Sunday, May 22, 2005

Don't Cry for Me, Morgantina

This spring, I finally got to Morgantina, only to be fairly disappointed. There are two reasons for that: 1) I don't like ruins that are "too ruined" and don't look like anything, and 2) I didn't do my homework on the place.

Morgantina is near the Roman mosaics of Villa Casale at Piazza Armerina (see "It's good to be the Emperor"). So, in March, when Robin and Pat were here from the East Coast (of the USA), we went to see the mosaics and had some extra time afterwards. I suggested Morgantina, which I knew very little about but had seen the signs, books, etc. Plus, it was nearby.

Eventually we found it after getting lost once and thinking we were lost again. The entire archaological "park" is being renovated, so the entrance and newly constructed cobblstone (retro) road are quite impressive. However, we drove in and through the park without getting any sense of where we should stop, park, etc. Hmmm. We turned around at a dead end and came back slowly. Eventually we saw a ticket booth and got tickets. Then we couldn't find the parking. Then we couldn't find the entrance! AArrrgghhh! This was not a good start. I like to think I know what I'm doing or at least what I'm looking for.

Robin and Pat seemed much less disturbed by it and were content to wander among the acres of foundations and try to match them up with the drawings in the guidebooks. It was apparent that this was a very large site at one time and it was still being excavated. No one else was there except a very happy little dog who immediately joined our group. We kept wandering about, but nothing was marked. Extensive exacavation of an ampitheater was going on undercover. We followed a rough road or path up a hill. In all directions, there were breath-taking views, Etna being one of them. There appeared to be a faultline (earth shift) in the valley below. Even I could tell that.

Uninterested in the scanty foundations and even the wildflowers that seemed to intrigue Robin and Pat, I became annoyed that we had paid money to see nothing of interest. At the top of the hill, we found more foundations and ruins and even a couple of mosaic floors. We had a hard time finding our way down again and had to scramble over ruins and through tall weeds. I continued to grumble. (See photos of the area in sidebar link to My Photos.)

Later on, I found out that Morgantina is considered one of the Top Ten archeological sites in Sicily, and that it was discovered by a group from Princeton University in the 1950s. It is VERY old, dating back to the Iron Age, maybe earlier, like more than six centures BC! Then the Greeks took it over, then the Romans, etc. Hundreds of important artifacts have been removed from there, and some have been stolen and still sought! Many famous archaeologists and universities have had a hand in the excavation. Google it and you'll see (11,900 hits). Whatever the heck a "barrel vault" is, the discovery of one at Morgantina established the Greeks, not the Romans, as the inventors. To top it off, the town fell into decline and the population disappeared without known reason very early on (1st-2nd century AD).

So, I owe Morgantina, and maybe Robin and Pat, an apology. Someday I'll go back . . .some day when they have an interactive movie, a guidebook, intelligible signs, and everything open (like Pompeii, for instance). That little dog will probably still be there . . .


At May 25, 2005 9:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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