Cave di CUSA
Not far from Selinunte, the Cusa quarries were the main source of building stone for the town’s temples and, more specifically, given the size of the blocks of stone extracted, for Temple G. The stone, a fine-grained and resistant kind of tufa particularly suitabie far building, was quarried for more than 150 years, since the first half of the 6C BC. Work at the quarry ground to a brief halt following the outbreak of war when Selinunte was forced to confront the Carthaginian onslaught (resulting in the destruction of the town). The quarries were abandoned shortly after, as were the
houses of the people who worked there. This is what is so unusual about the place: enormous blocks of rock destined for the temples still lie here half-quarried. The considerable number of such blocks makes it possible to calculate that there must have been about 150 stone-cutters engaged there.
The quarrying technique was long and complex. Once the dimensions and profile of the piece to be extracted had been marked out, a double groove about half a metre deep was dug around it to enable the stonemasons to work more easily (the so-called chipping channel). The block was worked in situ and cut straight from the base rock. 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. The blacks were transported on wooden frames with wheels, and pulled by oxen and 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.
Signposted (3km) to the south of Campobello di Mazara.
The great cylindrical blacks which lie scattered on the ground or await to be quarried (some 60 in number) are a characteristic feature of the quarry, which is 1.8km long and extends along a ridge from east to west.
In the first section of the quarry, some blocks sit cut and ready for transporting; others barely sketched out, are ready for the stone-cutter. At the far end of the quarry is a capital in the making. 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.
At Selinunte (see SELINUNTE), 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.