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B.C. - Before the traditional birth of Jesus Christ. Also B.C.E., before the "common" era.|
Bronze Age - Era of first tools and weapons made from copper and bronze, in Greece
beginning around 3000 BC, prior to Iron Age.
Copper Age - Earliest period of the Bronze Age, varying by region, before copper was alloyed with tin to form bronze for tools and weapons.
Early Minoan - Minoan (Cretan) civilization from 4000 BC to 2100
Indo-European - Many societies of Europe, southern Asia and southwest
Asia, identifiable by 1000 BC based on linguistic similarities.
Iron Age - Era of tools made from iron, beginning around 1200 BC, in Greece around 1100 BC, in Sicily probably with Greeks circa 700 BC. Followed Bronze Age.
Late Bronze Age - In Sicily the era from about 1270 BC until circa 650 BC, immediately prior to Iron Age introduced by Greeks.
Late Minoan - Minoan (Cretan) civilization from 1550 BC to 1100 BC.
Middle Minoan - Minoan (Cretan) civilization from 2100 BC to 1550
Minoan - Aegean civilization of ancient Crete, from 4000 BC to 1100
Mycenean - Late Bronze Age civilization of ancient Peloponnese contemporary to Late Minoan (Cretan) development. Relating to ancient Mycenae.
Phoenician - Semitic language of ancient Phoenicians.
Sicanian - Native people of Sicily, from "sika" for chalcedony
(Italian "selce") found in valleys they inhabited. Origins identified from 2000-1600 BC following Proto-Sicanian cultures.
Sicels - Also Sikels from Greek "Si'Keloi," Italic people
arriving in eastern Sicily circa 1200 BC.
The Sicels (or Sikels, from the Greek Sikeloi),
though considered one of the three "indigenous" societies of Sicily
(with the Sicanians and Elymians),
were an Italic people who arrived several centuries before the Phoenicians
and Greeks, probably between 1200 and 1000 BC (BCE), perhaps shortly after the arrival of
the Elymians. It is fair to say that we probably know more about the Sicels
than we do about the Sicanians or Elymians, from archeological as well as
Greek literary sources. Though the Elymians assimilated with the Greeks
quite readily and easily, the Sicels constituted a highly developed society
that the Greeks respected profoundly, even if occasional conflicts arose
between Sikelian and Hellenic populations. Indeed, it took several centuries
for the Sicels to complete assimilate and amalgamate with their Greek neighbors. Except for the Romans, the Sicels were the only predominantly Italic people
to settle in Sicily in large numbers as colonists.
Generally, the Sicels occupied a region extending from Cape Peloro, north
of Messina, into the Peloritan and Nebrodi mountains, southwest toward Henna (Enna)
and southward beyond Etna, to include a strip of coastal and inland areas
toward Sicily's southeastern tip. They had extensive --usually peaceful--
contact with the Sicanians (Sicily's earliest race), who their settlements
gradually displaced toward the west. Coincidentally, the Sicels were present
in the first part of Sicily colonised by Greeks, whose initial, exploratory
incursions began as early as 800 BC.
There are theories that the Sicels came from Liguria or Latium, and some
scholars have also suggested an affinity with the Lucanian culture. A close
link with the Etruscans (themselves early arrivals from beyond Italy) seems
less likely. The Sicels' distinctive religious cults, characterised by worship
of the Palikoi and other deities, co-existed well with veneration of the
Hellenic gods. The Greek writer Thucydides attributes an Italic origin to
the Sicels, and evidence supports this, but the accuracy of the quasi-historical
musings of certain Greek writers (particularly Diodoros Siculos) has been
called into question for a long time.
Identifying typically "Sicel" gene markers has, for the moment, proven challenging. In considering the earliest Sicilian societies, the very term "indigenous" is rather subjective because "modern" humans actually migrated to the Mediterranean region, albeit tens of millennia ago. (Nobody has "always" been here; in terms of remote human ancestry, we're all "African.")
