Necropolis of Pantalica

The Necropolis of Pantalica in southeast Sicily, Italy, is a collection of cemeteries with rock-cut chamber tombs dating from the 7th to the 13th centuries BC. There have been thought to be over 5000 tombs, although the most recent estimate suggests a figure of just under 4000. They extend around the flanks of a large promontory located at the junction of the Anapo river with its tributary, the Calcinara, about 23 kilometres northwest of Syracuse. Together with the city of Syracuse, Pantalica was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

Necropolis of Pantalica
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Nekropolis von Pantalica
LocationSortino, Province of Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Part ofSyracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica
Inscription2006 (30th Session)
Area205.86 ha (508.7 acres)
Buffer zone3,699.7 ha (9,142 acres)
Coordinates37°8′30″N 15°1′42″E / 37.14167°N 15.02833°ECoordinates: 37°8′30″N 15°1′42″E / 37.14167°N 15.02833°E
Necropolis of Pantalica is located in Sicily
Necropolis of Pantalica
Location of Necropolis of Pantalica in Sicily
Necropolis of Pantalica is located in Italy
Necropolis of Pantalica
Necropolis of Pantalica (Italy)


Pantalica is located on a limestone promontory surrounded by a deep gorge formed by the Anapo and Calcinara rivers between the towns of Ferla and Sortino in south-eastern Sicily. In addition to its archaeological interest it is an important nature reserve (Riserva Naturale Orientata Pantalica), with a variety of local flora and fauna and natural caves (notably the Grotta dei Pipistrelli (Bat Cave)). Various pathways facilitate visitor access, including a disused railway track (dismantled in 1956) along the Anapo valley bottom. The promontory can be accessed directly by car from Ferla, or by walking down the old mule track from the parking place on the road from Sortino and crossing over the Calcinara stream.

Square rock-cut tombs in Pantalica
Tomb entrance in Pantalica


In the 13th century BC, some Sicilian coastal settlements were abandoned, possibly due to the arrival of the Sicels on the island and the onset of more unsettled conditions. New large sites, like Pantalica, appeared in the hilly coastal hinterlands, probably chosen for defensive reasons.

Pantalica evidently flourished for about 600 years, from about 1250 to 650 BC. The current name of the site probably dates from the Early Middle Ages or Arab period. The ancient name of the site is uncertain, but is associated by some archaeologists with Hybla, after a Sicel king named Hyblon, who is mentioned by Thucydides in connection with the foundation of the early Greek colony at Megara Hyblaea in the year 728 BC. For several centuries before Greek colonization, Pantalica was undoubtedly one of the main sites of eastern Sicily, dominating the surrounding territory, including subsidiary settlements. By about 650 BC, however, it seems to have been a victim of the expansion of the city of Syracuse, which established an outpost at Akrai (near Palazzolo Acreide) at this time. Nevertheless, it was still occupied during classical antiquity, since finds of the 4th-3rd centuries BC (Hellenistic period) are attested, as well as during the late antique or Byzantine periods. After the 12th century it was probably largely deserted, and overshadowed by Sortino.

The remains visible today consist mainly of numerous prehistoric burial chambers cut into the limestone rock, sometimes provided with a porch or short entrance corridor in front of the burial chamber, originally sealed with stones or a slab. There are also some larger rock-cut houses of uncertain date, often said to be Byzantine, but possibly of earlier origin. The so-called anaktoron, or princely palace, located near the top of the hill, is also controversial. Thought by some archaeologists originally to have been a Late Bronze Age building, inspired by palatial buildings of the Greek (Mycenaean) Bronze Age, it was more certainly occupied in the Byzantine period. The remains of a large ditch, cut into the limestone, are clearly visible at Filiporto on the western side of the promontory, nearest to Ferla. This probably dates to the 4th century BC, and represents a defensive work of Greek military design, possibly in line with a policy of Dionysius of Syracuse, designed to secure allied sites in the hinterland. There are also three small medieval rock-cut chapels known respectively as the Grotta del Crocifisso (near the North cemetery), the Grotta di San Nicolicchio (on the southern side), and the Grotta di San Micidario (at Filiporto), which preserve very faint traces of frescoes, and attest the presence of small monastic communities.

