ISOLA DI PANTELLERIA
Thanks to its fortunate geographical position between the Sicilian and North African coasts, the island, considered the black pearl of the Mediterranean Sea due to its volcanic origin, has been a reference point for routes since prehistoric times. Its subsequent strategic and military role is evidenced by the important archaeological finds, especially from the late classical period, known since the end of the 19th century thanks to the work of Francesco Saverio Cavallari and Paolo Orsi. In particular, the latter was responsible for a fundamental analysis of the data relating to the archaeological sites (Mursia and Cimillia, Santa Teresa and San Marco, Lago di Venere, Scauri) that are the subject of current archaeological research.
ACROPOLI – SAN MARCO
The Acropolis of Pantelleria, with a mainly residential function, rose on the hills of San Marco and Santa Teresa, a strategic point for the control of the island and the port area. Today the remains of urban elements from the Punic and Roman periods, part of the walls and the terracing system with a defensive function are still preserved. Archaeological evidence of the urban layout after the Roman occupation, monumental structures are also preserved. Sculptural fragments have been found from the imperial age, the three famous portraits of Caesar, Antonia Minor and Titus.
IL VILLAGGIO DELL’ETÀ DEL BRONZO (1750-1450 A.C.) DI MURSIA
The village of Mursía (1900-1700 BC), located on the northwest coast. Its exceptional state of preservation allows us to understand how the village was constituted: Next to the fortified village is the necropolis, the city of the dead, with more than fifty sési, megalithic tombs built in the shape of domes, dating from around 5000 years ago, when a people of African origin settled there, leaving traces of their settlement, a village with small dwellings and a defensive wall system.
The ancient inhabitants lived on agriculture and sheep farming, and had many cultural affinities with the neighbouring peoples of North Africa, due to the intense trade they had with them and beyond: in fact, the population based its development on the export of obsidian, and ceramics imported from the Aegean and objects of Egyptian and south-eastern Mediterranean origin have been found.
The settlement and monumental Bronze Age necropolis of Mursia is one of the most important and best-preserved archaeological complexes in the central Mediterranean. The settlement of about 1 hectare, bordered by a massive fortification wall, and the tumulus tombs are evidence of a complex society that characterised the island's population and was part of the system of relations and exchanges between East and West in the 2nd millennium BC. The village, already known at the end of the 19th century thanks to the research of Paolo Orsi and investigated in a series of campaigns in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Carlo Tozzi, is now the focus of archaeological research by the Soprintendenza per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali di Trapani, the Soprintendenza del Mare, the University of Bologna and the Suor Orsola Benincasa University of Naples, with the aim of transforming the area into one of the most prestigious archaeological parks in the Mediterranean. The village was founded in a strategic position on a small rocky promontory bordered to the north and south by two distinct inlets presumably used as landing places, sheltered from the prevailing winds. The promontory allowed for a natural defence of the site with its steep and craggy slopes facing the sea, while the eastern side facing land, more exposed and lacking natural protection, was surrounded by the mighty fortification (the so-called High Wall) of exceptional dimensions (length 200 m, width 10 m, max. height preserved 8 m).
LAGO DI VENERE
The Lake of Venus in Pantelleria is what remains of an ancient volcanic cone fed by thermal springs and rain. Its water level is 2 metres above sea level with a maximum depth of about 12 metres and a large area of the south side is about 50cm deep with a bottom of alluvial deposits. There are three thermal springs with temperatures ranging from 35°C to 58°C. The mud on the bank of the south-south-west side is rich in potassium, sodium and sulphur and other minerals and is used as beauty mud by the many bathers who use the lake as a place protected from the winds and easy to access, even for children. Its lake shores are inhabited by Schoenoplectus litoralis subsp.thermalis (the only European station) and Cyperus laevigatus subsp.laevigatus. At the edge of the dirt road that runs around the circumference lives a species endemic to the island of Pantelleria, Limonium secundirameum, other plants such as Plantago macrorrhiza, large bushes of lentisk and other herbaceous species. The area surrounding the lake is a protected zone and is still today a temporary station for numerous species of birds (especially aquatic birds), which migrate from Europe to Africa and vice versa and find an oasis suitable for stopping for a long time (an ideal area for birdwatching). Since ancient times, starting from prehistory, the lake has been attractive because of its uniqueness, so much so that a place of worship was built here, discovered by the archaeologist Paolo Orsi in 1895. In 2001, archaeologists from the University of Bologna began excavations, bringing to light the remains of a lake temple that has four phases of construction from the Late Bronze Age to the Imperial Roman period. The lake can be considered Pantelleria's most representative place because it combines its naturalistic characteristics with the undoubted beauty of the surrounding landscape, which is reflected in its waters so much so that it is called the Mirror of Venus.
A major archaeological site is the late Roman settlement of Scauri: this place was already inhabited in the 3rd century A.D., but it was not until the 5th century that it became one of the most important production and commercial centres in the Mediterranean. A shipwreck with numerous ceramic objects has been found in the depths of the harbour, testifying to the strong production and commercial activity of the prized fire pottery, while an entire fishing village, made up of dwellings and roads clinging to the terracing of the site, has been brought to light on the coast.