Messina. The ancient wall of block 163: the mystery revealed (second part) – Tempo Stretto

Discovering pieces of history of our city. Between mysteries and finds

We discussed in the previous article on the wall of unclear origin found at block 163, with Franz Riccobono, and here we continue now. Although Giacomo Scibona attributed a defensive role to it, it is located right at the foot of a hill, a position incompatible with a defensive need as it invites an assault. Riccobono (parts in italics), as he told us, has a completely different idea about this structure with its enigmatic remains …

A fragment of an imposing hydraulic work

We said last time: if it is not a boundary wall, what is it?As already mentioned, archaeological research, especially in a particular area such as that of the alluvial plain on which the ancient Zancle develops, must take into account the morphology of the territory. The short alluvial plain that separates the crescent of the port from the Peloritane hills has always been characterized, not to say that it was created, by the waterways that flow from the Peloritan ridge onto the coast of the Strait. As for the urban or just suburban setting, we must keep in mind three main rivers: the Camaro, the Portalegni and the Boccetta. The Camaro – remembered by the Source of Orion where it is compared to the great rivers Nile, Tiber and Ebro – it is actually a short stream with substantial alluvial contributions that from prehistoric to modern times have conditioned the development of the settlement in the southern direction. It falls precisely in this area our wall, that in reality it is an imposing hydraulic engineering project that attempts to divert the alluvial supply of the minor branch – constituted by the axis of the current Via Santa Marta – shifting the flow of riskthe and of alluvial inflows from the north, towards the port, towards the south along the axis of the current Via Santa Cecilia, thus avoiding the problems resulting from the continuous floods caused by this small but threatening stream which, until 1908, it was called “the Fiumarella.

This certainly seems like a more plausible explanation. On what basis can it be demonstrated?

As I said, interdisciplinary research is always fruitful. In this case the stratigraphy of Plan of the Moselle, that is the space that from the axis of via Tommaso Cannizzaro reaches viale Europa, is characterized by a succession of alluvial banks consisting of predominantly sandy soils coming from the mountain which in their overlap have raised the countryside level, in some cases reaching the thickness of over 6 meters. The dating of this stratigraphy comes to us from the archaeological finds that date the different layers, so that in some cases, such as what happened along the axis of via Santa Cecilia downstream of via La Farina, the prehistoric levels were buried by successive alluvial levels for one thickness of over 7 meters. To return to the wall of via Santa Marta, from a cartographic analysis that considers the shares of the land it is clear that the original trend of the branch of the Camaro stream along the axis that sees the roots of the Montepiselli hill as the northern limit in a northerly direction, probably reaching the port – as well as the Portalegni stream – until the sixteenth century, entering the route now constituted by Corso Cavour and passing in front of the Cathedral, to flow into the port near the Church of the Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani; also in this case, in order to avoid the risk of landfilling the port and the annoyance of recurrent floods, the course of the Portalegni was straightened towards the south as it happened in the classical era with the wall
of via Santa Marta which gives rise to the axial of the current via Santa Cecilia, both for the outlet of the waters. It is significant that the wall of via Santa Marta is not transversal – as would have been appropriate if it had had to inhibit access – to the valley shaped by the stream that came from the mountain and which could have constituted an access road to the alluvial plain but it is oblique, precisely in such a way as to accompany the waters in the desired direction, that is, the Santa Cecilia axis.

Clear as water. What can we say about the dating of this ancient hydraulic work?

Not having had the opportunity to visit the excavations or subsequently to take a direct view of what was preserved in place, in the foundations of the is. 163, I cannot express specific opinions about the correlation between necropolis and artefact. However, the fact that we are located along a watercourse and above all downstream of an overhanging escarpment which, in the upper part, has returned since the 1970s a whole series of archaeological finds such as to hypothesize the existence of a sort of acropolis at the top of the hill. This circumstance leaves room for more hypotheses about the materials found in the foundation excavation of the IS. 163 since, in addition to what was found in place, there is the presence of a complex of elements datable between the 5th and 2nd centuries BC which in many cases could be defined as being of sporadic origin as they come from the leaching of upstream materials. In any case, the structure of via Santa Marta constitutes the most impressive testimony – in size, about 25 m of length – referable to an important monument of hydraulic engineering.

Concealment of archaeological remains: an underlying problem

In any case, precisely being an important legacy of our past, it should have been shown, but it is not. What are the possibilities of use?

After being unearthed, the important artifact remains buried in the darkness of an inexplicably inaccessible cellar, nor is the presence of such an important archaeological find in any way signaled on the outside. Alas, that of thethe “concealment” of the Messina archaeological evidence is a general problem that will need to be solved, as it is incredible that such important testimonies spared from general destruction are not offered to young people and travelers who could better understand the antiquity of theZancleo settlement started already in prehistoric times and not in the eighth century. B.C as trivially it continues to repeat.

Thanking Franz Riccobono as always for his availability and his readiness and animosity in divulging our neglected history, we conclude by wishing for a future in which Messina can truly become an “archaeological city”.

Related articles

This post is also available in: English