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VIRTUAL - Life and death of a Christian community in Roman Sicily: recent researches in the Catacombs of St. Lucy at Siracusa

October 25, 2022 @ 6:00 pm EDT

This is an online event.

AIA Society: East TN (Knoxville)

Lecturer: Davide Tanasi

The Catacombs of St. Lucy represent one of the oldest and most important monuments related to the Christian communities of Siracusa and Sicily in the Late Roman period. The name of the complex derives from the tradition that Saint Lucy, martyred during the reign of Diocletian in the early 4th century CE, was buried there. Beneath the modern homonymous square, a large underground cemetery slowly developed throughout the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries CE, incorporating previous structures and hypogea used for funerary, cultural and industrial purposes that were then transformed into monumental burial chambers. The presence of the tomb of St. Lucy guaranteed a certain popularity to the complex even after the end of its use as a cemetery in the 6th century CE. The second largest catacombs in the city, St. Lucy’s was subject to exploration since the end of the 19th century, with major excavations conducted in the 1920s and 1950s in the four main regions in which it is divided (A-C). After a long hiatus in the archaeological investigations, new excavations and researches started in 2013 focusing on three still unexplored areas of the Region C with the goal to shed light on the complex history of the site, re-interpreting the pre-Roman structures incorporated in the underground cemetery and reassessing the Late Antique and Early Medieval phases of reuse. 3D digitization methods have been used to map the labyrinthine and multi-levelled cemetery, offering a clear view of its spatial development across several centuries, and to create 3D visualizations that guarantee virtual accessibility for scholars and the public to areas of the catacombs traditionally inaccessible. Bio-archaeological study and chemical and genetic analyses conducted on the skeletal remains of individuals identified during the excavations have produced significant novel data to assess the dietary habits, health status and living standards of a representative group of this Late Roman Christian community allowing for a reassessment of the limited evidence offered by the written sources.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Sgarlata M., Salvo G. 2006, La Catacomba di Santa Lucia e l’Oratorio dei Quaranta Martiri, Siracusa: Grafica Saturnia, 2006.

Sgarlata M., Tanasi D. (eds) 2016, Koimesis. Recenti esplorazioni nelle catacombe siracusane e maltesi, Sioux City: Parnassos Press.

Gradante I., Tanasi D. 2017, 3D digital technologies for architectural analysis. The case of the ‘Pagan Shrine’ in the Catacombs of Santa Lucia (Siracusa, Sicily), Archeologia e Calcolatori 28.2, 2017, 581-586.

Tanasi D., Gradante I., Hassam S. 2019, Best practices for digital recording and global sharing of catacombs from Late Roman Sicily, in Studies in Digital Heritage 3.1, pp. 60-82.

Matson Lecture

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October 25, 2022
6:00 pm EDT
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