Cusa Cave

About 12 km from Selinunte (Selinus) are the ancient quarries used for the construction of the temples of Selinunte known as the Cave di Cusa

The beautiful peaceful site is surrounded by olive and orange plantations, vineyards, and ancient olive trees grow among the ruins. The quarries have not been worked since the destruction of Selinunte in 409 B.C. Nothing has been touched here since then, when Hannibal's 100,000 Carthaginians arrived in Selinus and in nine days destroyed one of the largest and most prosperous Greek cities of its day.

Column drums were awaiting transport to Selinus, others were still being carved from the limestone beds. There are gaps where completed drums have already been shipped, and a squarish block that was intended for a capital. Its cylindrical mass tapering from a square base into the 12 wedges intended as the echinus or ovaio moulding below the abacus. The cracks still show the marks made by picks. Most probably they were intended for Temple G at Selinus. Among the ruins of Temple A, are examples of finished capitals with square bases, complete with the top of the column shaft and a section of the ovolo moulding intended as part of the entablature. The various processes of quarrying may be studied, from the first incisions in the rock to the empty spaces left by the removal of completed drums for columns. A block, still attached to the rock, seems to have been intended for a capital.

Around each column carved out of the rock a space of 50 cm allowed room for the stonemason. The tools used included picks, bronze saws and wedges. To split the harder layers, wooden wedges were inserted into cracks and then dampened with water so that, as they swelled, the stone would crack open. Once this was done, the block was severed at the base. The lighter blocks were removed by means of winches while the bulkier ones were slid down ramps (in this case, the material in front of the block was removed). The deep U-shaped grooves visible in some of the square blocks were made so that a rope could be fed through them for lifting (some can be seen at Agrigento in the Temple of Jupiter). Many blocks have a square hole at either end. Into these sockets were fitted special shafts that enabled the blocks to be moved and set in place.

Close together stand four drums which have been carved for the whole of their length and await only to be detached at their bases. The large cylindrical masses of stone (3 x 2 m) were probably intended for Temple G. It is thought that wooden frames were constructed around the colums and they were transported to Selinunte on wheels of solid wood strengthened by iron bands and pulled by oxen or slaves. A wide rocky track 12km long led from the quarries to Selinunte. The modern name of the quarries comes from the owner of the land on which they were discovered.

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