Archaeologists conducting research in the Valley of the Temples, located at Akragas on the southern coast of Sicily, have unearthed the remains of an ancient structure.
The city of Akragas, also known as Agrigento, founded in 582-580 BCE by Greek colonists from Gela, emerged as a major religious center, characterized by the construction of various temples on the ridge known as the Valley of Temples. Among these temples are notable structures such as the Temple of Concordia, the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Heracles, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Hephaestus, and the Temple of Asclepius.
The recent findings resulted from non-invasive geophysical surveys conducted by archaeologists in a previously unexplored area of the Valley of the Temples. Researchers utilized advanced techniques, including electromagnetic surveys (EM) and Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT), covering approximately 3000 square meters. The study, a collaboration between the University of Bordeaux-Montaigne and Italian authorities, aimed to map subsurface features before engaging in targeted excavations, optimizing resources and minimizing potential damage to undiscovered artifacts.
The team divided the study area into four sectors and applied electromagnetic surveys and electrical resistivity tomography to identify anomalies indicative of buried structures. Electromagnetic surveys utilized a multifrequency device with a range of 2.5–250 kHz, while ERT employed a multichannel georesistivimeter MAE X612-EM. The integration of data from both techniques allowed for a comprehensive analysis, revealing numerous subsurface anomalies with distinctive shapes, sizes, and physical characteristics, suggesting buried structures.
Archaeological excavations subsequently confirmed the existence of an ancient structure constructed during the Hellenistic or Classical period. The building, located on the edge of plateia IL near the entrance of the “circular altars” sanctuary, is built using large blocks of local calcarenite. Ceramics associated with the structure are currently under study.
According to the study authors: “As the excavation is still in its initial phases, further investigation is required. Uncovering the true nature and purpose of these structures hopefully will shed light on their role within the religious landscape of Akragas and contribute significantly to our knowledge of the ancient city.”
Preliminary analysis suggests that the building may represent only a small portion of a larger and more complex structure. Its proximity to the entrance of the “circular altars” sanctuary indicates its potential vital role in the religious topography of Akragas.
The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, formerly known as Akragas, has long been a site of archaeological interest, with its massive temples, colonnaded streets, and luxurious lifestyle dating back to the city’s foundation in 580 BCE. The recent integration of geophysical methods not only led to the discovery of buried structures but also highlighted the potential of previously unexplored areas outside the valley.