La stipe del Santuario di Alaimo a Lentini: Un'area sacra tra la chora e il mare
Edited by Lorenza Grasso (Monografie dell’Istituto per i Beni Archeologici e Monumentali 2). Pp. 250, figs. 41, pls. 73, tables 15. Istituto per i Beni Archeologici e Monumentali del Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche, Catania 2008. €65. ISBN 978-88-89375-04-4 (paper).
The second volume of the IBAM (Institute for Archaeological Monuments and Sites) monographic series is dedicated to archaeological research in an extra-urban sacred area at the Greek colony of Lentini. Votive material was accidentally discovered in 1968 at the western margin of the modern city, approximately 1 km from ancient Leonitnoi. Grasso's study is the culmination of a lengthy analysis of finds from the excavation subsequently started and directed by Giovanni Rizza. The author has been able to compile a set of data that helps define the place of a sanctuary in the chora of Lentini through the stratigraphy of the ritual deposits and the spatial distribution of votive offerings. After an analysis of the excavations, the volume presents a catalogue of artifacts (pt. 1) and synthetic discussions (pt. 2). The book concludes with inventories of artifacts, two appendices on the examination of sediments and faunal remains, floor plans, and photographs of the excavation and finds.
The excavation examines a north-northwest–south-southeast wall that crossed the votive deposit; it is interpreted as a large temenos. Inside that enclosure were circular heaps of stones and traces of burnt animal bone, understood to be the remains of rituals that involved outdoor cooking and meat consumption. The author wonders whether the absence of grouped objects and piles of stones attributable to delimited deposits was not due to the dispersion of artifacts after offering.
The catalogue, preceded by a brief discussion of context, presents several major classes of material: pottery, metals, miscellaneous objects, and architectural fragments. The pottery is further organized by provenance (Corinthian, East Greek, Etruscan bucchero, Attic, and local or colonial pottery). In a separate section, miniature vases and fragments of transport amphoras are analyzed. The materials, particularly the pottery, date to between the mid seventh and early sixth centuries B.C.E.
The discussion in the second part of the volume is divided into three chapters. In the first, Grasso analyzes imports, considering the relationships with production and distribution centers in the Mediterranean. The second chapter is devoted to rituals and offerings, in particular the problem of the destination and function of the structures in the sanctuary. The third chapter takes up the issue of the deity of the shrine, which in 2003 was attributed to the cult of the Dioscuri on the basis of a dedication engraved on an Attic red-figure krater (cat. no. 301), dated to ca. 430 B.C.E. by Rizza. Grasso expresses concern about extending this attribution into the Archaic period, but she feels safer about the worship of Castor from the fifth century on. During this period, the conquest of Syracuse brought Lentini, like Naxos and Katane, into the Doric sphere of influence. Before the worship of the Dioscuri, Grasso suggests that the sanctuary at Alaimo was dedicated to the worship of Artemis.
The study as a whole provides an important contribution to the knowledge of sacred rites in sanctuaries of the Greek cities of Sicily. As part of a revival in studying ancient cultic practices, this study of votive materials from Lentini is a useful lens through which to view the Greek colonization of the island. Moreover, through ceramic analysis, Grasso is able to reconstruct the trade between the Greek cities of Sicily and the mainland of Greece. Her careful analysis of materials and their excavation contexts will make this book an important reference for future research on the sanctuaries of Greek Sicily.
Giancarlo G. Bozza
Academy of Fine Arts "R. Gagliardi" at Syracuse