Excavations on the site of Castellazzo di Monte Iato, near S. Cipirello (Pa), began in 2011 thanks to an agreement between the Iato Archaeological Park and the “Valle dello Jato” branch of the “Archaeological Groups of Italy”. The volunteers’ activities (directed by the writer) identified the surviving structures of the siege fort built by Frederick II during his war against the residual part of the Muslim population besieged inside the nearby fortified town of Giato. The sieges took place between 1223-1226 and in 1246. The existence of this fortified encampment is attested by a series of documents of Frederick II given in castris in obsidione Iati between 1222 and 1224 and by a passage in a chronicle, regarding the final siege in 1246. The historian Tommaso Fazello saw the siege fort in the mid 16th century when it was probably in a better state than it is now. It is not easy to distinguish between the phases relating to the first and second sieges, also because coins dating to both periods were present in the layers, separated by only twenty years during which it is not known what the fort was used for. It may be suggested that overall the fort’s structures did not undergo any substantial changes between the sieges.
The structures occupied a low rise with a large flat summit, situated opposite the east gate of Giato at about 400 m “as the crow flies”, separated by a gorge. This position kept the besiegers a safe distance from the missiles coming from the walls of the besieged town. Two stretches of the curtain wall surrounding the rise, three towers, and several rooms abutting the wall were identified. The walls were built using stone that was either quarried or collected on the site, roughly-hewn and bonded with clay. Two of the rooms were square and one was rectangular; inside the latter there were two column drums that probably functioned as furnishings. Four ivory dice, several fragments of prunted glass beakers, bronze buckles and clasps, and 25 coins were found in this room. Only a few finds were attributable to weapons. This suggests the room was a place for rest and relaxation for the besiegers or a privileged part of them. In fact, most of the arms, other military artefacts, and horse tackle were found in the other rooms: crossbow quarrels, arrowheads, buckles for horse tackle, knives and other objects of a clearly military nature. The presence of a burial, just outside one room, was also of interest. It was perhaps that of a Muslim who could have been one of the emperor’s soldiers. The cranium was orientated to the south-east and the grave contained a small gilded bronze boss incised with the figure of a winged horse.
With the exception of some fragments of Hellenistic date from the necropolis that previously occupied the area, all the pottery dated to the first half of the 13th century. Brown and green spiral ware cups of Campanian production and glazed cooking wares produced in the Messina area formed 90% of the fragments. The coming excavation seasons will aim to expose the fortifications on the southern side of the plateau where the presence of a tower and paved access ramp are known.
- Ferdinando Maurici
- Gruppo Archeologico Valle dello Jato
- Antonio Alfano
- Scavo su base volontaria in accordo con il Parco Archeologico di Monte Iato
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