The sanctuary of Artemis Chitone was one of the oldest sanctuaries in the city of Miletus. A late Geometric (cult[?]-) building and the foundations of a late Archaic temple with associated altar were excavated. Marble sculptures stand out among the votive offerings. According to the archaeozoological results, mussels in particular were consumed during the feasts for Artemis.
A sanctuary from the beginnings of the city
According to the ancient sources, the sanctuary of Artemis Chitone was considered to be one of the oldest sanctuaries of Miletus. Callimachus refers to the goddess in his Artemis hymn (225-227) as the leader of the emigrants under the mythical settler Neleus.
In 1995 the temenos was identified on the basis of two inscription discoveries on the eastern terrace of the Kalabaktepe, the southernmost hill within the walled Archaic city. Already during the excavations under T. Wiegand in 1906/1907 a terracotta sima and marble sculptures (now in the Alte Museum in Berlin) were found suggesting a sacred district with temple.
The late Geometric and Archaic sanctuary of Artemis
The goal of the new excavations from 2006 to 2008 was to secure further information on the chronology and phases of construction as well as size, architectural design, cult practices and history of this important polis sanctuary through stratigraphical trenches. The finds mark a time period from the 8th century to the mid-5th century BCE. A two-room building set into the slope from the late Geometric period partially still has walls preserved to their original height. In the mid-7th century BCE the temenos was extended to the north through an enormous backfill. Following the renovation of the terrace walls a temple was constructed in the second half of the 6th century BCE; its foundations and an altar set in the east were excavated. Several sculptures and reliefs made of marble from the late Archaic period have been preserved; they had been ritually deposited.
Mussels for Artemis
The archaeozoological contexts are unique: Among the animal remains from the feasts deposited in the sanctuary 89% come from molluscs. This is the largest known find context of marine fauna from a Greek sanctuary. The most commonly represented is the edible lagoon cockle (Cerastoderma glaucum), followed by the oyster (Ostrea edulis) that first appears in features from the second half of the 6th century BCE.
Persian destruction and early Classical residential district
When the Persians conquered Miletus in 494 BCE and punished the city as the ringleader of the Ionian revolt, the Artemis sanctuary was destroyed and then desecrated. An early Classical residential district was built on top but it was again abandoned in the mid-5th century BCE. It is the first of its kind known from Ionia to date. The sanctuary of Artemis Chitone was moved into the city that had been reduced in size. In the Hellenistic period the old cult site was remembered and terracotta figurines were placed on the site.