University of Malta

Damiano Brachitta
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A Survey on the Lithic Assemblage of a Late Neolithic Settlement in Licodia Eubea (Catania Province – Sicily) 

I am carrying out a research that deals with the analysis of the chipped stone assemblage from a late Neolithic settlement discovered in Licodia Eubea (end of V mill. BC), a small town on the western boundary of the Hyblaean Mountains, in south-eastern Sicily (Catania Province). The huge quantity of flint artefacts amounting to over 11,000 pieces, the uniform shape and dimension of the blanks, and the great majority of discarded flakes, allow us to identify the site as a flint workshop, seemingly the oldest ever investigated in modern times in Sicily and one of the richest according to the archaeological data. 

The topographic position of the site gives evidence of a strong connection between the lithic workshop and the surrounding environment. In particular, the site of Licodia Eubea overlooks the flint outcrops from which the Neolithic community of the site exploited the fine-grain raw material implied in order to produce blanks and finished tools that probably it exported to a large territory. This important flint exploitation basin, which was widely frequented during prehistory, was firstly discovered in the 19th cent. by the forerunners of prehistoric research in Sicily, the Cafici brothers and Paolo Orsi.   

Furthermore, Licodia Eubea Neolithic site has given 757 obsidian artefacts, the most conspicuous amount in the southeastern corner of Sicily. The chemical characterization of the artefacts (XRF analysis) has proved that obsidian sources have to be localised both in Lipari (Aeolian Islands) and in Pantelleria. The circulation of obsidian artefacts, along with the presence of some sherds of fine ceramics in Serra d'Alto style, suggests that the settlement and flint production site of Licodia Eubea had a part in an exchange network to which it contributed by producing flint laminar blanks made out of a high-quality flint. The local flint was a very sought-after raw material for its strength and workability in the neighbouring areas - and not only – and it was intensively exploited for a very long period in prehistory, since middle Neolithic (mid of V mill. BC) up to early Bronze Age (mid of II mill. BC).

Another topic of the research consists in figuring out what was the organization and the role of the settlement both at a district level and at an extra-insular level. Besides the obsidian importation, in fact, we are focusing on how flint circulation could have involved the Maltese archipelago, where the presence of Hyblaean flint is widely attested since a long time. 

All these features make the Licodia Eubea lithic assemblage an ideal case study, and the present research aims to shed new light on the origin and the evolution of settlements devoted to flint exploitation and stone reduction in the Hyblaean Mountains. Furthermore, the ultimate purpose of the PhD thesis is to understand at what scale the movement of lithic raw materials, flint and obsidian, influenced the stone resources management in the neighbouring islands of Sicily and Malta, contributing to better define the relationships between them at the end of V millennium BC.

Funding organization: 

Self-funded except for a three-month grant given by the Italian “Ministero per gli Affari Esteri”


Prof. Anthony Bonanno, Professor of Archaeology, University of Malta

Prof. Cecilia Conati Barbaro, Università “La Sapienza” di Roma

Educational background: 

B.A. (Hons) (Laurea in Lettere Classiche indirizzo archeologico, Università degli studi di Catania)

Last Updated: 6 December 2016

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