The island of Motya, found in the Marsala lagoon in western Sicily, has been the object of archaeological excavations by “Sapienza” University of Rome for over 60 years. Known for its Phoenician occupation (8th century – 397 BC), the small island (ca. 40 ha) was inhabited since the 17th century BC. Systematic archaeological studies have been integrated with multi-analytical approaches in the fields of archaeozoology, petrography and metallurgical techniques. The more recent introduction of archaeobotanical and palynological studies has allowed to expand our knowledge of the use of plants by the past inhabitants of Motya, complementing archaeological information with data concerning diet, food and flower offerings, land exploitation, past vegetation, environmental changes, and the introduction of plants from other areas of the Mediterranean. Pollen data describe an open environment, with scarce tree cover and characterized by complex anthropic activities. Anthracology shows a prevalence of Mediterranean taxa, such as Quercus evergreen, Pistacia lentiscus, and Olea europaea throughout the studied period. In terms of land exploitation, both disciplines support the archaeological hypothesis that Vitis vinifera was cultivated on site, also suggesting an abundance of olive trees. Furthermore, the presence of chaff and different sized weeds, as well as cereal pollen indicate local crop processing. As far as diet is concerned, a preference for barley can be seen in pre-Phoenician Motya, gradually integrated with naked wheats from the 8th century onwards. Interesting is the introduction of Punica granatum (pomegranate) from the East, previously hypothesized based on the find of a globular pottery vessel with an indented rim resembling the fruit, which was confirmed by the retrieval of six exocarp fragments in a disposal pit (8th - mid-6th century BC). Other plants likely introduced to Motya by Phoenicians include Juglans regia and Pinus pinea. Additional considerations can be done concerning grapes and wine. While the vast repertoire of Phoenician and Proto-Corinthian drinking vessels indicates wine consumption at Motya, and tartaric acid has been detected in dental calculus of 6th century BC Phoenician inhabitants of the island, morphometric analyses of V. vinifera seeds allowed to obtain preliminary results concerning the consumed grape varieties.
Human-environment interactions at the central Mediterranean site of Motya (Sicily, Italy) / Moricca, Claudia; Nigro, Lorenzo; Spagnoli, Federica; Cappella, Federico; Ferrante, Nina; Masci, Lucrezia; Sabatini, Sharon; Sadori, Laura. - (2023). (Intervento presentato al convegno XXI Congress: Time for Change tenutosi a Rome, Italy).