottery. Graffiti on some of the imports and local Greek wares is written in Greek and in Sikel. The imports begin with Proto and Early Corinthian, but a large amount of Lakonian pottery is also imported, especially kraters. Attic pottery becomes prominent in the mid sixth c. and some notable painted shapes arrive right until the destruction of the settlement in 459. Transport amphorai from Corinth, Athens, Sparta, Mende, Chios, Samos, and other origins are also found in both the tombs and the settlement, the earliest from the early 6th c.


The economy was a mixed one, with the cultivation of cereals and herding both attested. Caches of ca. 100 loomweights testify to local, presumably household-based weaving of cloth. Morgantina began to mint its own coins near the end of the life of this town, probably in the 460s (silver litrae). The imports, coinage, elaborate terracotta roofs, and a defensive city wall all attest to a polis axiologos.

The temenos on the lower plateau was destroyed around the end of the 6th c., possibly during the campaigns of the Geloan tyrant Hippokrates, and so was the naiskos on the east end of Serra Orlando. The settlement itself, however, and the Farmhouse Hill naiskos, were unscathed. The settlement on the upperplateau suffered a destruction by fire around the middle of the 5th c. BCE, presumably at the hands of Douketios and his federation. The Farmhouse Hill naiskos, however, continued in use until the early 4th c., and there is evidence for a clean up operation and some occupation in the 4th c. More extensive remains of the third c. BCE, including the kind of sanctuary in the form of a house as are known on Serra Orlando in this period, attest to a more extensive Hellenstic occupation. This came to an end in 211, however, and there are a few sporadic finds and poor walls dating to the Roman period. Farmhouse Hill itself continued to be occupied, probably by a farmstead, and in the Swabian period (12th and 13th c. CE)  by a monastic establishment. There were still inhabitants living on the hill in 1955, when excavations began and the last occupation ceased.

– Carla M. Antonaccio, June 2012 –