Unearthing the Earth-Shaker. The Excavations at the Sanctuary of Poseidon in Boeotian Onchestos

Columbia University’s Department of Art History and Archaeology invites you to the following lecture:

Professor Ioannis Mylonopoulos
Unearthing the Earth-Shaker. The Excavations at the Sanctuary of Poseidon in Boeotian Onchestos

November 19, 2014, 6:00 pm
612 Schermerhorn Hall
(reception will follow)

References to specific sanctuaries in the Homeric work are rare. In its famous Catalogue of Ships, however, the Iliad addresses the sacred grove of the sanctuary of Poseidon in Boeotian Onchestos (Il. 2.506). In addition, the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (ll. 229-238) describes a puzzling ritual in Poseidon’s cult site that seems to have been connected to the examination of the fitness of young horses for drawing chariots. Despite the well-known importance of the sanctuaries of Athena Itonia, Zeus Karaios, and Apollo Ptoos as pan-Boeotian religious centers, the selection of the sanctuary of Poseidon as the seat of the Boeotian League suggests that this cult place never lost its importance in the Boeotian collective memory. Compared to the importance of the sanctuary, its study through excavation has been rather occasional. Brief rescue excavations by the 9th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities at the modern site of Steni Mavromatiou showed that two large areas between the 91st and 92nd km of the National Road from Athens to Lebadeia are associated with the ancient sanctuary.
The summer of 2014 saw the beginning of Columbia University’s excavation at the sanctuary of Poseidon under the auspices of the Archaeological Society at Athens and in collaboration with the 9th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. The campaign began with a geophysical survey that explored the two areas and identified several points that are bound to become future foci of the project. Site A corresponds to the sanctuary’s center, the site of the temple. Here, an impressive rectangular building with three, probably wooden, interior columns was explored. The structure dates back to the 6th century BCE and was enlarged in the late 4th or early 3rd century. Site B – situated in the plain next to the Kopais lake – corresponds to the sanctuary’s administrative center and includes a large square building with an interior courtyard surrounded by colonnades. The survey also revealed the existence of additional buildings, one of which – a substantial round structure with a diameter of slightly over 40 m – remains a puzzle. The excavation yielded a rich array of finds: vases and vase-fragments (several bearing graffiti), numerous bronze objects (including a strigil), bronze and silver coins, weapons, objects associated with horse- and chariot races, and a Doric capital with traces of color from the 4th or 3rd century BCE.
The lecture will give an overview of the sanctuary’s history and present the preliminary results of the first campaign.


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