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This webpage reproduces an article in
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 40, No. 2 (Apr.‑Jun. 1936), pp185‑187.

The text is in the public domain.

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 p185  Archaeological Notes

The Discovery of the Heraion of Lucania

The search for the remains of the celebrated Sanctuary of Hera, to which literary traditions ascribe a mythical origin, was begun on April 9, 1934. Strabo (VI.252), as well as Pliny (N. H. III.5.70) tells us that the Temple was founded by Jason and the Argonauts. It had a long and glorious existence. As late as the Roman epoch, Cilician pirates were attracted by the fame of its riches and came from the distant East to plunder it.1

Relying upon the testimony of Strabo, who placed the sanctuary on the left shore of the River Sylarus (modern Sele), near its mouth, and on the information of the Flemish humanist, Cluver, who saw during his voyage to Italy "sive templi sive castelli ruinae" three thousand feet from the sea, we explored during April 1934 the country along both shores, from the modern main road to the sea. We discountenanced from the beginning fantastic tales of local writers, who, during the last centuries had located the sanctuary in the wildest and most distant places, often with the object of exalting their own birthplaces. After a search of two days among marshes and shrubs, in a country inhabited only by herds of buffaloes and flocks of migrating birds, we noted an area not far from the river where a few shapeless blocks and a few bits of tiles were visible among the stubble. At the very outset, we discovered elements of an archaic temple and material belonging to a Hellenistic favissa (Figs. 1, 2).

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Fig. 1. — Heraion, Lucania, Terracottas
from the Hellenistic Favissa

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Fig. 2. — Heraion, Lucania, Terracotta
from the Hellenistic Favissa

 p186  During the spring the excavations lasted only two months, but they were continued from October 1934 to June 1935, under the auspices and with the financial aid of the Magna Graecia Society, which has promoted for several years past important archaeological campaigns in the south of Italy.

The excavations have given the following noteworthy results:

The stereobate, 18.65 m × 39.05 m, of a peripteral Doric temple with pronaos, cella and adyton, which can be dated to the end of the VIth century B.C. was discovered. It is similar in many ways to the so‑called Temple of Ceres at Paestum. Of this temple, which reveals, both in its plan and in its decorative details, evident Ionic influence, we have recovered many pieces of figured metopes, triglyphs, a sima with lion-headed gargoyles, cornices of various kinds, capitals, drums of columns, etc.

In line with this large edifice, fifteen meters north, there existed a temple of small dimensions, the plan of which has not yet been fully ascertained, dating between the 1st and the 2d quarter of the VIth century B.C. It is still very archaic both in its structure and in its decorative details: a Doric capital with a very flattened  p187 echinus; anterior columns set not on stylobates, but directly on the ground; magnificent capitals of pilasters finely decorated in relief, with a form which resembles, though probably precedes, those of the so‑called "Basilica" of Paestum; and finally, two figured metopes, one perfectly preserved (Fig. 3), which has already been published.​2 The technique is very primitive.

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Fig. 3. — Archaic Metope
Representing the Giant Tityos Carrying off Latona

Between these two edifices have appeared bases of stelae, votive offerings and parts of the same stelae. In the same area, was a very rich favissa of the held period, filled with about thirteen thousand pieces: statuettes, almost exclusively feminine, many of which are of very fine make; a great quantity of small terra-cotta heads differing in size and with a great variety of headdresses; painted vases of various shapes of local manufacture; small objects in bronze; and coins of different cities of Magna Graecia.

Under the small temple was a stratum of archaic Proto­corinthian and Corinthian material, about 300 vases and a few statuettes, extremely primitive, but of fine execution. They reproduce a feminine divinity, kourotrophos, seated on a throne and characterized by the polos and pomegranate (Fig. 4). In this material we found a minute tripod of silver, with a curled leaf of gold inside, and fragments of local prehistoric pottery.

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Fig. 4. — Fragments of Terracottas of Hera Kourotrophos
from Proto­corinthian and Corinthian Level

Southwest of the larger temple was a bothros 3.50 m deep with an aperture of m 0.90 × 1.00, which contained the remains of sacrifices evidently made on the spot: bones of animals, wood of the pyre, and ritual implements.

Northeast of the temples, we have partly unearthed a third edifice, of which, for the moment, the purpose is unknown, but which has already given much material of a relatively late age, only indirectly appertaining to the religious cult.

At a still greater distance, about a kilometer from the sanctuary, we have identified the necropolis of a local native village, which will form part of the program of our next excavations.​a

Paola Zancani
Umberto Zanotti-Bianco


The Author's Notes:

1 Plutarch, Pomp.

2 Paola Zancani, "Metope arcaica dello Heraion lucano," in La critica d'arte, October 1st, 1935.

Thayer's Note:

a And so they may have done the following year — but it was greater discoveries the year after that, which prompted their next report in the pages of the AJA, Vol. 42, pp441‑445.

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