In the surroundings of Palagonia area (SE Sicily), several archaelogical sites testify to the existence of human settlements, since the Mesolithic period (7,000 BC). Examples are the village of St. Febronia and the sanctuary of the ancient city of Palikè, whose favourable position was close to an important communication route connecting the Ionian coastline with the Strait of Sicily. In the same area, an artefact of geological and archaelogical signifi cance is well worth consideration as geo- and archaeological site. The manufacture covers an area of approximately 300 m2 and consists of a system of trenches, circular and squared tanks and staircases dug into calcarenite overlapping volcanoclastic levels. In the whole site and its surroundings (ca. 9 km2) we carried out an integrated geological, petrographic and palaeoenvironmental investigation aimed at unravelling the function and use of the artefact. The stratigraphic succession is represented by a thick horizon of volcanoclastites (late Pliocene-early Pleistocene in age), draped by a thin level of lower Pleistocene calcarenites. Accurate petrographic investigations outlined the degree of weathering of the volcanoclastic intervals. Additionally, the geomorphological survey revealed the existence of a fl atted and depressed area, roughly elliptical in form and reaching a maximum dimension of about 750 m, above the scarp formed by calcarenite rocks. The fl atted area is fi lled with blackish sands and clays containing both continental and shallow marine faunas, suggesting a remnant of a lake, possibly close to the shore. The geological and petrographic data therefore, suggest the presence, during the recent past, of a shallow unconfi ned aquifer within the calcarenite, whose impermeable substratum was given by volcanoclastic levels. The aquifer and the system of channels, descending towards the manufacture location, allowed water storage. The artefact represents an ingenious and interesting invention of the past for water capture and storage, and our investigation pointed out the importance of taking into account the geological context in the interpretation of ancient settlements and puzzling structures. For this reason, we propose the studied site for both archaeological and geo-petrographic interest.
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