The sanctuary of Artemis Hemera at Lousoi: Cult practice in the late Geometric and Archaic periods

A closed context deposition containing pottery vessels, votives, and remains of sacrifices of the late 8th to the early 5th century BCE provide insight into the early cult of Artemis Hemera in Arcadian Lousoi (Peloponnese). The cult practice will be studied through a combined functional analysis of all find genres and information will be gained about the cult community.

Evidence on the Artemis cult in the late Geometric and Archaic period

This project is the conclusion of over 100 years of research by Austrian archaeologists on the early phases of the sanctuary of Artemis Hemera in northwestern Arcadia. At the center of the research are pottery vessels from a votive deposit of the late Geometric and Archaic period. It was discovered undisturbed during excavations and, therefore, provides direct insight into the cult activity from the 8th to the beginning of the 5th century BCE. The deposition included pottery which made up the majority of the finds but also the bones of the sacrificed animals, tools as well as votive offerings that mainly consisted of terracotta figurines and jewelry made of metal, bone, ivory, and amber. The majority of the vessels were used for cult feasts when the meat from the sacrificed animals was collectively consumed. Some objects were presented to the goddess as offerings, including numerous miniature vessels. The combined functional analysis of all find genres provides insights into the rituals and other activities in the sanctuary during the early Greek period, a period with very few written sources.

The comparison of the finds from the extraurban sanctuary of Artemis with contemporary find complexes from the city center of Lousoi permit conclusions about the difference between sacred and profane customs in early Arcadia.

Pottery archaeometry

A further emphasis is placed on archaeometric analyses, such as petrography and X-ray fluorescence to determine the origin and production technology of the pottery. In collaboration with other archaeometric projects on the Peloponnese and the Gulf of Corinth it will be possible to identify imported vessels in Lousoi. On this basis we will have a notion of the renown of the Artemis sanctuary and of its position within the regional and supraregional network in which it was embedded.

The cult profile of Artemis Hemera in Lousoi

The characteristic profile of the Artemis cult at Lousoi will be deducted through comparisons with other sanctuaries of the same goddess. In the Geometric and Archaic periods Greek religion was heavily influenced by local and regional traits. These differ from the Panhellenic elements that continually gained in importance since Homer and Hesiod.

Religious history of the Peloponnese

With the conclusion of the project the sanctuary of Artemis in Lousoi will be the only cult site of the Geometric and Archaic period in northwestern Arcadia where the entire archaeological evidence will have been completely analyzed and published. This achievement will be a fundamental contribution to the archaeology, religious and cultural history of the Peloponnese.