Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.09.23

Rainer C.S. Felsch (ed.), Kalapodi II. Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen im Heiligtum der Artemis und des Apollon von Hyampolis in der antiken Phokis.   Mainz am Rhein:  von Zabern, 2007.  Pp. xv, 558; Abb. 12, Tafeln 106, Beilg. 13.  ISBN 978-3-8053-3771-7.  €144.00.  

Reviewed by Nassos Papalexandrou, University of Texas at Austin (
Word count: 2552 words

It is the contention of this reviewer that the excavation of the sanctuary at Kalapodi by the German Archaeological Institute is one of the most important research projects in post-World War II Greece. It has shed light on the history of an important cultic site in an area of Greece that remained largely unexplored until the mid seventies. The plethora of data it brought to light not only enlightens multiple aspects of the material culture (pottery, metallurgy, architecture) of Phokis but also enables one to reconstitute networks of production, circulation and consumption that made Kalapodi a seminal node in the north-south, east-west contacts of various groups of people within Greece. Finally, Kalapodi now offers a well published sequence of stratified deposits that document the continuity of cultic practice from the LH IIIC period to the Roman period.1 It still remains unknown whether this sanctuary is to be identified with that of Artemis of Hyampolis or the oracle of Apollon at Abai. In any case, the results of the excavation have illuminated important aspects of dedicatory behavior and investment in construction commensurate with the prominence of the twin gods throughout the Greek world.

Since 2004 the focus of excavation at the sanctuary has been the south temple of the complex, especially the deep strata underneath the Early Archaic and Archaic structures in this area.2 This massive volume continues the publication of the excavations in the sanctuary in 1973-1982, when the north temple (dedicated to Apollo) was carefully and thoroughly investigated to the natural bedrock, whereas the south temple was only partially explored.3 Rainer Felsch presents both a systematic account of the documented stratigraphy up to1982 and the final publication of some 2343 metal objects (mostly bronze), including the fragments of armor. Josef Riederer has contributed the chemical analysis of a good sample of artifacts made of copper and bronze. The volume also contains a monograph by Hans-Otto Schmitt on weapons made of iron such as spearheads, arrowheads, and swords. The latter is a substantial contribution to a relatively neglected field, undoubtedly worthy of its own separate volume. It is here tacked on at the very end, adding to the volume's physically cumbersome format, especially when it comes to the readers' necessary back-and-forth between the texts and the excellent illustrations, photographs and detailed drawings of most of the objects discussed in the text.

Felsch's exposition of the statigraphy of Kalapodi shows clearly that from the very beginning the excavation did not focus on bringing to light the entirety of the structural remains of the temple of Apollo. Instead, like the current probes in the south temple, the 1973-1982 excavations programmatically focused on specific areas, mainly on the east and southeast of the north temple and on the preserved stratigraphic sequences underlying the cella and adyton of the Classical temple. The LH IIIC remains were located around the southeast corner of the later Classical temple. Here it seems that the cultic installations included a small rectangular shrine (p. 5: "Kultbau"), dated on stratigraphical grounds to the middle of LH IIIC period (Schicht 4). Important strata of the LH period were also partially preserved in the layers underlying the north and northeast side of the later south temple. Felsch's account leaves no doubt that the deep probes underneath the sequence of the north temples did not reveal any evidence regarding LH buildings or other activities in this area. This means either that the Mycenaean sanctuary did not extend that far or, equally plausibly, that the intense building activity in this area during the first millennium obliterated all relevant evidence. It seems that the cultic epicenter of the LH sanctuary was located in the area later occupied by the south temple.

By the end of the LH IIIC the Mycenaean Kultbau had already been destroyed only to be followed by the alternating layers of clay and ash that during the course of the PG period formed a tumulus containing offerings (p. 7: "Opferhügel", Schichten 16-27). This feature was eventually encircled by a rudimentary stone krepis, but its life was short, as the area was subject to various modifications that were stratigraphically visible to the Early Archaic period. It was then that the sanctuary underwent a series of radical alterations. These included the formation of a ceremonial open space around an altar of ashes (p. 11 "Festplatz") and the construction of two temples. The northernmost of these temples was preceded by elusive structures of the eighth century BCE, which, however, contained a wide scatter of numerous bronze votives. There is no doubt that from the very beginning this area accommodated intensive cultic activities, the earliest occurrence of which is securely dated to the second half of the ninth century BCE--a period perhaps associated, according to Felsch, with the institutionalization of the cult of Apollo at the sanctuary. These structures were simple oikoi (an elongated north oikos with columns in antis facing east; a similar prostyle structure to the south) with solid evidence of cultic installations such as an eschara in the interior of the north temple. The south temple preserved a sequence of two well preserved floors, the latest of which was associated with an enigmatic naiskos (p. 11: "Einbau") installed in the interior of the cella.

