Massive 54,000 sq ft Roman villa of Durreueli unravels five centuries of economic history

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The massive 54,000 sq ft Roman villa complex of Durreueli at Realmonte, in Sicily, is almost equivalent to the size of an American football field. Suffice it to say, the ruins pertain to one of the largest ancient Roman domūs‘ on the island. And now, a collaborative effort between University of South Florida’s Department of History and Center for Virtualization and Applied Spatial Technologies (CVAST), has resulted in the unraveling of various features that were previously unknown in the last few decades after the discovery of the huge villa.

To that end, the Roman villa of Durreueli was originally found by researchers working for a Japanese-led excavation effort in 1979-85. And while part of the domus was assessed, a significant portion of the grounds was still untouched and thus remained ‘mysterious’ to history aficionados. This may have been because the site was overshadowed by the proximate Greek archaeological site of the Valley of Temples at Akragas. But fast-forwarding to 2017, archaeologists utilized terrestrial and aerial 3D scanning of the entire villa, which not only aided in the subsequent excavation process but also helped in mapping the architectural extent of the massive villa in question.

 
A month-long excavation finally revealed that the Roman villa of Durreueli was consistently occupied between the 2nd and 7th century AD. What’s more, the palatial domus was actually refurbished some time in 5th century AD, as could be evidenced by the discovery of new walls, floor levels, staircases and even a water channel. These spatial elements were complemented by the findings of physical objects like cookware, lamps, fragments of African Late Roman pottery and kiln-spacers.

Relating to the latter mentioned find, the proximate village beside the villa possibly served as an ancient production facility for manufacturing of items like pottery, bricks, and tiles in industrial scale. In essence, the discovery alludes to the fascinating economic history of Sicily after 2nd century AD.

Finally, the good news for history enthusiasts is that researchers at the University of South Florida are expected to continue their analysis of the Durreueli site in the next summer, with the aid of the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage of Agrigento. And beyond just objective archaeology, there is a symbolic significance to this endeavor, since the university’s ‘hometown’ Tampa is a sister city of Agrigento.

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Source: University of South Florida

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