Within the EAA community and the Italian Society for Archaeoastronomy (SIA), the sudden news that our colleague and friend Vito Francesco Polcaro passed away was dismaying. He was very active in both organizations and put a lot of effort into collaborating with archaeologists.
Francesco was a polymath, with three degrees in mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering and mathematics. His scientific research was primarily in high-energy astrophysics and technology, and in the astrophysics of stars with the greatest mass. He was an enthusiastic man who believed passionately in science-led regulation, and in the importance of the social aspects of science. He was also very interested in cultural astronomy, archaeoastronomy and archaeology. Francesco regularly attended archaeoastronomy meetings in Italy and abroad, and contributed actively to the organization of several of our conferences.
Along with many professional and amateur archaeologists, he conducted research about the possible astronomical content of ancient sites and artefacts. In particular, in Rome he discussed the case of the underground, neo-Pythagorean Basilica of Porta Maggiore (1st century CE). It is my opinion, however, that his most significant results are those obtained in the study of prehistoric sites in Southern Italy. He has pointed out the calendrical use of several megalithic structures in relation to the solstices. Such sites are mostly neglected given the relatively small amount of Neolithic and Bronze Age finds that have been recovered by archaeologists. However, the importance of these sites for a better understanding of ancient agricultural life is quite evident. From the work by Polcaro and his collaborators, it is possible to conclude that each local population adopted their own criteria to determine the beginning of the solar year, by exploiting the specific characteristics of the geologic and physical environment of the sites. It is my wish that such results will become very familiar to archaeologists working in prehistory.
Elio Antonello, president of the Italian Society of Archaeoastronomy