Friday 15 February 2008 
Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier
German Archaeological Institute 
The sanctuary of Athena Miletus: cult continuity from the Minoan to the Archaic period 
During the excavation in the sanctuary of Athena at Miletus, the German team, directed by Th. Wiegand, found in 1904 a Late Bronze Age level containing Mycenaean pottery under the two successive Archaic temples. These levels were further investigated in the following years, in 1938, and between 1955 and 1968. The excavations revealed three Bronze Age phases with architecture. The level of the first phase contained Minoan pottery of the New Palace period (MM III-LM IB), the level of the second and third phases Mycenaean pottery, LH IIIA and LH IIIB respectively. The finds of Minoan pottery, among it great quantities of locally produced utilitarian vessels of Minoan types, corroborate the tradition according to which Cretans of the time of king Minos had settled at Miletus. The older temple of Athena was built directly over a Mycenaean building with rich finds, dubbed Megaron by the excavators. C. Weickert, A. Mallwitz and G. Kleiner interpreted the Megaron as a cult building and predecessor of the sanctuary of Athena and as evidence for cult continuity from the Mycenaean period onwards. 
This theory was rejected by W. Held in his book "Das Heiligtum der Athena in Milet" (Mainz 2000). He argued that there is no evidence for the existence of a Bronze Age sanctuary preceding the sanctuary of Athena at Miletus. He ignored, however, that a Mycenaean altar had been found in 1907 just in front of the Megaron as reported in the excavation diaries studied by him. Held completed his study in 1998. A year later we found in our new excavations in the area of the sanctuary of Athena, a Minoan sanctuary of the New Palace period with a sequence of mud-brick altars as well as cult objects (ritual vessels, fragments of a stuccoed offering table, votives, fragments of wall-paintings). From LIIIA 1 onwards, Miletus was a Mycenaean settlement. Although the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age levels were much damaged by building activities of the Roman period, there is enough evidence to demonstrate that the Mycenaeans renewed the cult and that there is a continuity of the cult until 494 B.C. when the sanctuary was destroyed by the Persians.
Athena was a goddess as early as the Bronze Age, probably of Minoan origin. It appears that her cult in the sanctuary of Athena at Miletus extended over a period of about 1200 years.


Next Seminar

Friday 12 May 18.30

M. Marthari
Raos on Thera...