CYRENAICA TERRACOTTAS

View of the Sanctuary in 2004, © Cyrenaica Archaeological Project
terracottas
 

  The Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone:

THE TERRACOTTAS


    
The terracottas presented in the following pages were uncovered at the Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone at Cyrene, Libya, between1969 and 1978 by the American Archaeological Mission to Libya under the direction of Professor Donald White of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. After 2 study seasons in 1979 and 1981, political tensions between the United States and Libya were such that the project had to be discontinued. In 2004, after an interruption of 23 years, the Sanctuary again became the focus of study, this time by Cyrenaica Archaeological Project (CAP), an international mission under the direction of Professor Susan Kane of Oberlin College.

     The Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone at Cyrene was the focus of cultic activity from the early 6th century B. C. until it was destroyed by an earthquake in A. D. 365. One of the most important sanctuaries of the city, it was the site of the Thesmophoria, an annual religious festival by which the fertility of the crops, livestock, and even of the inhabitants of the city themselves could be vouchsafed. But it also was the center of daily religious ritual based on supplication or thanksgiving when worshippers offered gifts to the two goddesses. It is these religious dedications that have formed the basis of the archaeological record that includes some 4,500 terracotta figurines. These were found in varying concentrations throughout the Sanctuary, where they had been moved during the many remodelings that the Sanctuary underwent. Consequently, they are not associated with any meaningful stratigraphy or with any one particular structure or area.

     Systematic dedications of terracottas at the Sanctuary began in the second quarter of the 6th century with East Greek terracottas in the form of perfume containers and their related figurines. By the late 6th century these were accompanied at the Sanctuary by the terracottas of Athens and Corinth. Also at this time local terracotta production began on an industrial scale but the importation of East Greek terracottas increased by the beginning of the 5th century B. C to overwhelm the products of any other center. Athenian models were copied and re-interpreted throughout the 5th century, the period that saw an intensification of terracotta production on a grand scale. By about the second quarter of the 4th century B. C. the practice of dedicating terracotta figurines at the Sanctuary had slackened off considerably. At this time Sicilian and south Italian terracotta prototypes began to be influential in the local production, but eventually mainland prototypes reflecting the Tanagra style were prefered by local artisans.

 

 

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