The art of dry stone walling is a construction method that allows you to build different types of structures by layering stones without using mortar or other materials to bind them together.

The limestone that makes up the Hyblean mountain system has shaped almost all of the building heritage of the Hyblean cities, and specifically of Modica. Local tradition speaks of “petra morta” (dead stone), “petra viva” (living stone) and “petra mulinara” (grinding stone) to identify soft and hard limestone. The limestone in the quarries is stratified and of variable consistency; the various stratifications assume up to 27 different dialectal names in relation to the layers of the walls, which reach a depth of 30 meters.

The typical dry stone wall is also called “muru cuntraffinu“: it has a trapezoidal section with a major base of 85 cm and a minor base of 40 cm, which ends with a semicircular “crossbar”. The overall height is 1.20 cm. Its realization requires few tools: the mallet to break the boulders, the hammer to cut the segments and the pick used only for the edges, to cut the “cuzzarieddi ra petra” (the protrusions); the thread (line) helps at the beginning of the work to align the pillars (stones of the base), filled inside with “scaglie a mazzacani” (scales). In addition to the walls, with this technique it is possible to create different types of building artefacts, such as fences, towers and terraces, shelters, sheds, houses and neviere, stairs.

If done well, through a careful selection of the stones, the life span of a wall or dry-stone building exceeds 100 years. Some dry stone wall constructions in northwestern Europe date back to the Neolithic.

Dry stone walls are a fundamental landscape element for the prevention of landslides, floods and avalanches; they are a manifestation of the harmony between anthropization and nature, helping to preserve biodiversity and create optimal conditions for agriculture.

In 2018, the art of dry stone walling was inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List as a transnational element of 8 countries: Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland.

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Inscribed in 2018 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity -
REI - Libro delle espressioni - Paesaggio di Pietra - Muretti a Secco