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20 January 2006
Traces of ancient settlement found in Sicily

Archaeologists working in Sicily's Valley of the Temples (Italy) have found traces of a settlement thought to pre-date the famous Greek temples built there in around 600 BCE. The discovery of a structure possibly built before the Greeks arrived came during preparatory work ahead of a project to shore up the ground near the Temple of Hera. Archaeologists uncovered a mysterious walled structure on top of which ancient Greeks had apparently built a shrine and a burial ground.
     Until now it has been thought that Agrigento was settled by the Greeks soon after they began starting colonies in much of the Mediterranean in the 7th century BCE. "It has not yet been possible to establish precisely when these remains date back to," cautioned Pietro Meli, head of the agency which administrates the Valley of the Temples archaeological park. Meli said fixing a date would be possible if and when archaeologists found pieces of clay vessels or ceramics, which would provide clear evidence. He noted that the settlement appeared to have been built along the line of the ancient road to Gela, a town about 70 km southeast of Agrigento.
     There are eight temples, most of them well-preserved, in the Valley of the Temples. In the 5th century BCE, at the height of Agrigento's power and wealth, there are said to have been 21 temples there. The present site, which draws thousands of tourists a year, was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.

Source: ANSA (20 January 2006)

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