NIU’s 2000 Sicily Archaeological Field School

Overview of the Project

Northern Illinois University's 2000 Sicily Archaeological Field School will take place May 24th through July 3rd. Northern Illinois University Professor _____________ is directing the program, part of a multinational Sicilian and Scandinavian project. The areas of focus for this field school include the hilltop site of Monte Polizzo and the surrounding Belize Valley in the western-central portion of Sicily. It is an ideal training ground for archaeological methodology and covers both classical and prehistorical archaeology. I am excited at the prospect of using my archaeological training in a field situation. On top of that, exposure to the latest technology in the form of a digital field recording system is also exceptional. The Sicily Archaeological Field School program is designed to introduce the newly developed digital field recording system that is being field-tested at several excavations worldwide. The system forms a digital foundation for the recording, processing, analysis and presentation of archaeological information through geographic information technology. With your financial assistance I will be able to augment my education with this wonderful opportunity to do field work in Sicily.

Description of the Project

Northern Illinois University's 2000 Sicily Archaeological Field School will be an excellent opportunity for me to put to practice all of the knowledge I have attained in the classroom. The program offers the chance to experience various aspects of archaeological work. The three main procedures that I look forward to putting to use during this field school are intensive survey, excavation and data analysis. Each process is a distinct yet integrated part of an archaeologist's work. The two sites, Monte Polizzo and Belize Valley, each have a long occupation period and held a diverse range of archaeological cultures for nearly 1,200 years of the island's history. They are directly related to each other and both sites will be studied over the course of the project.

Monte Polizzo is a proto-urban settlement in western-central Sicily. It is located on a hilltop, which made it easily defended, and commands a wide view of northwestern Sicily. The area has been dated back to the 9th -4th centuries BC. This time period spans the Bronze, Early Iron, Elymian and Hellenistic periods of the island's history. Belize Valley, surrounding Monte Polizzo, also contains Neolithic, Hellenistic and Roman sites. The Belize Valley plays an important role for local cultural change as well as the development of regional networks in Sicily. The study's goal is to gain an understanding of long-term social and economic interaction in the Belize Valley.

Historians have intensively surveyed Monte Polizzo and have begun assembling a database from the information collected. Intensive surveys include walking the site on the transits that cross the site. The goal is to record all traces of ancient settlements in the area. This goal is hardly ever achieved because many sites do not leave traces above ground2. Remote sensing has also been used at Monte Polizzo. This survey method detects sites underground without excavating. Aerial photography is another method used to view underground structures by detecting crop marks or shadow sites, telltale signs of ancient sites. These remote sensing techniques are then used to generate 3D models of the valley. Both macro and micro-scale models of the territory and the inclusive sites have been made in order to reconstruct various aspects of the ancient settlements3. Surveys done this summer will be an addition to these models and advance the progress of developing a virtual interactive navigation of the ancient archaeological landscape. I will be involved with these various survey techniques for the first three weeks of the program in Sicily.

The remaining three weeks of the summer will be spent focusing on excavation methods. Excavation is a destructive process therefore it is only done when it is essential to solving a problem or answering a question4. Stratigraphy layers will be excavated and soil samples will be taken for faunal analysis. Metal, imported ceramics and recently discovered local pottery will make it possible to put the local sequence in an absolute chronology. These finds should allow for an insight into the role the Monte Polizzo fortified city played in its regional and the wider Mediterranean context. I am especially excited to be involved in the excavation process and analysis of these finds. This excitement stems from the way that data will be stored. Data will be entered into the field recording system and a document is generated in the scale 1:1 to allow for flexibility in analysis and model design.

Sicily Field School is designed to accommodate students who have not yet experienced archaeological work by introducing them to field techniques. The program will be supplemented with readings and lectures in order to make the experience comprehensive. The archaeological work accomplished this summer in Sicily will be added to previous research done at the site and will be used for successive research applications. The opportunity to participate in Northern Illinois University's Sicily Archaeological Field School is one that will help develop archaeological methodology and provide a practical application for course work.


Fagan, Brian M. Archaeology: A Brief Introduction. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1999.

"NIU's 2000 Sicily Archaeological Field School." (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University, 1999)

Prospective Itemized Budget

Description: Cost:
Six semester hours of undergraduate anthropology credit, instruction, materials, access to field site, use of equipment, lodging, most meals and local travel to and from the dig site $3100.00
Airfare Round Trip Chicago to Palermo $1070.50
Uncovered meals away from lodging home $200.00
Uncovered travel, gas and admission fees to field trip sites $200.00
School supplies (binders, notebooks, writing utensils) $50.00
Miscellaneous unforeseen expenses $200.00
Total Cost $4820.50