The site was mainly excavated between 1895 and 1910 by the Italian archaeologist, Paolo Orsi, although most of the tombs had already been looted long before his time. The finds excavated by Orsi are on display in the Archaeological Museum in Syracuse. They include characteristic red-burnished pottery vessels and metal objects, including weaponry (small knives and daggers) and items of dress, such as bronze fibulae (brooches) and rings, which were placed with the deceased in the tombs. Most of the tombs contained between one and seven individuals of all ages and both sexes. Many tombs were evidently re-opened periodically for more burials. The average human life span at this time was probably around 30 years of age. The size of the prehistoric population is hard to estimate from the available data, but might have been 1000 people or more.

Main monuments

Pantalica has five cemeteries spread over a large area:

  • The necropolis of Filiporto consists of almost 1000 tombs, located on the southwestern side of the promontory (accessed by road from Ferla). In the same area are the remains of a defensive rock-cut ditch of later date (probably 4th century BC) traversing the promontory at its narrowest point.
  • The North West necropolis is one of the earliest (12th-11th century BC), and is traversed by the tarmac road from Ferla.
  • The Cavetta necropolis has tombs and rock-cut houses of the prehistoric and later periods, and can be seen from the road and designated viewing platforms.
  • The North necropolis is a spectacular cemetery of about 1000 tombs covering very steep slopes overlooking the Calcinara river, best seen from the track coming from Sortino and from viewing platforms near the path. Remains of large rock-cut dwellings are on the gentler slopes to the east.
  • The South necropolis extends along the Anapo river for over 1 kilometre and is easily seen from the trackway at the bottom of the valley (a path leads down to it from the anaktoron). The old railway station, restored, has information about local fauna and flora.

The so-called Anaktoron (a Mycenaean princely palace) on the top of the hill is a multi-roomed building of large blocks, with various rectangular rooms, excavated in the 19th century by Paolo Orsi. Its origins are obscure (see above) but it was certainly used in the Byzantine period, as attested by roof tiles and pottery. Since no other prehistoric houses have been found on the hilltop, which is rather eroded, the location of the original prehistoric residential quarters remains uncertain. There may have been various clusters of habitation associated with each major burial zone.


  • L. Bernabo Brea, Sicily before the Greeks. London, Thames and Hudson (1957).
  • R. Leighton, Sicily before History, London, Duckworth (1999).
  • R. Leighton. "Pantalica (Sicily) from the Late Bronze Age to the Middle Ages. A new survey and interpretation of the rock-cut monuments." American Journal of Archaeology, 115 (2011) p.447-464.

External links

1997 Summer Universiade

The 1997 Summer Universiade, also known as the XIX Summer Universiade, took place in the island of Sicily, Italy.

Cathedral of Syracuse

The Cathedral of Syracuse (Duomo di Siracusa), formally the Cattedrale metropolitana della Natività di Maria Santissima, is an ancient Catholic church in Syracuse, Sicily, the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Siracusa. Its structure is originally a Greek doric temple, and for this reason it is included in a UNESCO World Heritage Site designated in 2005.The cathedral stands in the city's historic core on Ortygia Island.


Ferla (Sicilian: Ferla or Ferra) is a town and comune in the Province of Syracuse, Sicily (southern Italy).

The Necropolis of Pantalica, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of "Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica" is situated between Ferla and Sortino.

Greek Theatre of Syracuse

The Greek theatre of Syracuse lies on the south slopes of the Temenite hill, overlooking the modern city of Syracuse in southeastern Sicily. It was first built in the 5th century BC, rebuilt in the 3rd century BC and renovated again in the Roman period. Today, it is a part of the Unesco World Heritage Site of "Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica".

Despite its abandoned state, it remains one of the most beautiful locations in the world, offering the most grandiose and picturesque spectacle that there is.

Hyblaean Mountains

The Hyblaean Mountains (Italian: Monti Iblei) is a mountain range in south-eastern Sicily, Italy. It straddles the provinces of Ragusa, Syracuse and Catania. The highest peak of the range is Monte Lauro, at 986 m.

