ARCHAEOLOGY | Panarea, the oldest of the Aeolian Islands

Panarea, the ancient Euònymos, from the geological point of view is the oldest of the Aeolian Islands. It is also the smallest and the least elevated island of the Aeolian archipelago. It includes a whole series of islets (Basiluzzo, Spinazzola, Lisca Bianca, Dattilo, Bottaro, Lisca Nera and the rocks of the Panarelli and the Ants) which together form a micro-archipelago located between the islands of Lipari and Stromboli.

The history of Panarea

The oldest evidence of life on this island dates back to the end of the Neolithic period. The finds belong to the culture of Diana (end of the 4th millennium B.C.) and are located in Calcara and on Piano Cardosi, as well as on Lisca Bianca. It is only during the Eneolithic period that the first village is located in Piano Quartara, a place from which the culture that characterizes the final period of the Eneolithic period takes its name.

The ancient Bronze Age, represented by the culture of Capo Graziano, has left its traces in a series of wells dug in the fumaroles’ area: they are votive wells, related to the cult of a deity linked to the healthy power of fumaroles. Recently, thanks to sporadic discoveries on the tip of Peppa Maria, archaeologists thought that there was a small stable settlement here.

However, the most important prehistoric intervention is certainly on the Middle Bronze Age village of Punta Milazzese. The inhabitants of this village, like contemporary villages on the other islands, were dedicated to the control of commercial maritime routes. After the decay of the Thapsos-Milazzese culture, the island became a destination for Etruscan raids but remained uninhabited until the fifth century BC.

Little is known about the Panarea of the classical age. The only certain news is that, during the imperial age, the islet of Basiluzzo was chosen as location of a villa. Also to this period belongs the pier that, due to geological phenomena, today is four meters below sea level. As evidenced by a fragment of a Christian altar table, Panarea must have been inhabited at least until the Byzantine period.

The Museum

Panarea is home to a detached section of the Aeolian Regional Archaeological Museum. Inaugurated in 2006, it is located in two adjoining rooms belonging to the Church of St. Peter. The first room presents the life of the island under different aspects: geological, volcanic and naturalistic. In addition, there are exposed the testimonies of the material culture dating back to the Upper Neolithic and the Ancient Bronze Age. The second room, instead, exhibits the materials of the classical age. Most of them are ceramic fragments with black paint and African sigillata from the funerary contexts of Drautto. The exhibition is completed by a series of finds from underwater contexts: Greek-Italic amphorae, Dressel and Cretans, as well as black painted pottery that belonged to the loads of the Dattilo Wreck and the Alberti Wreck.   

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