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ARCHAEOLOGY | The Archaeological Site of Contrada Diana

The Archaeological Site of Contrada Diana is located in Lipari, in a plain south of the Vallone Ponte and north of the Vallone S. Lucia. The large fenced area near the Palazzo Vescovile, bounded to the south by the former via Diana (now via G. Marconi), and other small adjacent archaeological sites belong to the main unearthed park. The entire archaeological area was established in 1971 by the then Superintendence of Antiquities of Eastern Sicily. In 1987, however, following the birth of the Superintendency of Cultural Heritage in Messina, it became the archaeological heritage of the province of Messina.

Systematic archaeological excavations have been carried out since 1948. For about twenty years, starting in 1954, the investigations were led by Luigi Bernabò Brea and Madeleine Cavalier, who helped found the site and, above all, the Archaeological Museum. The entire area of the site preserves memory of the entire history of the island and has returned evidence of the prehistoric, Greek and Roman age. Among these, of particular interest are the Greco-Roman necropolis and the remains of the city walls, to which are added two thermal complexes.

The necropolis of Contrada Diana

The heart of the Archaeological Site of Contrada Diana is the large necropolis. The first site to be excavated, for over sixty years of excavation it has yielded nearly 3,000 burials. The tombs were neatly arranged, in rows, and superimposed on several orders: the most recent, in fact, are located above the older ones. All the burials have a kind of N-S orientation and each of them was accompanied by an internal and an external furnishing. Eight types of burials have been identified: they are mainly burials in sarcophagi, more rarely in defunctionalized amphorae. The external furnishing, first placed inside a large vase, starting from the middle of the 4th century BC, is placed inside a shell of raw clay. In the imperial age, from the 1st to the 5th century AD, in addition to the reuse of old Greek burials, the tombs also took on a monumental form with enclosures and familiar hypogea.

The funeral rite was mixed and included both burial and cremation, with a clear prevalence of the first over the second. The rich grave goods, preserved inside the Aeolian Regional Archaeological Museum, were composed of figured and non-figured ceramics, metal jewels and objects, terracotta statuettes and masks, which reproduce characters from Greek and Roman comedy and tragedy.

The Walls

Archaeological excavations have brought to light the remains of two city walls, one dating back to the period of the first foundation and the other to the reconstruction of the mid-4th century BC. The oldest walls were found in 1954, under what is now Piazza Luigi Savior of Austria. These are polygonal walls, with large blocks of perfectly hewn lava stone, built with the aim at protecting the Greek settlement, which extended between the Civita hill and the Castle.

What is visible in Contrada Diana is the reconstruction of the first half of the fourth century BC: it is a 50 m long stretch, which highlights the presence of square protective towers. The new and wider curtain was adapted to the expansion of the Greek town. This second construction technique involved a filling of compact stones, lined, on both sides, with isodomic blocks of stone coming from Monte Rosa di Lipari.

With the arrival of the Romans, the Greek city was destroyed and obliterated by the remains of the Roman reoccupation. In the second half of the 1st century BC, the citizens built a new parallel line of fortification, which is 6.50 m from the previous one: it is the agger of Sesto Pompeo, an irregularly shaped work, composed only of dry stone and blocks of bare. The new walls were part of the fortifications commissioned by Sextus Pompeius during the civil war of 36 BC against Octavian. The walls, as well as the necropolis, are implanted in an area that had been the seat of the prehistoric village, pertaining to the culture of Capo Graziano: in fact, they cut the remains of ancient oval huts, built with the technique of the wall dry.

 

 

The Roman Baths

Besides, the Roman Baths are added of via Mons. Bernardino Re and via Franza. The first is located almost in front of Palazzo Vescovile and shows the remains of public spaces, with floor mosaics and drainage channels, dating back to the imperial age. Furthermore, the remains of a horseshoe-shaped tank, the frigidarium, and some adjacent spaces referred as tepidarium and calidarium are clearly visible. In via Franza, nestled in what scholars interpret as a working district, there is a more modest spa building. This is made up of three rooms, equipped with a cocciopesto floor, one of which, due to the presence of the characteristic tile columns under the floor, has been recognized as a calidarium. This second spa building dates back to the late imperial age.

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Area of the Archaeological Site of Contrada Diana and Lipari Castle