By the beginning of the sixth century both temples had been destroyed. A fossa, lined with stucco and cut into the latest floor of the seventh-century south temple, probably contained the rich foundation offerings of its successor (terminus post quem: 570/560 BCE). This and the sixth-century north temple belonged to an ambitious building program. This is attested very clearly by the impressive configuration of the terrace upon which the south temple was built (p. 13: Schicht 60-66). The north temple is rather elusive but there is some evidence that, like its better preserved neighbor to the south, it was a peripteral structure. It underwent an extensive modification around 500 but once again this building and its neighbor were short-lived. Both were victims of the violent destruction by the Persian army in the summer of 480. Felsch gives an extensive account of the destruction layer caused by the conflagration (e.g., badly burnt pieces of the terracotta roof of the south temple superstructure).

The south temple was not succeeded by any substantial structures until the Early Imperial period. The north temple, however, had three more successors. A transitional, temporary naiskos, built on the ruins of the Archaic temple, contained an altar of ash precisely on the same spot as that of the altars of the earlier temples. The temple of the Classical period (Classical Temple I) was finished by 430 BCE, a terminus ante indicated by datable coins and pottery found in its foundation trenches but also by the terracotta revetments of its roof. This, however, was destroyed in the severe earthquake of 427/426 BCE. The effects of this ruinous earthquake were still recoverable in the destruction strata and in the damage wrought by in the masonry of the foundation walls of this building. The same foundation, repaired and considerably modified (esp. that of the partition walls and the interior colonnade), was used again for "klassische Tempel II". This structure largely made use of the architectural members of its immediate predecessor, which in the intervening period had been systematically dismantled. This building operation is datable on stratigraphic and stylistic observations to a generation after the 427/426 destruction.

The subsequent history of the sanctuary involves the destruction of Classical temple II at some point in the fourth century BCE. The continuous quarrying of its members, however, has obscured its latest phases. There is plenty of statigraphic evidence for leveling/terracing operations in the Hellenistic and Roman periods along the south side of the north temple. The concrete foundations of a temple-like edifice that partly overlapped with the buried ruins of the south temple point to some important activity in the Augustan period. The designers of this structure seem to have taken into account the preexisting south temple. This is one more piece of important evidence regarding the continuous interplay of past and present that forms an essential and recurrent feature of the cultic life in this sanctuary (p. 24).

The late antique history of the sanctuary is partially preserved in occasional graves and numerous robbing trenches, which have destroyed most of the evidence for the decline of the sanctuary. At some point in the Middle Byzantine period, what seems to be a humble cemetery chapel was erected where the cella of the Classical temple once stood. Around it a group of thirty or so graves are dated 1200-1400.

Felsch's lucid exposition of the stratigraphy of the sanctuary at Kalapodi is exhaustive. His account, supported by exemplary drawings of numerous sections in thirteen plans, points to the excavators' particularly careful and meticulous effort to record a very long and complex history of construction and spatial configuration inside the sacred space of the Phocian sanctuary. This chapter illuminates the relationships between buildings and cultic features in both their diachronic and synchronic dimensions. In this capacity, it will be an essential point of reference regarding the interpretation of the phenomena it records, especially regarding important aspects of the earliest history of the sanctuary. This includes the precise nature of cultic continuity, a phenomenon that still defies elucidation, this reviewer suspects, mainly because it has to be addressed in terms of each and every one of its numerous local manifestations in mainland Greece.

Perhaps the most valuable insight offered by Felsch's stratigraphical chapter is the contextual setting it provides for understanding the nature of the numerous bronze finds, which he publishes meticulously in pp. 28-388 of Kalapodi II (catalog pp. 248 ff.) This review cannot do justice to the range of this valuable study. Suffice to say that Felsch discusses in detail every objects retrieved during the 1973-1982 excavations. His chapters, for example, on the numerous pins and fibulae dedicated in the Geometric and Early Archaic period each have the value of little monographs that could stand on their own. In these he offers new insights concerning typology, chronology, workshops, function, and circulation of the artifacts deposited at Kalapodi from the LH IIIC onward, making a special effort to assess the Kalapodi material vis-à-vis excavated comparanda elsewhere. In this respect, Kalapodi II is sure to become a quintessential volume of reference for many years to come.

