fields of research

Work in progress
Zooarchaeology Medieval Sicily
Middle Ages (~ Ve/VIe AD - XVe)
Interculturality Mediterranean diet Farming

Institution / Research unit


« Animals and their roles in the medieval society of Sicily : from Byzantines to Arabs and from Arabs to Norman/Swabians »
2019 - Supervised by Umberto Albarella.
University of Sheffield, UK

In this project, a number of faunal samples recovered from different site-types and dated to the medieval period in Sicily are analysed and compared. Zooarchaeological results reveal significant changes in the use of the main domesticates in the Byzantine-Arab and in the Arab-Norman/Swabian transitional periods. In the Arab period, the socio-cultural effects of the Islamisation of the island are attested by an overall dearth of pigs at most urban sites. By contrast, similarly to the Byzantine period, pigs continue to be represented at contemporary rural settlements, thus suggesting a higher resilience of rural communities toward the newly imposed socio-cultural and religious rules. Sheep become larger in Arab times; such phenomenon was likely driven by an interest to maximise outputs from caprine husbandry, and can be seen as part of the ‘Arab Green Revolution’. During the Norman/Swabian rule, changes in dietary practices with the previous period are noticed. Although caprines maintain an important economic role, pigs are again present at urban and military sites; such result might be an indicator of an ongoing ‘de-Islamisation’ of the island. At the same time, a further improvement of sheep size indicates a continuity in the Norman/Swabian period of animal husbandry strategies initiated by the Arabs.