The aim is to research the form, functions and development of ancient sanctuaries as well as their role in social and economic life. Cult activities are to be reconstructed on the basis of artefacts, biofacts and written sources. Currently, the focus is on the Artemision of Ephesus, one of the most important sanctuaries of the ancient Mediterranean world. Not only the beginnings and early phases of the sanctuary and its cult are considered, but also the late periods and the medieval after-use are in focus. The Artemis sanctuary at Lousoi offers the opportunity to examine the range of variation in cults of the same deity.

The research area is a member of »Hieron. Network for the Studies of Greek Sanctuaries | Universiteit Utrecht«.

The Artemision of Ephesos

From an urban sanctuary to supraregional importance

The Artemision was the main sanctuary of the polis of Ephesos. In the Archaic period it gained supra-regional importance. This is owed in particular to the commitment of the Lydians, whose last King Croesus was the most important benefactor of the first large marble temple (Dipteros 1). The successor building constructed in the late 4th century BCE (Dipteros 2) was considered to be one of the seven world wonders by ancient writers. After the Archaic period, the cult of Artemis Ephesia expanded throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, and from the Hellenistic period increased even more in popularity.

Contextual reappraisal of the excavation results in synopsis

The research history of the Artemision is complicated. Excavations were carried out by J. T. Wood 1869–1874, O. Benndorf/C. Humann 1895, D. G. Hogarth 1904–1905, A. Bammer 1965–1995 and S. Ladstätter 2014.  Dissimilar methods, divergent designations as well as scattered publications in preliminary reports and individual studies have made the reception of the excavation results very difficult until now. The goal of the current project is to trace the ascent of the sanctuary from its modest beginnings in the ›dark centuries‹ up to the construction of the ›world wonder temple‹ by means of a synoptic evaluation of the previous results of the excavations and material studies.

 

Reconstruction and re-dating of the early temples 

The analysis of stratigraphy and datable ceramic finds has led to a revised chronology, in contrast to the preliminary reports, for the earliest temple buildings which play a key role in early Greek architecture. Naos 1 (ca. 660/640 B.C.) is the best-preserved of the early Greek peripteral temples. Its successor, Naos 2 (ca. 640/620 B.C.), with its extensive building sacrifices and the large cult statue base of green schist ashlar blocks, for the first time permits Lydian influence to be recognised. A detailed re-evaluation of the structural evidence enables a new reconstruction of this temple.

The earliest dated coins of antiquity

It has been possible to associate three rich foundation deposits with Naos 2; two of these deposits contained many dozen electron coins. These coins count amongst the oldest in human history. Due to their well-documented find context, they provide decisive indications for the dating of the beginnings of coin minting.

 

 

From context to cult

The contextual analysis of the find assemblages has made it possible to reconstruct the cult activities and dedication practices. The bone remains are the primary evidence for the animal sacrifices. Ceramic vessels and iron implements provide insights into the subsequent communal cult banquets.

 

The sanctuary of Artemis Hemera in Lousoi: cult practice in the Geometric and Archaic periods

A remote sanctuary of supra-regional importance

Although situated high in the mountains, the sanctuary of Artemis Hemera in Lousoi gained supra-regional importance in the central Peloponnese already in the first half of the 7th century B.C. This is attested by later written sources that report about the leading role of the sanctuary in the founding of the Archaic apoikie of Metapontum in southern Italy. The archaeological evidence extend even further back in the Geometric epoch.

Reconstruction of the cult activities

Cult activities in the Geometric and Archaic periods should be comprehended by means of a combined functional analysis of all artefacts and biofacts. The most extensive group of objects in this regard are the ceramic vessels, with more than 2,500 diagnostic pieces. Cult vessels are represented here next to miniature vessels (Fig. 2), which have equally votive character as do the terracotta figures and jewellery of metal, bones, ivory and amber. To this group can be added animal bones, yet nevertheless in a surprisingly small quantity.

Ritual meals in the city and in the periurban sanctuary

Lousoi provides the possibility, very rare in the Geometric period, to compare ritual meals in differing social contexts. In addition to the find complex from the periurban sanctuary of Artemis, an additional one exists from the city centre of Lousoi. Their comparison allows conclusions regarding differences between sacred and profane customs in early Arcadia.

Ceramic archaeometry as an indicator of the network of the sanctuary

An additional emphasis of the project lies on archaeometric analyses of origin, using petrography, X-ray fluorescence and neutron activation. In collaboration with other archaeometric projects in the northern Peloponnese and in the region of Metapontum, it should be possible to identify local and regional products. In this manner we obtain an idea of the significance of the sanctuary of Artemis and of its position within the regional and supra-regional network in which it was integrated.

The cult profile of Artemis Hemera of Lousoi

The characteristic profile of the Artemis cult in Lousoi should be worked out via a comparison with other sanctuaries of the same goddess. In the Geometric and Archaic periods, Greek religion was strongly characterised by local and regional traits that should be identified on the basis of the archaeological evidence. These are in contrast to panhellenic elements, which increasingly gained in importance after the epic poetry of Homer and Hesiod.

With the completion of this project, the sanctuary of Artemis in Lousoi will be the only cult site of the Geometric and Archaic periods in north-western Arcadia whose archaeological evidence has been completely analysed and published. In this sense the project will represent a fundamental contribution to the archaeology and the religious- and cultural history of the Peloponnese.