Location: Scillato, Palermo (Sicily, Italy)
Cronology: Late Pleistocene - Holocene
Director: V. Forgia, J.M. Vergès, A. Ollé
The Vallone Inferno rock-shelter is an archaeological site located in Scillato, in the Madonie mountain range, Sicily. Excavation and archaeological and paleoenvironmental research were initiated in 2008 by an international team from the Università di Palermo and the IPHES/URV and has yielded extensive sequence from the Neolithic to the mediaeval period.
Stratigraphic studies have identified four complexes. The deposit was covered by a subrecent use level with a modern pastoral pen and goes back to the Neolithic, crossing through Mediaeval Period, late Roman period, and middle and early Bronze Age levels. 14C AMS dates, obtained from four samples in complex 3, place the human activities between 2601 cal BC and 644 cal AD. Middle Neolithic occupations are well represented in “tricromica” painted pottery at the bottom of the complex. An ashy layer dated at 10.860–10.540 cal BP has been documented in the lower portion of the known successions but has not been excavated yet.
Environmental data show the aridification and opening of the landscape from the base to the top of the sequence as a consequence of human impact. In this regard, however, it does not seem that the main activity documented at the site (related to farming and grazing) can in itself be responsible for such environmental changes. Therefore, these changes could be related more to human pressure resulting from the establishment of more intensive farming systems and the more aggressive exploitation of the forest (wood, charcoal, etc.), especially from Greek and Roman colonization to the medieval and modern ages.
Interdisciplinary research conducted at Vallone Inferno has documented a pastoral settlement and has sparked interest in a mountain range that, for the first time, covers the entire history of pastoralism from the Middle Neolithic to the modern age (with minor gaps) in Sicily. With respect to north-western Sicily in particular, the site of Vallone Inferno could serve as a reference sequence, providing a good set of information to better understand shepherding activities as well as the role played by the Madonie range in the Sicilian transhumance network.