List of World Heritage Sites by year of inscription

This is a list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world by year of inscription, selected during the annual sessions of the World Heritage Committee. The first World Heritage Site in the list is Galápagos Islands, while the country with the largest number of sites (including sites shared with other countries) is Italy, with 54 entries. The country with the largest number of sites by itself alone (excluding sites shared with other countries) is China, with 52 entries. (F) denotes the country's first inscription.

List of World Heritage Sites in Italy

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites are places of importance to cultural or natural heritage as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, established in 1972. Italy ratified the convention on June 23, 1978, making its historical sites eligible for inclusion on the list. As of 2018, Italy has a total of 54 inscribed properties, making it the state party with the most World Heritage Sites.Sites in Italy were first inscribed on the list at the 3rd Session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Cairo and Luxor, Egypt in 1979. At that session, one site was added: the "Rock Drawings in Valcamonica". A total of 25 (approximately half), of all Italian sites were added during the 1990s (where it was a member of the World Heritage Committee for the entire decade) with 10 sites added at the 21st session held in Naples, Italy in 1997. Italy has served as a member of the World Heritage Committee four times, specifically, 1978-1985 (8 years), 1987-1993 (7 years), 1993-1999 (7 years), and 1999-2001 (3 years).Out of Italy's 55 heritage sites, five are shared with other countries: "Monte San Giorgio" and "Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes" with Switzerland; "Historic Centre of Rome" with the Vatican; "Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps" with Austria, France, Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland; and "Venetian Works of Defence between 15th and 17th centuries: Stato da Terra – western Stato da Mar with Croatia and Montenegro. Five World Heritage Sites in Italy are of the natural type, while all others are cultural sites (49). Therefore, Italy has the largest number of world "cultural" heritage sites followed by Spain with 41 cultural sites.

List of World Heritage Sites in Southern Europe

The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has designated 168 World Heritage Sites in all of the 15 sovereign countries (also called "state parties") of Southern Europe: Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Portugal, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, and Vatican City as well as one site in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. While Cyprus has territory in Southern Europe, it is not included here but in Western Asia.

The top two countries by number of World Heritage Sites are located in this region: Italy with 53 sites and Spain with 46 sites (43 sites not including those on the Canary Islands). Seven sites are shared between several countries: Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde (Portugal and Spain), Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes (Italy and Switzerland), Monte San Giorgio (Italy and Switzerland), Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura (Holy See and Italy), Pyrénées – Mont Perdu (France and Spain), Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland) and Heritage of Mercury – Almadén and Idrija (Slovenia and Spain). The first sites from the region were inscribed in 1979 a year after the list's conception, and included six sites in the former Yugoslavia and one site in Italy. Each year, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee may inscribe new sites on the list, or delist sites that no longer meet the criteria. Selection is based on ten criteria: six for cultural heritage (i–vi) and four for natural heritage (vii–x). Some sites, designated "mixed sites," represent both cultural and natural heritage. In Southern Europe, there are 150 cultural, 12 natural, and 7 mixed sites.The World Heritage Committee may also specify that a site is endangered, citing "conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List." One of the sites (Medieval Monuments in Kosovo) in Southern Europe is listed as endangered and four sites (Old City of Dubrovnik, Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor, Plitvice Lakes National Park and Butrint) were previously listed. Possible danger listing has been considered by UNESCO in a number of other cases.

List of archaeological sites by continent and age

This list of archaeological sites is sorted by continent and then by the age of the site. For one sorted by country, see the list of archaeological sites by country.

List of necropoleis

This is a list of necropoleis sorted by country. Although the name is sometimes also used for some modern cemeteries, this list includes only ancient necropoleis, generally founded no later than approximately 1500 AD. Because almost every city in the ancient world had a necropolis, this list does not aim to be complete. It only lists the most notable necropoleis.


The Sicels (; Latin: Siculi; Ancient Greek: Σικελοί Sikeloi) were an Italic tribe who inhabited eastern Sicily during the Iron Age. Their neighbours to the west were the Sicani. The Sicels gave Sicily the name it has held since antiquity, but they rapidly fused into the culture of Magna Graecia.


Sicily (Italian: Sicilia [siˈtʃiːlja]; Sicilian: Sicilia [sɪˈʃiːlja]) is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.

