The Magnisi peninsula which separates the Bay of Augusta from the Bay of Syracuse is tenuously connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus of sand. Archeological findings have now ascertained that in the Middle Bronze Age (15C-13C BC), there grew up one of the most important prehistoric cultures here; this is further underlined by the recovery of Mycenaean and Maltese ceramics that suggest Thapsos continued thereafter to be a trading emporium of considerable importance.




Excavation has revealed a number of substantial remains from a settlement including various round huts from the 15C-14C BC; several of these preserve the holes in which the roof poles were held, and the central hearth. From a subsequent phase (13C-12C BC), there survive traces of a more sophisticated residential complex comprising a series of rectangular chambers arranged around a cobbled courtyard; these concur with Mycenaean prototypes. Note also, on a slope to the west of the site, the cisterns for collecting rainwater and the small ditch by which it was channelled to the settlement. Further south along the dirt track edging the area of excavation, on the left, may be seen fragments of the Early Bronze Age fortifications complete with extant foundations for lookout towers. A few hundred metres beyond this extends a vast necropolis containing some 450 burial chambers. These consist of small man-made hollows preceded by a vestibule, which in most cases, consists of a small shaft, dromos passageway or tunnel (these are more evident along the sea-shore where the sea has eroded the external wall). The burial chambers are round with conical ceilings: in some, the walls accommodate shallow niches (visible in one tomb where the ceiling has collapsed) in which the grave goods were deposited. These chambers were used for extended groups of people (complete families and dependents), and were designed to serve several generations. Entombment was by inhumation.