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Ursprung und Frühzeit des Heraion von Samos. Part 1, Topographie, Architektur und Geschichte

Ursprung und Frühzeit des Heraion von Samos. Part 1, Topographie, Architektur und Geschichte

By Hans Walter, Angelika Clemente, and Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier (Samos 21.1). Wiesbaden: Reichert 2019. Pp. 350. €78. ISBN 978-3-95490-399-3 (cloth).

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Since 2019, the Samos series issued by the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), which is dedicated to conclusive publication of the site’s excavation results, has been enriched by no fewer than six recent additions in a sequence that now contains 32 hefty volumes. Several more are in progress, indicating the great strides that the publication project is making. Samos 21.1 contains a cornucopia of information as it attempts a broad synthesis as well as a thorough presentation and analysis of finds first published elsewhere in summary form; it also presents some altogether new evidence. The text is accompanied by detailed documentation in the form of numerous photographs, plans, and drawings that richly expand the existing archaeological dataset of this important seaside sanctuary of the eastern Mediterranean.

Samos 21.1 has at its core a manuscript produced in the latter part of the 1960s by the late archaeologist Walter and architect Clemente on excavations they conducted in the main area of the sanctuary from 1952 to 1964. This manuscript has been carefully edited by Niemeier, who has provided useful updates, corrections, and cross-references, and has written additional chapters. The Samos excavations produced sequences of stratigraphic ensembles (“Fundgruppe” in the excavation’s parlance) and the ceramic finds have until now provided the main chronological linchpins for dating the various artifacts associated with them (e.g., bronzes, ivories, terracotta figurines). These important Fundgruppe (tabulated on 24–25, duly cited throughout the volume, and updated by Niemeier according to recent interpretations of ceramic chronologies in the Aegean) have been referenced in summary form in previous volumes of the Samos series (e.g., 9:72; 13:195–206; 18:1–2, 53), but until now the evidentiary basis they offer has remained unpublished. Niemeier does not explain why this most important information has remained unpublished for more than half a century. The publication of this ceramic evidence in Samos 21.2 (forthcoming)—which must be quantitatively substantial, if not daunting—will complement volume 21.1 even as it will finally make available to scholarship results only selectively published in Samos 5 by Walter, Samos 6.1 by Elena Walter-Karydi, or in the numerous preliminary reports published in the Athenische Mitteilungen or Archäologischer Anzeiger.

Samos 21.1 will become a standard reference tool for those involved in studying the first-millennium archaeology of the Aegean or who focus specifically on the Heraion. It contains substantial contributions by Niemeier on the history of the excavations as well as of their publications and ensuing debates (ch. 1); a synthesis of solid evidence for the architectural and topographical development of the sanctuary in the Late Bronze Age (ch. 2); and a contextualization of the sanctuary’s place in the history and culture of Ionia from the Neolithic period to ca. 300 BCE (ch. 11). Walter and Clemente have authored the remaining chapters, which comprise the bulk of the volume and provide the most detailed publication heretofore on several topics: the architectural development of the sanctuary “von Altar I bis VI” (ch. 3); the publication of the material evidence for altars I–VI (ch. 4); the final publication of evidence about the often controversial phasing of the important temple structures known in scholarship as Hekatompedos I (ca. 680 BCE) and its successor Hekatompedos II (ca. 630/20 BCE) on the same foundation (ch. 5); and the naiskoi (shrines or treasuries) that surrounded the main plaza around the altar area of the sanctuary (ch. 6). The volume also accommodates shorter chapters on the sanctuary’s water supply, bases of dedicatory objects, and rooftiles dating before ca. 575 BCE. Last but not least, the often discussed but never fully published votives in the form of model houses carved in limestone are properly treated here.

This review cannot fully do justice to the amplitude of information or to the groundbreaking character, fresh insights, and new interpretations presented in this volume. Niemeier’s chapters 2 and 11 bracket the volume in an appropriate way. Chapter 2 delineates the history of the sanctuary’s site in the Bronze Age, giving in detail the sequences of the settlement from the Early Bronze Age through the Middle Bronze Age, the period that preceded the earliest traces of cult activity in the Late Bronze Age. In the area of a first-millennium altar of major importance are two stone pavements (Pflaster A and B) and, in association with them, a great number of Minoanizing conical cups, which indicate some form of institutionalized cult activity (from ca. 1700 BCE) strongly influenced by the southern Aegean. Niemeier does not refute that the first-millennium local cultic traditions about Hera’s sacred lygos originate in the Bronze Age, but he argues against the identification of a tree stump (discovered by Walter) as a remnant of Hera’s lygos mentioned in textual sources of antiquity (17–21, by Niemeier; 41, by Walter and Clemente). The results now point clearly to the continuity of cult at the Heraion from the Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age (157).

Drawing from his decades-long archaeological experience in Ionia and especially in Miletus, Niemeier shows in chapter 11 that the development of Samos in the Bronze Age was inextricably entangled in much wider interconnections between southwest Asia and Anatolia and palatial Crete, an island in need of metals like copper and tin. The same pattern re-emerges in the early first millennium, when Samos appears synchronized with its Ionian neighbors not only in sociopolitical developments but also in its trade relationships and cultural connections with Egypt and the Near East. Niemeier surveys in detail sociopolitical developments vis-à-vis archaeological evidence in Ionia, weaving a very dense canvas for delineating the development and rich life of the sanctuary, especially in the first half of the first millennium BCE. This synthesis is far-reaching as it provides detailed overviews of, among others, the grand building programs of the sixth century at the Heraion (especially the so-called Rhoikos ionic temple, or Dipteros I, of ca. 575 and its unfinished grand successor Dipteros II under Polykrates) in comparison with similar projects at Miletus, Didyma, and Ephesos. Readers seeking an up-to-date replacement for Walter’s 1990 comprehensive synthesis of the Heraion’s archaeology (Das Griechische Heiligtum: Dargestellt am Heraion von Samos, Urachhaus) will find this chapter very useful. Niemeier is in command not only of the history of the archaeological exploration of the Heraion but also of the extensive bibliography on the relevant finds, including the rich dataset on the archaeology of the urban center of Samos (present-day Pythagoreion), produced through the research of the Greek Archaeological Service since the 1960s.

Nassos Papalexandrou
Department of Art and Art History
The University of Texas at Austin

Book Review of Ursprung und Frühzeit des Heraion von Samos. Part 1, Topographie, Architektur und Geschichte, by Hans Walter, Angelika Clemente, and Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier
Reviewed by Nassos Papalexandrou
American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 125, No. 4 (October 2021)
Published online at
DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1254.Papalexandrou

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