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From Punic to Roman
Many of Palermo's most important archeological finds are displayed at the Salinas Archeological Museum. In town there are several sites where signs of the past are visible.
Punic Fortress: These are the excavations (shown here) beneath the Norman Palace, dating from around 500 BC if not earlier. These mark the recolonization of Phoenician Zis by Carthaginians. Under the Phoenicians Motya, Kfra (Solunto) and Zis (Palermo) were small trading villages, and their descendants (the Carthaginians) re-established their influence. (Number 2 on the Palermo Map.)
Punic Cemetery: The Carthaginian Cemetery, or necropolis, dates from the 6th century BC through the 4th century BC,. Palermo was under Carthaginian rule at the time; in fact the city itself was founded by the Carthaginians themselves around 400 BC, probably upon an old trading post established by their Phoenician forebears around 800 BC.
The cemetery is not extremely large; it contains a number of tombs, most of which are simply holes dug in the earth. The majority of the artifacts found in the graves have been removed, with most of them placed in Palermo's Archaeological Museum, where they can be viewed. The few artifacts that remain here, mostly terracotta pottery, utensils and jewelry that were buried with the dead, are found in several glass display cases located near the entrance to the site. There are two tombs here that are particularly interesting since the skeletons and artifacts contained in them have (by intent) not been removed in order to show visitors what they were like when first excavated. These two tombs can be viewed from an elevated walkway.
Unless you are a real archaeology fan, the site might not justify a special visit. However, given its close proximity to the Cuba, off Corso Calatafimi, it is not out of the way. (Number 9 on the Palermo Map.)
Punic Walls: Outside the Norman Palace, visible punic walls are located at the base of the medieval tower in Piazza Conte Federico and at the base of the Santa Caterina Convent along Via Scioppettieri at Via Genova (near the intersection of Via Roma and Corso Vittorio Emanuele). Our page on Punic Palermo offers a glimpse into the city's Phoenician and Carthaginian past.
Roman Panormus: Piazza Vittoria has a site of the ancient Roman city of Panormus. Most of the beautiful mosaics discovered in Piazza Vittoria are on display in the local Archeological Museum, which is worth a visit. Fragments of a Roman wall are visible at the base of San Cataldo Church near the Quattro Canti. (Number 8 on the Palermo Map.)
Why is there so little to see? The absence of standing Punic and Roman structures in Palermo is to some extent a result of the city's medieval prosperity. During the Byzantine, Saracen and Norman periods new edifices were constantly being built in the city, often on the foundations of much older structures.
© 2008 Best of Sicily Travel Guide. Used by permission.