Monday 24 January 2011


Just published in the Fasti Online:

As in previous years the Austrian Mission worked on the sacred areas situated on the ridge at Velia. The cleaning and recording of sacred area 3, the so-called open-air sanctuary, was undertaken in order to better define its layout and phases. This sacred area, situated between towers A8 and A7, represents one of the smallest sanctuaries on the ridge. Its very poor state of preservation makes its interpretation difficult.
The sanctuary measures 17.5 × 12.8 m, was delimited to the north by the fortified walls, the so-called stretch A, and extended over two levels. The upper part comprised an open space (feature 2) with a paving of Velian brick, of which only a very few patches were preserved. The south-western side was occupied by a small room (room 1, 6.8 × 4.2 m), probably opening onto the outer area. The room probably had a roof made of tiles imported from the Gulf of Naples, found scattered across the sanctuary area. Given the sparse remains, it is uncertain as to whether this can be interpreted as a sacred building, however its typology certainly reflects one of the so-calledoikoi. In the open space itself there were two bases incorporated into a niche in the curtain wall, which is of interest due to their strange collocation. There was no evidence of an altar, whose position can be assumed to have been beside the bases according to the model seen in sanctuary no. 7. The courtyard opened towards the north-east with a propylon, constituted by two lateral niches and a threshold, formed by two large sandstone blocks. The ritual space of the scared area was completed by a votive column on a quadrangular base in the area in front of the propylon.
On the lower level there was another large space (feature 3). The situation was characterised by a substantial difference in height on the slope of almost one metre. This necessitated the creation of the south-eastern perimeter through the construction of a curtain wall 0.75 m wide. Given the large dimensions of this space, but also the construction technique of the wall separating feature 3 from the open area, which does not suggest that it was a supporting wall, it is proposed that feature 3 was a terrace rather than an enclosed room.
The lack of diagnostic finds makes it difficult to establish the chronology of this sacred area. However, both the sanctuary typology and the use of tiles from the Gulf of Naples suggest a date of the 3rd century B.C. or later.
In 2008 a small naiskos in local sandstone, in a collapsed position, was found to the south of sacred area no. 3. This year a fragment from another relief of the same type was discovered, built into a recent wall, south of the sanctuary. This was the lower part of a naiskos, smaller than that found in 2008. Despite its poor state of preservation this discovery corroborates the hypothesis that already in the archaic period the entire zone was dedicated to the cult of a female divinity, traditionally identified as Cybele.
Summary Author: Verena Gassner - Università di Vienna, Istituto di Archeologia Classica
Citation: Verena Gassner. 2011.

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