The classical-hellenistic rock shrine on the Panayırdağ is considered to be one of the oldest known cult sites of Ephesos. Votive inscriptions testify to the veneration of Meter, Zeus, and Apollo. Inscriptions, reliefs in the rock, relief stele as well as ritual utensils and votives. The excavations in 2009 provided an in-situ context unique for natural sanctuaries.
The cult in the steep rock
The holy district for Meter, Zeus, and Apollo is located on the rugged northeastern slope of the Panayırdaǧ outside of the Hellenistic-Roman city. The cult was exercised in the pristine natural landscape, architecture did not exist. A large number of niches were carved into the steep rock face in order to hold votive reliefs. Many relief steles were also set up as is evidenced by the bedding in stone. Rock inscriptions testify to the veneration of Meter, Zeus, and Apollo and marked their district.
The second oldest sanctuary of Ephesos
The oldest evidence for the cult in rock shrine reaches back to the 5th century BCE. As a result following the Artemision this shrine is the second oldest cult that has been archaeologically discovered in Ephesos so far. The peak of the cult activity was in the late 4th and 3rd century. However, secure evidence from the late Hellenistic and the imperial period is lacking.
The rock shrine of Meter on the Panayırdaǧ
The first excavations in the holy district were conducted by J. Keil in 1926. Surveys by F. Alanyalı (1999-2001) followed. In 2009, an unknown terrace of the shrine of Meter was discovered immediately in front of the fortification wall of the Classical settlement on the northeastern plateau of the Panayırdağ. 10 complete marble reliefs were found there with the depiction of the goddess Meter; four of them were recovered in the original location where they had been set up.
Contextual dating of the votive reliefs
A unique context was preserved sealed by the collapse of an adobe brick construction from the fortification wall: Votive steles, inscription, animal bones, ritual utensils, terracotta figurines and other small votive offerings were discovered in a joint context. A closed stratigraphic context of this type is extremely rare in Meter sanctuaries and permits a reconstruction of the early Hellenistic cult activity. Furthermore, for the first time it is possible to date the votive reliefs of Meter based on their context and to review the proposed stylistic datings.