The necropolis of Chiaramonte Gulfi: from archaeological excavation to a laboratory for social integration

A possibility of work and inclusion for the adults of the Protection system for asylum seekers and refugees (SPRAR), as well as an opportunity for restorative justice for minors on probe: the archaeological excavation of the necropolis of Guelfi has transformed from an archaeological laboratory into an experience of social integration.

It is a perfect example of cooperation between public and private, the one that allowed to return to the community the necropolis of Chiaramonte Gulfi, along the road between Syracuse and Selinute. The collaboration between the University of Bologna (Department of History of Cultures and Civilizations and Department of Cultural Heritage), the Archaeological Superintendence of Ragusa, the Municipality and the Social Cooperative Nostra Signora di Gulfi, has brought to light 101 burials dating from between the third and the beginning of the fifth century, with particular attention of the project also to the topic of social integration.

The necropolis, part of a rural settlement developed during the imperial, late antique and, presumably, Byzantine period, constitutes an exceptionally important site, not only for its archaeological and historical value, but also for its social implications. The beneficiaries of the work grants activated by the Cooperative also participated in the excavation of the burial ground. The research and excavation work on the necropolis has thus become a social integration laboratory for the adults included in the Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (SPRAR), as well as an opportunity for restorative justice for minors subjected to criminal proceedings.

An agreement set up in 2018 with the University of Bologna has enabled, thanks to the collaboration with several University laboratories, an interdisciplinary approach to excavation. To date, the activities are progressing thanks to the work, side by side, of researchers, students, asylum seekers and minors in probation, in a social integration project aimed also at favoring the acquisition of professional skills that can be spent in the future by the participants.

Andrea Cenerelli, a student in Archeology and Cultures of the Ancient World, highlights in the experience the value of sharing with the refugees of the Santa Maria di Gulfi Cooperative: "It is not just an excavation, but a shared civil experience, in which different forces coming from different fields confront each other to carry out scientific research." 

"The excavation offers the possibility of interacting with a world different from that which is part of the daily routine," comments Maria Carmela Oliva, a specialist in archaeological heritage. "With the boys of SPRAR we had a good time from the first moment, I am very happy to have had the opportunity to compare our cultures, enriching each other with new and old stories. We have become friends now, with everyone," adds Ilaria Bandinelli, who is also specializing in archaeological heritage, as well as her colleague Francesca Catellani, who points out that the encounter with these peers helps to realize what is happening in a reality that should touch us all closely, but that sometimes seems far from our lives. "Furthermore, to feel that we are useful, for the little we can do, to integrate these young people, who are inserted into a work and employment project (and not left to themselves): it is something that makes us very satisfied."