Foundation rituals and the culture of building in ancient Greece Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Hunt, Gloria R.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Art and Art History
  • This dissertation examines the evidence for foundation rituals in post-Bronze Age Greece while investigating their function and meaning in ancient Greek culture. Foundation rituals are prescribed rites known throughout the ancient Mediterranean that marked the initiation of a buildings' construction, usually with a combination of prayer, sacrifice, and the burial of foundation deposits containing offerings of various types and/or sacrificial material. These distinctive deposits were ritually interred during the beginning stages of construction, usually within the fabric of the structure itself. The discovery of foundation deposits in association with cult architecture from all over the ancient Greek world and from every historical period attests that foundation rituals were regular features of sacred building. This dissertation presents all published foundation deposits in their archaeological contexts and identifies patterns in placement, method of deposition, type of material deposited, and geographic distribution. Reconstructed from the archaeological evidence, ancient Greek foundation rituals are related to the broader history of foundation rituals in the ancient Mediterranean, especially to the traditions of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Of particular importance are the formal similarities Greek foundation deposits share with those of Near Eastern cultures, an affinity which appears especially intense in East Greece and other areas where contact with the Near East was strongest. This dissertation argues that Greek foundation rituals are Near Eastern in origin and were likely developed through contact with these cultures, further illustrating the impact of eastern traditions on Greek sacred architecture. The archaeological and historical context of Greek foundation deposits provides a foundation for the investigation of the meaning and function of foundation rituals in ancient Greek culture. One of the principal functions of Mediterranean foundation rituals was to forge the public perception of a socially advantageous link between patrons of buildings and the gods they honor. This dissertation maintains that Greek foundation rituals similarly underscored a close relationship between human patrons and divinities through the topos of building, in which the sanction and assistance of the gods were perceived to play major roles. This view is substantiated by the portrayal of building and builders in Greek myth, where the procurement and elaboration of sacred space frequently result from divine guidance or miracle, and not human industry. This study argues that foundation rituals describe a "culture of building" in ancient Greece, that is, they reveal ancient perceptions about building and builders by reflecting the cultic responses these perceptions elicited. In investigating these important rites, this dissertation offers new insight into the process of constructing sacred architecture and the role it played in Greek society.
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  • Haggis, Donald
  • Open access

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