Pantelleria & Erytheia: Southwest Sicily Sunken Coastline to Tunisia
Original Blog: Posted Apr 18, 2012
Edited/Updated: Oct 8, 2016
Southwest Sicily Sunken Coast at the Last Glacial Maximum
Just like the southeastern bank of Sicily has a huge land mass from Ragusa to Malta, there is also a huge land mass on the south west bank of Sicily. The southwest Sicily sunken land mass does not connect at the Last Glacial Maximum. The depths between the Erytheia sunken landmass and the Sicilian coast are minus -140 meters to minus -169 meters below present.
Erytheia by legend would actually be one of the smaller islands in later times that had nothing but grass for feeding cattle, ox, goats and sheep. Since there is no elevation above 100 meters on the west bank, there is no water source, no rivers to provide a variation of plant life at the LGM. Therefore, this west bank of Sicily would be Erytheia of legend. Please note that the islands on the northwest bank did have elevation and rivers, thus would be more than just grasslands. As this phase the Erytheia land bank of grasslands (no rivers) extended from the Sicily coast down to Banco di Pantelleria.
Pantelleria island itself does not connect. Pantelleria is a volcano-formed island. It formed in the same way that the Hawaiian islands in the Pacific form and the waters surrounding Pantelleria go to depths of 800 meters and below. Pantelleria never connected to Africa and there is no landmass between the Tunisia coast and the Erytheia landmass.
Now during this phase West Sicily is definitely inhabited by Equus Cavepeoples. This would be the group of cavemen who painted wild horses in the caves. Caves on the northwest coast of Sicily are a testament to their horse paintings. The Equus cavepeoples would be related genetically to those who painted horses in caves in France; those who painted horses in caves in Wales, Scotland and North Ireland; the Basques; and those who created horse mythology in Greek like centaurs who also lived in caves. All groups genetically share the M26 gene INCLUDING the Equus cavepeoples in Sicily and Italy.
I know Wikipedia makes a mistake about Pantelleria island and they cite no source for reference, with 100 other websites quoting Wikipedia about Pantelleria island with no citation to sources either. As it stands now, Wikipedia contends that Pantelleria island was allegedly colonized 35,000 years ago by a group from Spain (or the Basques) and further contends that they are of no genetic relation to the inhabitants of Sicily.
The statement on Wikipedia is far fetched with no archeological evidence to support it and the genetic claim is contradictory since cavepeoples living in Sicily at the Last Glacial Maximum did have the M26 gene that the Basques in Spain also have. First off, if Pantelleria island was inhabited at the LGM, they would have had to swim or invent boats from Sicily (not Spain). Although there is a landbridge from Messina to Italy for cavepeoples to cross, there’s no landbridge to volcano-formed island Pantelleria.
But what it really turns out to be is that Wikipedia has no citation for their source and they skip all of the other historical groups in Sicily and do a Muslim-based history of Pantelleria island, beginning with Carthage. Carthage was not the first group to inhabit Pantelleria island. And since Pantelleria island is a possession of Sicily and Trapani, it is ridiculous that Wikipedia has made the racial choice to only quote the Muslim-Carthage version of history and ignore the history of the island with its other groups for 8000 years.
If Pantelleria was indeed colonized by a group at the LGM with the M26 gene (which Basques from Spain have), then it would not have been a group who travelled from Spain, it would be the Equus cavepeoples in Sicily who also had the M26 gene. Even though I’ve searched hundreds of websites for any name of any team doing an archeological expedition, there doesn’t appear to be any such archeological artifacts. There is no team of archeologists who have done the excavation that Wikipedia says in 2 sentences without citation of sources. There is no source of any carbon dating of remains on Pantelleria island dating to 35,000 years ago. And on the extended coastline it would be a 12-mile swim to Pantelleria. And a 25 mile swim from Pantelleria island to the extended Tunisia coast.
If Equus cavepeoples in West Sicily did allegedly have boats to colonize the island, then the M26 gene would be all across the north African coast since those cavepeoples had the M26 gene. Since the M26 gene is not all along the north African coast, it would be ridiculous to claim that they had boats at that time. So Wikipedia’s 2-sentence statement about Pantelleria island quoted by hundreds of others would be a false-statement no matter which way you look at it. False by genetic studies of Sicilians and the M26 gene and false because there is no citation of carbon dating of the alleged artifacts which only Wikipedia claims to exist.
