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This webpage reproduces an article in
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 42, No. 4 (Oct.‑Dec. 1938), pp441‑445.

The text is in the public domain.

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 p441  Archaeological Notes

Excavations at the Heraeum of Lucania

In our first report on the discovery of the sanctuary of Argive Hera at the mouth of the river Silaris (AJA XL, 1936, pp185 ff.) we mentioned a building then being brought to light northeast of the temples. Further excavations have disclosed the foundations of a long rectangular edifice (30.20 by 7.67 m) with a central main hall (17.74 m in length) opening to the south through a five-columned porch, and flanked by two smaller rooms — a stoa, probably intended for pilgrims. The foundations consist of one course of sandstone blocks resting upon rubble. Later the stoa was enlarged by the addition of two side porches in front, so that it appears very similar in shape to propylaea; the eastern wing was then connected to an adjoining edifice running north and south (15.90 by 5.49 m), which opens toward the west on the same area and which was perhaps a potter's workshop, since what may be two kilns were found in the main room. The walls of both these buildings, which can be dated to the fourth century B.C., were of unbaked brick, upon a socle of sandstone blocks, while the foundations were all of reused blocks, which could be recognized as having belonged to the temples. The early archaic prostyle temple or "Treasury" had by that time been entirely destroyed, and the great late archaic temple had been damaged, either when the Lucanians invaded the country (at the end of the fifth century B.C.) or during the battle with Alexander the Molossian, who landed at the mouth of the Silaris in 332 B.C., to reconquer the territory of Poseidonia. Soon after this disaster, the whole sanctuary must have been cleared out, and new structures were evidently built with the old material: the two mentioned above, the bothros mentioned in our previous report and another bothros in the square in front of the stoa. This second bothros, or sacred pit, is even larger and deeper than the first one discovered (1.90 × 1.00 m and 4.23 m deep) and, like it, is built entirely of limestone (fig. 1). It was undisturbed, and contained votive offerings, remains of sacrificial animals, the wood and even the aromatic resins and incense used in the sacred rites. At the side, just near it, a small square altar was built with sandstone blocks.

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Fig. 1. — Bothros

A study of the foundations of the stoa by means of trenches led to the surprising discovery that the slabs on both sides of the columns in the southern wall were formed of six metopes with their corresponding triglyphs, reused with the sculptured face downwards. Their height in front is 0.79 m, with slight differences one way or the other, and their length, including the triglyph which is curved in the same slab, varies from 1.38 to 1.42 m. The subjects represented are: (1) Apollo and Herakles fighting for the Delphic tripod; (2) two mourning women, one holding a baby, probably Hecuba and Andromache with Astyanax; (3) two women fighting for a double axe, probably Clytemnestra and Laodameia or Electra during the murder of Aegisthus; (4) a man riding a huge tortoise; (5) Orestes murdering Neoptolemus in Delphi; (6) Herakles carrying the Kerkopes. In numbers 2 and 3 the (p442)
background is cut deeply away from a flat surface, in the same technique as in the first metope discovered,​1 while the others are perfectly modelled in round relief, as is the fragment with the front part of a Centaur or Triton (pl. XVII), which we found some time ago near the small temple or "Treasury." The entire set belongs to this building, which can be dated between 560 and 550 B.C., both on the evidence of the style of the sculptures and of the architecture. The sculptors, working at such an early date, show a remarkable knowledge of anatomy, a careful study of nature and a high degree of artistic perfection in their work.

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Plate XVII. — Fragment of Early Archaic Metope

All the most important elements of the "Treasury" have come to light, including the Doric capitals from the pronaos (fig. 2) and the two beautiful anta-capitals (fig. 3), 0.75 m in height, which look almost like goldsmith's work, owing to the delicacy of their decoration and the fineness of their execution. To this building probably belongs also a moulding in sandstone of very archaic profile, characterized by an Ionic kymation (early egg and dart) under a vertical band with rosettes and a flat projecting fillet at the bottom.

