Finally, we are going to get into the architecture and archaeology of the sanctuary to Artemis in Brauron! This week we will start with a general overview, and over the next couple of weeks we will examine sections of the site individually.
First, some geography. Brauron was a small town on the coast of Greece, about a 6 hour walk from Athens by modern estimations (and modern roads). In addition to this sanctuary, a building known as the Brauroneion is found on the Acropolis is Athens. This site came later and will be looked at briefly after our investigation at Brauron.
The site of the sanctuary in Brauron was established around the 8th century BCE, though there is also evidence in this area for activity as far back as the neolithic era. Active worship of Artemis began here around the 6th century BCE. Additionally there were some Mycenaean chamber tombs nearby, which were filled with rich grave offerings. This area was a popular place for nobles to have homes, and there was a prominent maritime presence – the sea was supposedly much further inland than it currently is, giving Brauron a much more scenic view in its day.
The site was excavated back in the 1950s and 1960s by John Papadimitriou, a Greek archaeologist. To my knowledge his work at the site is the most recent comprehensive work (if you have evidence of anything more current I would love to know about it).
From the image above, you can see that in addition to the sanctuary structure (the pi-shaped stoa), there are many other interesting features to this site. We are going to investigate them one at a time, and they are as follows:
Church of St. George (and what lies under it)
Additionally, there are a number of interesting artifacts to be examined from around the site. If you are not familiar with the myth of Iphigenia, then look forward to the sections about the cave and the structures inside – it was said that this mythical woman came to Brauron after being saved by the goddess Artemis from a human sacrifice at the hands of her father. Papadimitriou (the archaeologist) was very keen to find physical evidence of this myth at the site, and though his arguments are interesting, the true functions of the cave and its related structures seem to be based more in reality than myth.
Stay tuned for next week’s post, where we take a look at the stoa!