Despotiko excavation reveals majestic shrine


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Excavations on the uninhabited island Despotiko, west of Antiparos, have yielded very important finds that are informative as to the topography, the extent and spatial organization of the sanctuary of Apollo at the area of Mandra.

Despotiko excavation reveals majestic shrine
Clay antefixes from the roof of an Archaic building [Credit: TOC]

The systematic investigation over the last 17 years by archaeologist Giorgos Kouragios (21st Antiquities Ephorate) has revealed an extensive and rich archaic sanctuary probably founded by inhabitants of Paros. The center of worship was a protected courtyard, which dominated the marble prostyle temple with a colonnade with seven columns of an approximate height of 7m. and next to this a ceremonial dining area and the ritual altar.

This year’s research, carried out thanks to the sponsorship of the Foundations of A & P Kanellopoulos, I. Latsis, AG Leventis, Ath. Martinos and the Merchant Marine Ministry, unearthed, very close to the entrance of the sanctuary, a large new building, which was added to the other 12 buildings that have been revealed by previous excavations and the five that have been detected on Tsimintiri islet, which during the Archaic period was connected with Despotiko.

Despotiko excavation reveals majestic shrine
Clay acroterion [Credit: TOC]

The excavation of the building was not completed, but it became clear that it had a complex ground plan with at least five rooms, based on the findings dating back to the classical period. The identification of the building, first shows the continuous operation of the sanctuary during classical times and also the large extension and the complex spatial organization, which reflects its widespread reputation and large numbers of visitors, both in archaic and classical times.

Research in archaic building D, one of the most important buildings of the sanctuary used for worship was made ​​entirely of marble, with a marble colonnade of four columns in front. Unearthed beneath that building was an earlier building, and a large quantity of pottery from the geometric period (9th-8th century BC) with large quantities of burnt and unburnt animal bones, such as horses, pigs, sheep, goats and poultry.

Despotiko excavation reveals majestic shrine
Lower end of the archaic kouros Credit: To Vima]

These findings are of particular importance because they are more consistent with the earliest evidence of religious practice in the sanctuary of Apollo as early as the 9th century BC, the same place where in the 6th century BC they built the monumental temple.

The excavation continued west of Building D, finding extensive deposits of objects that were investigated in 2013, undertaken after the excavation of the overlying building. This year’s excavations revealed a plethora of findings such as archaic roof tiles, clay crown tiles from the roof of the building, animal figurines, bullhead shaped vases, a lion’s head rhyton, decorated pottery from Parian workshops, bronze items, jewelry, and inscribed vases dedicated to Apollo .

The numerous finds of this season include statue parts with feet pieces of an archaic kouros which come in addition to the 65 statue parts sculptures that have been found so far, as well as a finger from a colossal statue which probably belongs to the temple’s cult statue (480 – 490 BC).

Author: Euthimis Tsiliopoulos | Source: The Times of Change [August 21, 2014]



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