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Fig. 2. — Capital of the "Treasury"

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Fig. 3. — Anta-Capital of the "Treasury"

The second building near the stoa has also yielded three sculptured metopes, of which two had been reused as bases of the antae at the entrance. They belonged to the great temple and are masterpieces of late archaic art of the Ionic current (about 500 B.C.). Each represents two female dancers facing right and is very well preserved (0.83 to 9.86 m high, 0.687 to 0.715 m broad). The third metope of smaller size shows two draped figures facing left, but the upper part with the heads is missing and the relief has been defaced in antiquity so as to be used again more easily.

Between these edifices and the temples, the foundation of a rectangular structure came at once to light (6.95 × 2.15 m) — perhaps the plinth of an altar. It is certainly of a late period, as appears from the reused material, among which we found two sculptured fragments, one much damaged but archaic, the other of a later date, with the remains of a male figure in relief seen in three-quarter back view.

Not far from this structure another sculptured metope was discovered (0.77 × 0.62 m), belonging to a building as yet unknown. It represents a warrior with helmet, shield and cuirass, brandishing his spear, and can be dated to about 520 B.C. on evidence of style.

We have also found a great quantity of small objects. Southwest of the great temple a second rich favissa was disclosed. Here the objects had been carefully deposited in five loculi, formed by limestone slabs, intended to protect them. The ex-votos number more than a thousand and, though mostly of terra-cotta, are very varied: in addition to the tiny ritual vases, were statuettes of different dimensions and types, mostly dating from the fifth century, with a certain amount of the sixth, fourth and third centuries B.C. (fig. 4). The most common type represents the goddess on her throne, a polos on her head and dressed in the Doric peplos; she usually holds a basket with fruit in her left hand and the sacred phiale in her right. Also worthy of note are several busts, some of severe type, and a number of later ones, among which are many different specimens of the flower-goddess. These are female busts arising from a tuft of acanthus leaves and the head, often surrounded by tendrils, supports a wide-opened lily, which was used as an incense-burner. They  p444 were certainly meant to symbolize the fertility and fecundity of nature and human beings, and probably represented the same goddess Hera, following a peculiar, perhaps local, conception. From the Hellenistic period we have offering figures draped in ample himatia, of which some are more than a metre in height.

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Fig. 4. — Objects from the Favissa

The examination of the ground west and southwest of the stoa led during these last months to the discovery of a large area full of refuse, containing principally fragments of Corinthian and Attic black-figured vases but also fragments of pottery and parts of bronze and bone objects of the fifth century B.C. Deposited upon this layer we discovered six more sculptured metopes with the corresponding triglyphs and another triglyph. All belong to the frieze of the "Treasury" and are of the same age and style as the ones previously mentioned. Four of them are in the round relief technique and represent: (1) a Centaur leaping forward to the left and holding a branch in his raised right hand; (2) two figures holding sacrificial objects and hastening toward the right; (3) the struggle between Herakles and the Nemean lion; (4) a winged Harpy running in the conventional scheme, that is to say, the well known Gorgon type, but with bird's claws instead of hands. Two more metopes in the flat technique, each representing a pair of Silens facing left, with hooves and long horses' tails, were found close to a very archaic building, which was certainly already destroyed at the time they were deposited. This building (23.93 × 7.20 m), on the same line as the stoa toward the west, has not yet been entirely explored. It had unbaked brick walls on a stone base; in fact, extensive strata of burnt clay, almost transformed into terra-cotta, and numerous bits of carbonized wood were found all round the walls, as well as many iron clamps and nails.

The great importance of these excavations during the last two years is undoubtedly due to the discovery of the architectural reliefs belonging to different sets and different ages. They give us knowledge of the very typical style of western Greek art, allowing us to follow the development of this South Italian school from the primitive age down to the fourth century B.C. The metopes are now being restored, and need long, patient and careful work, but we hope to be able to give photographs of them in our next report to the readers of the AJA.2

Paola Zancani Montuoro
Umberto Zanotti-Bianco


The Author's Notes:

1 AJA XL, 1936, p186, fig. 3.

2 For further details see NS, 1937, pp207 ff.

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