Sicily is located in the central Mediterranean Sea, south of the Italian Peninsula, from which it is separated by the narrow Strait of Messina. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe, and one of the most active in the world, currently 3,329 m (10,922 ft) high. The island has a typical Mediterranean climate.

The earliest archaeological evidence of human activity on the island dates from as early as 12,000 BC. By around 750 BC, Sicily had three Phoenician and a dozen Greek colonies and it was later the site of the Sicilian Wars and the Punic Wars. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Sicily was ruled during the Early Middle Ages by the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the Byzantine Empire, and the Emirate of Sicily. The Norman conquest of southern Italy led to the creation of the Kingdom of Sicily, which was subsequently ruled by the Hohenstaufen, the Capetian House of Anjou, Spain, and the House of Habsburg. It was unified under the House of Bourbon with the Kingdom of Naples as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It became part of Italy in 1860 following the Expedition of the Thousand, a revolt led by Giuseppe Garibaldi during the Italian unification, and a plebiscite. Sicily was given special status as an autonomous region on 15th May 1946, 18 days before the Italian constitutional referendum of 1946. However, much of the autonomy still remains unapplied, especially financial autonomy, because the autonomy-activating laws have been deferred to be approved by the joint committee (50% Italian State, 50% Regione Siciliana), since 1946.

Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature, cuisine, and architecture. It is also home to important archaeological and ancient sites, such as the Necropolis of Pantalica, the Valley of the Temples, Erice and Selinunte.


Sortino (Sicilian: Sciurtinu) is a town and comune in the Province of Syracuse, Sicily (Italy). It is located in the Anapo river valley.

The Necropolis of Pantalica, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of "Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica" is situated between Sortino and Ferla.

Syracuse, Sicily

Syracuse (; Italian: Siracusa [siraˈkuːza] (listen); Sicilian: Sarausa [saɾaˈuːsa]; Latin: Syrācūsae; Ancient Greek: Συράκουσαι, romanized: Syrákousai; Medieval Greek: Συρακοῦσαι, romanized: Syrakoûsai) is a historic city on the island of Sicily, the capital of the Italian province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in ancient times, when it was one of the major powers of the Mediterranean world. Syracuse is located in the southeast corner of the island of Sicily, next to the Gulf of Syracuse beside the Ionian Sea.

The city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans and became a very powerful city-state. Syracuse was allied with Sparta and Corinth and exerted influence over the entirety of Magna Graecia, of which it was the most important city. Described by Cicero as "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all", it equaled Athens in size during the fifth century BC. It later became part of the Roman Republic and the Byzantine Empire. Under Emperor Constans II, it served as the capital of the Byzantine Empire (663–669). After this Palermo overtook it in importance, as the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily. Eventually the kingdom would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860.

In the modern day, the city is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site along with the Necropolis of Pantalica. In the central area, the city itself has a population of around 125,000 people. Syracuse is mentioned in the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles book at 28:12 as Paul stayed there. The patron saint of the city is Saint Lucy; she was born in Syracuse and her feast day, Saint Lucy's Day, is celebrated on 13 December.

Temple of Apollo (Syracuse)

The Temple of Apollo (Greek: Ἀπολλώνιον Apollonion) is one of the most important ancient Greek monuments on Ortygia, in front of the Piazza Pancali in Syracuse, Sicily, Italy.

Temple of Athena (Syracuse)

The Temple of Athena is a Doric temple built in Syracuse in the 5th century BC by the tyrant Gelo after his victory over the Carthaginians at the Battle of Himera.

The temple was preceded by a cult site which dated back to the 8th century BC, with an altar discovered in excavation at the beginning of the twentieth century, and by an earlier temple from the middle of the sixth century BC.

Timeline of Syracuse, Sicily

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Syracuse, Sicily, Italy. Syracuse was the main city of Sicily from 5th century BCE to 878 CE.

Archaeological sites in Sicily
Province of Agrigento
Province of Caltanissetta
Province of Catania
Province of Enna
Province of Messina
Province of Palermo
Province of Ragusa
Province of Syracuse
Province of Trapani


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