Item Details

The Archaeology of Contemporary Migrant Journeys in Western Sicily

Issue: Vol 32 No. 2 (2019)

Journal: Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology

Subject Areas: Ancient History Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/jma.40579


The Sicilian Channel between Sicily and North Africa receives global attention as a major migratory routefor undocumented people entering Europe clandestinely, a tragic nexus of transnational displacement anddesperation. While the plight of massively overloaded and unseaworthy boats of people justifiably receivesthe bulk of media attention, there is a less-observed movement that occurs and has occurred for thousandsof years: small boats expertly transporting handfuls of people back and forth across the Channel betweenTunisia and western Sicily. This study explores the material vestiges of cross-channel migrations throughassemblages identified during fieldwork by the Arizona Sicily Project along the southwest coast of Sicily inthe summers of 2018 and 2019. While the exigencies of maritime crossing require distinct technologies ofmobility, certain elements of migrant material culture are analogous to that found elsewhere, e.g. along theUS-Mexico border zone of Arizona's Sonoran Desert. Such elements include migrants' strategic triangulationof speed, invisibility and survival in deciding what to bring and the tactical triage of gear en route.Moreover, the political and economic injustices that are catalysts for the movements are comparable, as is thecriminalization of the migrants, which has done more to endanger than dissuade them. This article shedsnew light on migrant choices and challenges and contributes to the archaeology of contemporary migration.

Author: Emma Blake, Robert Schon

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