Realistically, Pantelleria would have just been an uninhabited island at the Last Glacial Maximum with only birds and sea mammals that swam there. There would be no mice, no lower mammals since the island formed over a volcano-hot spot and was never connected to any landmass. All animals that presently exist on Pantelleria today were imported, other than birds and swimming sea mammals.
Links to Other Resources on Sunken Southwest Sicily
Southwest Sicily at the Younger Dryas
Since Malta’s first boat group arrived during the Younger Dryas importing cats, goats, sheep, and other animals the possibility exists that the southern region of Sicily, east and west was also colonized by the same boat group. But as of yet, no such archeological remains of a boat group exist at that phase. The only way to prove that it was a boat group would be the arrival of certain species of domestic cats, other animal species not native to Sicily, or plants not native to Sicily (such as aegilopoides einkorn wheat).
Although there are some older remains of a boat group in the Agrigento coastline of Sicily, as of yet, neither the west bank of Sicily, nor Pantelleria has found any such remains. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, they just haven’t been found yet. Or older remains of agriculture haven’t had the origins of their ancient seeds tracked down yet to show that they are an import.
None-the-less, if agriculture and domesticated livestock were imported into the island of Malta in this phase, the same boat group of Aegean origin had about a 95% chance of also trying to colonize south Sicily. Malta had an importation of domestic cats 10,000 years ago, which was most likely a boat group from Crete and/or Cyprus since domestic cats were imported to Crete 10,500 years ago and to Cyprus 10,300 years ago.
6000 B.C.E. – Obsidian Mining, King Eryx & The Origin of Perseus Legend
The obsidian miners on Pantelleria settled the island c. 6000 BCE and the remains of one of their Neolithic villages can be found on the west bank of the island at Sese. The group of obsidian miners who settled Pantelleria would be the same obsidian miners who settled Volcano Etna of east Sicily, the extinct volcano Casale of south Sicily, the volcano island of Lipari-Vulcano (one island at this phase), and settled Volcano Vesuvius in modern day Naples.
They are most likely from the island of Milos in the Aegean Sea seeking out other volcanoes in the Mediterranean and Tyrrhenian to colonize. Milos ends up being a possession of Crete during many different phases of pre-Greek tribal histories. And Pantelleria has all of the lillies and poppies associated with Crete and its Titan-Rhea religion.
Pantelleria obsidian artifacts are also found in East Sicily and Lipari-Vulcano. They exchanged different types of obsidian and Pantelleria obsidian is green obsidian. Which is more valued than other types of obsidian.
To the north is the origins of King Eryx and Perseus legends. There are actually “two” King Eryx’s. There is the King Eryx in legend that fought against Perseus at Lampedusa with the Lampetides and Eryx was turned to stone by Medusa’s head. Then there is the King Eryx of Herakles legend regarding the red cattle of Geryon and Helios. I do suspect that the Herakles legend might be a re-write of an older Perseus legend where Perseus name might have been replaced.
Most only call Eryx’s home on the northwest bank of Sicily around the Trapani area, but his kingdom most likely extended further south. And later groups moved in. Technically the entire west side of the island was said to be inhabited by the Elymi which would be a boat group related to the Etruscani, Esicosti and the Eneti. The Elymi are not the cavemen group but also would have had a boat origin.
None-the-less, in Perseus legend there is a battle on Lampedusa island (southeast of Pantelleria) with regards to Medusa’s head, the Lampetides, Dorylas, Phineus and Eryx of Sicily. According to Metamophoses 5, the Ovid Collection, right before Phineus is turned to stone with Medusa’s head, Eryx is turned to stone.
Perseus legend and the swamps that resided between Lampedusa island and the Libya-Tunisia coast occurred sometimes between the 60-70 meter range below sea level. Perseus travelled through Libya on foot to take a ferry from the coast to Lampedusa, Medusa’s home. The swamps between Lampedusa and Tunisia’s Gabes Gulf turned into seas. And many smaller islands in the region sunk. Technically the Gabes gulf housed the Okeanos river and the former Okeanos coast. Which by legend was flooded and the Okeanos coast joined the Tethys sea. In the story of Jason and the Argonauts, they landed on the Okeanos river and took their boat inland on foot to a large lake that later dried up. They called it Lake Tritonis which is modern Chott el-Djerid.
