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Agrigente, Sicily, Italy

Laurence Cavalier

The so-called « sanctuary of Chthonian deities » is located to the Westernmost sector of the ancient city of Akragas (modern Agrigento, Sicily, Unesco site) and develops on three terraces on either side of Gate V which constitutes the main Southern access to the city. The Archaeological Park Valley of the Temples of Agrigento entrusted the exploration and study of this sanctuary to a French archaeological mission from Bordeaux-Montaigne University, under the aegis of the French School at Rome. The team currently includes archaeologists and students from France, Italy and the USA with a participation of the department of Oriental and Classical studies of the HSE Moscow until 2022.

From 2018 to 2022, we concentrated on the terrace to the East of Porte V, a sector that had already been partially explored. The sector shows two remarkable buildings: a "tholos" and a monument conventionally called "tempietto" the excavation of which yielded, in particular, a total of 34 Late-Archaic bronze phiales.

 The 2022 mission has been given new impetus. Within the frame of a specific action (the imprint of ritual on Ancient urban space) funded by the Grand Programme de Recherche "Human Past", we started questioning the sacred topography of the sector, namely the circulations to and inside the sanctuary, by means of pedestrian surveys extra-muros and trial trenches in the temples area.

It has been generally accepted that a wide East-West street  (plateia I-L) provided access to the sanctuary and served the V gate but its layout remains hypothetical.  In 2023, thanks to a collaboration with the University of Catania (department of Geophysics ) and to a special grant from the Départment des Sciences archéologiques (Bordeaux University) a survey was carried out in an untouched sector, to the North of the alleged plateia.

A limited dig at the location where anomalies were identified revealed a 3.65m-long, SE/NW wall section consisting of a single course of 5 preserved blocks of varying heights that partially rest on another, probably earlier, wall of the same orientation made of of larger blocks (ca. 1.30 m long). The ceramics associated with these remains are currently being studied and should enable to obtain precise dating and phasing for the building uncovered. Though its function is so far unknown, the location of the monument close to the entrance of the « terrace of circular altars » is of crucial importance regarding the sacred landscape of Akragas. The survey also revealed in the same area the presence of 4 or 5 other buildings, hitherto unknown, that will have to be excavated in the near future, which should shed new light on one of the major sanctuaries of  Akragas.


Mission de fouilles 2018

Mission de fouilles 2019

Mission de fouilles 2021


 Crédits: Laurence Cavalier


Researcher Contact

Laurence Cavalier, Ausonius