Northern Illinois University

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Michael Kolb
Michael Kolb

Photo of earring
This earring, which dates back to the 3rd or 4th century B.C., was discovered earlier this month in the hilltop village of Salemi in west-central Sicily. The jewelry is made of a high quality gold and weighs about four grams.

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

June 15, 2005

Field trip is golden
for student archaeologists

DeKalb , Ill . — A Northern Illinois University field school conducted in Sicily and led by Anthropology Professor Michael Kolb has proven over the years to be a research goldmine for students. This season, however, participants struck gold in a more literal sense.

Digging earlier this month in the hilltop village of Salemi in west-central Sicily, a student joining the NIU group from another university found a rare gold earring, dating to the 3rd or 4th century B.C.

The earring, which depicts a gold lion head, was produced by the Hellenistic Greek colonies in southern Italy , Kolb says. The jewelry is made of a high quality gold and weighs about four grams.

“The condition is exceptional, and it is quite a rare piece,” Kolb writes via e-mail from Sicily . “There are maybe only 15 to 20 of these pieces known in Italy . It was found within a Hellenistic period house floor and was probably dropped by its original owner and never recovered. We also found a variety of domestic debris, including wall stones and roof tiles.”

The earring is being restored in an Italian laboratory. “It will become the centerpiece of NIU's contribution to a major museum exposition that will be held concurrently with the preliminary races of the America 's Cup in Trapani , Sicily next fall,” Kolb says.

Striking gold is always good, but it isn't the primary quest of the NIU field school participants, who have been exploring ancient Greek and Roman ruins in pursuit of the lost city of Alicia.

Cicero, the great Roman statesman, and two Greek historians, Thucydides and Diodorus Siculus, write of the settlement as a place of wealth and strategic importance, occupied 2,300 years ago by the Elymian peoples. However, the exact location of Alicia, known in Greek as Halikyai, has been lost through the ages.

On previous trips, Kolb and his students have uncovered tantalizing clues that indicate the location of Salemi and Alicia may be one in the same.

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