The majority of Perseus legend occurs in the Ionian and Sicilian Channel. Perseus himself came from the island of Paxoi in the Ionian. He crosses to Libya to get to past the Gabes gulf to take the ferry to Lampedusa island (Gorgon’s Sarpedon) to get Medusa’s head. And the Pegasus by legend is merely a “horse with wings that rides the foam of Poseidon.” In other words, in all legends of Pegasus, the horse never leaves the foam of Poseidon, or the sea. That makes Pegasus a boat, and the horse’s wings would be the sails of the boat. The sea god Phorkys was the original sea god of Perseus legend, later replaced with Poseidon as the legend was rewritten after being passed down by word of mouth for thousands of years. Phorkys would be the main sea god worshipped in a few of the Ionian islands such as Paxoi. Poseidon was an Aegean Greek god. So Aegean Greeks adopted the Ionian Sea-Sicilian Channel legend and rewrote their deities into the story.
What remains is the question: Since Perseus legend was rewritten so many times and Aegean deities replaced the Ionian deities, was the Herakles story of Eryx a rewrite of some older Perseus legend? Or perhaps a legend before Perseus turned Eryx to stone with Medusa’s head? Or are there two Eryx’s? One in Perseus legend at the 60-70 meter coastline and one at a different coastline for the Herakles legend?
If the Herakles legend with Eryx is a rewrite of some legend before Perseus turned Eryx to stone and it has a 80% chance of being one, then Helios’ red cattle would have been herded on a small grass island between the southwest Erytheia bank around the 60 meter level. Next to the island of Erytheia, is supposed to be the island of Gades, the island of Tartessos, and the island of Hesperia.
The island of Hesperia was described as having either excellent fruit of gold color (apples or citron according to Libyan kings) or a herd of sheep with golden fleece. The word “mela” in Greek has a dual meaning as “apple” and “sheep”. It is said to be an island of rich soil with lillies and poppies blooming all around the island. This most likely makes Pantelleria island the island of Hesperia as there are lillies and poppies that sprout up between the rocks all over the island. And any fruit or citrus grown in volcanic soil is the best quality fruit in the world.
If Pantelleria island is indeed Hesperia, since Hesperia is near the island of the Gorgons (Sarpedon or Lampedusa), near Erytheia, and Hesperia is near the Okeanos river of the Gabes gulf, with Lake Tritonis sitting off the Okeanos river in modern day Tunisia (Chott el-Djerid), then the question is which smaller island was Helios’ cattle on? Was it Banco di Pantelleria? Could it have been Banco Talbot? Or one of the smaller islands of Banco Avventura? It had to be an island that sunk as it had no mountain elevation, nor rivers, just grass.
At this phase, on the northwest bank of Sicily, the only island is the steep rocky island of Marettimo with mountains and rivers above 500 meters. Levanzo and Favignana were still connected to the mainland and Favignana doesn’t become an island until after 20 meters, or Hellenistic Greek times.
Therefore, Erytheia island in mythology was situated between Libya-Tunisia and Europe (Sicily) and in myth was near the Gorgones island (Lampedusa), and the Okeanos river (which extended from Lake Tritonis until the levies broke and all the fresh water went out to sea and the lake and river dried up) in legend had to be on the southwest bank of Sicily. Eryx’s kingdom of the Elymi must have extended all along the west coast in the past.
Although I don’t know for certain which smaller grass island on the sunken west bank is Erytheia, my first guess is Banco di Pantelleria. My second guess would be Banco Talbot. Later island Gades and island Erytheia get mixed up by historians because the islands sank. But it definitely has to be one of the islands on the southwest bank.
Other Sites with Info on the Neolithic in Southwest Sicily & Pantelleria
Southwest Sicily: Early Bronze Age
I tried my hardest to dig up a little history of the southwest coast of Sicily during the early Bronze age and really could find much. I probably just need to know the keywords in Italian, because the sites aren’t in English. All that is said on the majority of sites is that Sicily is tied to the Greeks with heavy Greek influences during the Bronze Age. But no specific Greek tribes are named.