The Sikelian language shared at least some characteristics with the languages
that evolved into Latin; Siculan was probably an Italic
tongue. Unlike Sicanian, Siculan was clearly Indo-European. It is generally
accepted that the Sicels were related to various Italic peoples, such as
the Italoi and Opicans, who were eventually assimilated by Oscan-speaking
peoples, and this explains a degree of cultural affinity with the Italoi
(of nearby Calabria). It is believed that Siculan was not written
until the Greeks introduced their alphabet in Sicily. The Siculan "Inscription
of Sciri" (near Caltagirone) consists of characters similar to Roman
ones, though with some Greek elements. The verb "to be" in Sicel
appears to have been esti --similar to Greek and to the Latin est.
So far as we know, the most important Sicel towns were Agyrium, Centuripae,
Henna and three towns called Hybla, all still inhabited today. Their society
was a loose federation which one of their last great leaders, the Hellenised
Ducetius (Docetios), tried to restore and then liberate from Greek influence in a series of revolts in the 440s BC. In the end, the Greek Syracusans
defeated the Sicels and destroyed their shrine at Palické.
Even Ducetius' name seems Latin (akin to the Latin dux meaning
"leader"), but his education was Greek and he spent time at Corinth.
When it was convenient, he played Greek against Greek, an effective strategy
because Sicily's Greek cities were, in effect, independent states. In 446
BC, following a series of military defeats, Ducetius founded the Siculo-Greek
city of Cale Acte, on the northern coast in what is now the province of
Messina. He died around 440.
Genetic Research: In general, studies of population genetics in Sicily tend to confirm, rather than refute, what we already presume to know about the various Sicilian peoples based on available historical, archeological and ethnological information. Here is a brief summary of an early genetic study involving potential identification of Sicily's three "native" peoples correlative to genetic factors in the current population:
Autosomal Microsatellite and mtDNA Genetic Analysis in Sicily
DNA samples from 465 blood donors living
in seven (7) towns of Sicily have been collected according
to well defined criteria, and their genetic heterogeneity tested on the
basis of 9 autosomal microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms
for a total of 85 microsatellite allele and 10 mtDNA haplogroup frequencies.
A preliminary account of the results shows that: a) the samples are genetically
heterogeneous; b) the first principal coordinates of the samples are correlated
more with their longitude than with their latitude, and this result is even
more remarkable when one outlier sample (Butera) is not considered; c) distances
among samples calculated from allele and haplogroup frequencies and from
the isonymy matrix are weakly correlated (r = 0.43, P = 0.06) but such correlation
disappears (r = 0.16) if the mtDNA haplogroups alone are taken into account;
d) mtDNA haplogroups and microsatellite distances suggest settlements of
people occurred at different times: divergence times inferred from microsatellite
data seem to describe a genetic composition of the town of Sciacca mainly
derived from settlements after the Roman conquest of Sicily (First Punic
War, 246 BC), while all other divergence times take root from the second
to the first millennium BC, and therefore seem to backdate to the pre-Hellenistic
A more reliable association of these diachronic
genetic strata to different historical populations (e.g. Sicani, Elymians, Sicels), if possible, must be postponed to the analysis of more samples
and hopefully more informative uniparental DNA markers such as the recently
available DHPLC-SNP polymorphisms of the Y chromosome.
V. Romano, F. Calì, A. Ragalmuto, R. P.
D'Anna, A. Flugy, G. De Leo, O. Giambalvo, A. Lisa, O. Fiorani, C. Di Gaetano,
A. Salerno, R. Tamouza, D. Charron, G. Zei, G. Matullo and A. Piazza
- - - Annals of Human Genetics, January 2003 (Volume 67, Number 1, Page 42).
About the Author: Palermo native Vincenzo Salerno has written biographies of several famous Sicilians, including Frederick II and Giuseppe di Lampedusa.