The Little Hunt
April 14, 2012
The villa was almost entirely forgotten, although some of the tallest parts of the remains were always above ground. The area was cultivated for crops. Early in the 19th century, pieces of mosaics and some columns were found. The first official archaeological excavations were carried out later in that century.
The first professional excavations were made by Paolo Orsi in 1929, followed by the work of Giuseppe Cultrera in 1935-39. The last major excavations took place in the period 1950-60. They were led by Gino Vinicio Gentili, after which a cover was built over the mosaics. In the 1970s Andrea Carandini carried out a few localized excavations at the site.
In late antiquity the Romans partitioned most of the Sicilian hinterland into huge agricultural estates called "latifundia" (sing. "latifundium"). The size of the villa and the amount and quality of its artwork indicate that it was the center of such a latifundium. The owner was probably a member of senatorial class if not of the imperial family itself, i.e., the absolute upper class of the Roman Empire.
A well-preserved mosaic shows a hunt, with hunters using dogs and capturing a variety of game.