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A Taste of Ancient Sicily: Food, farming and family life
Martin Carver, Louis Carver, Laura Elias, Beppe Lombardo and BioArCh scientists

Peacock ware dish from Palermo, 10th century AD. Credit: Martin Carver and the University of YorkPeacock ware dish from Palermo, 10th century AD. Credit: Martin Carver and the University of York
  • Saturday 16 June 2018, 10.00AM to 2.00pm (Talk 12.00pm to 1.00pm)
  • Free admission
    Booking required for the talk and tasting
    Book tickets
  • King's Manor, Exhibition Square (map)
  • Wheelchair accessible

Event details

Join us for a taste of ancient Sicily.

Starting from the find of a brightly-coloured Islamic dish of the 10th century, archaeologist Martin Carver, filmmaker Louis Carver, artist Laura Elias and a team of scientists from the University of York's BioArCh Laboratory take you on a Sicilian adventure. Travel with them through 700 years and four consecutive changes in regime – Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Norman – and learn about food, farming and family life in ancient Sicily.

Based on research by the Universities of York, Rome and Salento for the European Research Council, a series of inter-connected events will show how farmers and artisans coped with seven centuries of political upheaval. Events will include science displays, a film, an exhibition and a talk, as well as a chance to try some Sicilian food.

Leoluca Orlando, the current mayor of Palermo, stands on a platform of multi-cultural tolerance of which he is rightly proud.  But was this always the case in Sicily, through so much invasion and immigration? Going back to the first millennium, using detective sciences, researchers have found a significant connection between times of turbulence and periods when food was short and work hard to find. The people of Sicily embraced multiculturalism most easily when farmers and merchants flourished.  Find out why there have been few European periods of prosperity and learning as vivid as that enjoyed by Greeks, Arabs, Christians, Muslims and Jews living side by side in Sicily one thousand years ago.

What’s on offer:

  1. Join us for a short film about the excavation that has taken place over the last four years at Castronovo di Sicilia on the main road from Palermo to Agrigento. The film explores archaeologists’ revelations of life in 6th to 13th-century Sicily and lets you feel what it was like to be in the team digging it up.
    The film will be available on a loop to view from 10am to 12 noon. No booking required.
  2. Archaeologist Martin Carver will present an illustrated talk on the research project ‘Exploring the Archaeology of Regime Change: Sicily in Transition’. Learn how, for the European Research Council, researchers from the Universities of York, Rome and Salento are using sherds, animal bones, plants and human skeletons to address the big question: how do invasion, immigration, innovation, new foodstuffs, art and economics intersect, reinforce or inhibit each other?
    Booking required.
  3. An exhibition of works by artist Laura Elias will bring to life the Sicilian countryside and people, as well as the adventures of the archaeologists who work there.
    No booking required.
  4. Scientists from BioArCh, a collaborative research facility formed by the Archaeology, Biology and Chemistry Departments at the University of York, will be on hand with displays to explain how they investigate the past. Find out what researchers have found in cooking pots and jugs, what Sicilians ate and what their animals were like.
    No booking required.
  5. Try some famous dishes from Sicily against a background timeline showing how the diet changed with Byzantine, Arab and Norman culture. Join researchers and Sicilian chef Beppe Lombardo of the Trinacria café bar and learn how the Arabs introduced sugar, oranges and lemons into 10th-century Sicily, as well as about the variations of the pasticceria from cassata to cannoli that have spread the sweet tooth of the Orient throughout Europe.
    From 1pm to 2pm. Ticketed with the talk (please see above).

About the speakers

Martin Carver is anEmeritus Professor at the University of York and was Head of Archaeology at York from 1986 to 1996. He has directed archaeological research in England, Scotland, France, Italy and Algeria and has authored or edited 20 books.

Louis Carver trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Since graduating in 2013, he has designed opera, drama and devised theatre. He works on the Sicily in Transition (SICTRANSIT) project as one of the excavators as well as filmmaker.

Laura Elias is artist-in-residence on the SICTRANSIT research project. She is a graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Dr Léa Drieu, a Postdoctoral Research Associate, and PhD research students Jasmine Lundy, Alice Ughi and Aurore Monnereau are from BioArch – a collaborative research facility formed by the Archaeology, Biology and Chemistry Departments at the University of York. Veronica Aniceti is completing her PhD on animal bones at the University of Sheffield.

Beppe Lombardo runs the Trinacria Café Bar in York and has many years of experience in catering establishments in the UK and Italy.

Exploring the Archaeology of Regime Change: Sicily in Transition

Find out more about the five-year research project which is explored through these inter-related events at


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