Area excavation

A mechanical digger opens up the excavation site at Casale San Pietro. Click to enlarge

After the presence of significant archaeological remains have been confirmed though trial excavation, we can then decide whether to move on to area excavation. Area excavation allows us to explore the surviving archaeology across a much larger area and in more detail. It can therefore provide a far better picture of how a site looked in different stages of its development, and increase the chances of us finding important materials that can provide more accurate dates for the remains.

Once we realised that there was a long-lived, built-up complex between the church and the road at Casale San Pietro, we opened the whole area up to expose the surviving wall-tops using a mechanical excavator. Antonino Meo became the director of this excavation and over the next four years he discovered the Norman, lslamic, Byzantine and Roman phases. His work filled our store with a huge number of finds!

The area excavations at Casale San Pietro. Click to enlarge
The 'Soldier's house' on Monte Kassar, located against the main fortress wall (left). Click to enlarge

This was not the only area excavation we did. Up on Monte Kassar, Paola Orecchioni and Fabio investigated an area against the remains of the fortress wall, which was 3m thick. They found the house of a soldier and a flight of steps that once led up to the wall's parapet. Monte Kassar is surrounded by steep sides, apart from to the north where it looked out over a shallower valley, and the fortress wall offered protection from this vulnerable point of approach.

Paola and Fabio also re-excavated a long building with a little tower at one end. This was thought to be a headquarters building with a watch tower that co-ordinated the garrison lookouts towards the steep edges of the fortress. They also recorded he remains of a little church at one edge overlooking the plain.

The remains of a small stone-built church on Monte Kassar. Click to enlarge