Sebastiano Tusa (1952–2019)

It is with sorrow and sadness that we learned of the sudden death of Sebastiano Tusa, fellow member of EAA, on Sunday, March 10th, 2019, at the age of 66, in the Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crash. He is survived by his wife, Valeria Patrizia Li Vigni, and by his sons, Vincenzo and Andrea.

Born in Palermo, Sicily, as a son of two other remarkable figures in archaeology and numismatics, Vincenzo Tusa and Aldina Cutroni, Sebastiano moved for his studies to Rome, where he graduated in 1975 at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, with a thesis in Palaeoethnology (Prehistory) with Prof. Salvatore M. Puglisi. Later, in 1985, he obtained at the same University his Advanced Master degree (Perfezionamento) in Near Eastern Archaeology, with a thesis in Palaeoethnology.

In his early career, he took part in and promoted research projects in Italy (Vivara, Grotta dell’Uzzo) and the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Pakistan) with different institutions, among them the IsMEO (Italian Institute for the Middle and Far East). In 1978-79 he acted as Secretary of the the Italian-Iraqi Archaeological Institute in Baghdad.

During these years, he had a quick and dynamic career. After graduation, he was awarded a postgraduate grant at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” (1977–79); in 1980 he became archaeologist of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage in the Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography “Luigi Pigorini”, Rome, and in 1982 Assistant Professor in Palaeoethnology at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. In 1985 he was awarded a yearly grant in UCLA (USA). In 1987 he moved to the University of Palermo, where he was Assistant Professor in Palaeoethnology until 1993, thus concentrating his main activity and research upon Sicily. In 1993, he became archaeologist of the Superintendency of Sicily, a position he held until 2018. Since 1985, he held courses in different Universities (Trapani, Agrigento, Palermo, Naples), mainly in Palaeoethnology and Maritime Archaeology, and he had the direction of Advanced Master schools.

Sebastiano was in the Sicilian Superintendency for 25 years, tirelessly working to protect the archaeological heritage and to develop advanced scientific research in Sicily, both individually and in collaboration with international Institutions and research bodies. He was a pioneer in underwater archaeology, shaping the field both within Italy and internationally, and both for research standards, monument protection and the creation of archaeological parks and museums.

After being archaeologist (1993-2001), and then Director of the Service for Archaeological Heritage at Trapani, in western Sicily (2001-2004), he played a fundamental role in the 2004 creation of the Superintendence of the Sea for Sicily, a unique institution in Italy at the forefront of maritime and underwater conservation and research, which he directed from 2004 to 2010. He returned to Trapani as Superintendent for Cultural and Environmental Heritage in 2010-2012 and then returned again to the Sea Superintendence from 2012 to 2018.

In April 2018, he assumed political responsibility for Sicilian Cultural Heritage, as Assessore della Regione Sicilia, with a clearly-defined programme, aiming at, among other targets, the development of the Archaeological Parks, of renewed research, and of a strong integration of cultural and natural heritage. Once again, he was the first archaeologist to hold such an important position in a region like Sicily, with its rich and fragile heritage and landscape. His strategy has already had a sensible positive impact.

His recognized role and capacities had put him to the fore of international cooperation, and he gained an increasingly important role in the promotion and participation to international projects, together with UNESCO, ICCROM, ICOMOS and other bodies. At the time of the crash, he was heading to Kenya to present his vision and the collaborative project he led in the country at a conference organised by UNESCO on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage for sustainable tourism development in Eastern Africa.

Sebastiano was a member of EAA from 1997 until his death, and was an active and enthusiastic participant at our Annual Meetings. As a researcher, and a fellow scholar, he was widely appreciated for the intensity and quality of his activity, and for his positive attitude. He was known to many of us, shocked by his sudden demise: his personality and capabilities will be missed and remembered.

by Alessandro Vanzetti, Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza", member of the Executive Board of EAA (

A tribute

by Kristian Kristiansen (

I was shocked and saddened by the terrible news that our colleague and my old friend Sebastiano Tusa was killed in the terrible flight accident in Ethiopia on 10 March 2019. Sebastiano invited me to excavate in Sicily in the mid 1990s, and we, me and Christopher Prescott with our families, first went there in 1998 to visit the site of Monte Polizzo, which we only found after some difficulties. This became the start of a wonderful and productive project, located in Salemi in western Sicily, where Sicilian, Scandinavian and American teams collaborated in one of the biggest international and interdisciplinary projects undertaken at an indigenous site of the Elymians. First we hoped it be Late Bronze Age because of a hoard find there, but it turned out to be a fully preserved settlement of the Elymians during the 6th century BC, that had been burned down only after 40-50 years. Many publications and PhDs followed from the project and much research is still in progress.

Sebastiano and I shared many wonderful times together in Sicily as well as in Gothenburg and Rome at planning meetings there. He was a modern, progressive archaeologist who wanted to introduce modern methods to Sicilian archaeology, and he also reformed the underwater archaeology. Last time we collaborated was when Sebastiano provided Bell Beaker samples to our big Bell Beaker collaborative genetic work published in Nature 2018. We are a large group of collaborators and friends from our Monte Polizzo project who will mourn Sebastiano, and then after a while the many good memories of his easygoing and friendly style will make us smile. We shall never forget Sebastiano Tusa.