Greece is a united group of tribes. But that unification does not happen until Classical-Hellenistic times. Prior to that, everything is pre-Greek. And during the pre-Greek times all the tribes were warring and trying to take over each others lands and islands. Many ports built along the coast were invaded by inland groups. When inland groups conquered a port, they’d try to conquer the island that built the port-city and then claim rights to all other colonies created by an island group.
So to say that Sicilians had “Greek ties” during the Bronze Age with heavy Greek influence isn’t enough information. Which colony-cities on the Sicily coast were connected to which specific Greek tribes? Because Sicily’s coast had all sorts of pre-Greek groups building colonies along the coast who mixed with the inland cavemen groups. Same is true of Italy
So since I can’t get more specific info, I guess I’ll have to wait until someone provides more detailed information city-by-city along the Sicily coast as to which city was trading or related to which Greek tribes. And although I have the information about other areas of Sicily and their port-cities, the Mazara del Vallo history seems to be pretty much obliterated by Carthage and the Marsala region had its history erased by 730 BCE Greeks, Siracusans, and Carthage.
None-the-less, most of the Erytheia land mass was sunken at the Early Bronze Age.
Before the Archaic Age of Greece: Renewed Greek Ties to Sicily
Shortly before the Archaic Age of Greece when all the tribes were still warring and conquering each other in the Aegean Sea, the Erytheia bank is pretty much gone. The only regions with tiny islands above 20 meters were Banco Talbot Est, Banco di Pantelleria, and two tiny dot islands on Banco Avventura south. That would mean that when Greek historians came into the region to try and find Erytheia, Gades, Tartessos and other islands that they had heard of since the origin of Perseus legends, that the majority of them were already sunken. Which is why such said islands get mislabelled for each other.
Most historians agreed that those islands were between Libya and Europe even if they didn’t know where and many were copying down older historians who had different non-Greek alphabets and languages. By Roman times all of the bank is submerged. The Roman-built coastline of Alexandria sits at minus -12 to minus -8 meters below sea level.
When it comes to Marsala’s history, the original city-colony there was destroyed by a Greek-Siracusan alliance in 730 BCE. Since Siracusa’s port was sinking, they needed rebuilding. Corinthian Greeks made a contract agreement with Siracusa and a few other east Sicily cities. The agreement was that if the Siracusans helped invade the city-port-colonies of an enemy of the Corinthian tribe that the Greeks would rebuild the port and temples of Siracusa.
I do not know which enemy of the Corinthian tribe had a port city at Marsala in this time phase, just that they were not Elymi. They might have been Pelasgians or some other enemy tribe of Corinth. But they definitely had one port colony at Marsala. And I have absolutely no idea who might have resided the region around Mazara del Vallo, since most of their history was erased by Carthage.
The wars continued to last for hundreds of years. The former pre-Greek enemy of the Corinthians was wiped out at Marsala. Segesta to the north became a Corinth-Greek state by 409 BCE. And then control passed to the Siracusans who sacked Motya by 398 BCE. The group living in Mazara del Vallo (before destroyed) came under Siracusan rule by 378 BCE. Then the whole region was re-taken by Carthage. The Romans came in by 210 BCE and the wars between Carthage and Sicily continued. This southwest area of Sicily has had most of their history destroyed again and again. So it’s real difficult to say. Modern Mazara del Vallo has one of the largest immigrant populations in Sicily and the immigrants don’t really care much about the history of the land, just the history of where they came from.
Other Links on Pre-Greek Southwest Sicily
* Mazara del Vallo: History
Author: Nancy O’Connor
Date: July 27, 2012
I’m fascinated by your research and your maps. I found you by searching for indigenous flora and fauna on Pantelleria. I’m writing a middle grade novel set in the 13th century. In it, a ship (with some young people aboard) bound for the Holy Land goes down off the coast of Pantelleria. I’m trying to be as accurate as possible, and have to deal realistically with how the survivors will stay alive. I also am intrigued by bringing medieval kids in contact with volcanic phenomena-the caldera, hot springs, obsidian, etc. Thanks for the work you’ve done on your site. Any source books you might recommend would be appreciated.
Author: Dominique Fourcaudot-Poisson
Date: August 12, 2015
Extraordinary blog and research. It will we fun and useful to mark all the same kind of discovery on one of your map.
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