The published bronzes from Kalapodi give the impression that in terms of categories, number, and quality of objects, Kalapodi presents an image comparable, yet not identical, to that of the great panhellenic sanctuaries, such as Olympia and Delphi. The numbers here are not comparable to those, for example, of the much more prolific Olympian sanctuary. One should take into account, however, that, quantitatively speaking, the bronzes at Kalapodi are accidental survivors from a considerably smaller area of excavation.4 In view of this situation, it is tempting to think that Kalapodi's significance and range, especially in the Geometric and Early Archaic periods, exceeded its regional character. One thinks, for example, of the dedications of tripod cauldrons, the most prestigious type of artifact in the Geometric and Early Archaic periods. As Felsch rightly points out (pp. 43-44) these objects encapsulated material and symbolic values that were exclusive only to the highest ranking elites on a panhellenic level.5 On the basis of this alone it would be tempting to think of the sanctuary at Kalapodi as one more important arena for representation of local or even non-local elites, who shared exactly the same panhellenic ethos we see at Delphi or Olympia in more or less comparable terms. Felsch is fully conscious of the sanctuary's panhellenic outlook (p. 227) but he seems to think, and reasonably so, that the relative proximity of Kalapodi to Delphi may have affected depository behavior at Kalapodi as well. This may be true, but how are we to think of the first-rate quality of the artefacts? And how are we to think of the relationships between the two sanctuaries? Were they antagonistic or complementary in their capacity to satisfy the needs of their clienteles? And why is it that certain categories of tripods, such as the architectural "Gratbein" Corinthian products or the hammered tripods, seem not to have made their way to this prominent cultic arena? Why is it that the Orientalizing cauldrons are so prominently absent here? These questions cannot be answered here, but they are indicative of the potential of the rich material from Kalapodi to expand our perspective and focus.

Equally potent is the exhaustive presentation of thousands of deposited artefacts such as pendants, pins, fibulae, rings, etc, or the exquisite, yet badly damaged, pieces of armor. Sometimes the circumstances of deposition defy our classifications as, for example, is the case of a pendant in the form of a four-spiked wheel ("Radanhänger"). This was found attached to an iron fibula (Cat. nos 130 and 476, they were recovered from a LG context under the north temple). This find is similar to a group of objects found on the surface of a LG floor, again under the Early Archaic north temple. This comprised three fibulae, five pins, and the lower part of a small seated human figure in bronze. These prestigious objects were fastened on an equally prestigious textile (an offering of an agalma, but to whom? To Apollo, or Artemis, or both?). There are many cases here of published objects that allow the reconstruction of depository gestures in ways that are not easily paralleled elsewhere.6 There are, for example, many instances of showy pieces of armor that were found deliberately damaged upon deposition. Among them the case of a carefully folded greave stands out: It was carefully deposited near the threshold of the south entrance of the south Early Archaic temple (p. 225). Likewise, numerous weapons of iron were deposited as "Bauopfer" in the fill between the foundation walls of Classical temple I and the south wall of the temporary naiskos (p. 19). Overall, the material and its contextual circumstances point to a systematic and variegated "curatorship" of the material culture deposited in the sanctuary. Kalapodi II makes public a large amount of invaluable data for reconstructing this fascinating dimension of cultic life at the Phocian sanctuary. Such a reconstruction is impossible when it comes to the contextual status of similar objects in other sanctuaries, such as Delphi or the Athenian Acropolis, and to a lesser extent Olympia.

The volume is wonderfully produced. All the published objects are illustrated in black-and-white photographs and/or drawings, which do justice to the objects they document. This reviewer's quibbles are few. One wishes for more detailed sections in a scale larger than the 1:50 used for the thirteen Beilage, especially regarding the convoluted situation inside the cella and the adyton of the north temple. Likewise, the lack of cross-referencing between Schmitt's text and Felsch's stratigraphical chapter will generate difficulties for those interested in tracing the contexts of the iron weapons more precisely. Finally, it is regrettable that the 2343 catalog entries for the Bronzefunde were all included in one integrated catalog (pp. 248-388) instead of accompanying the sub-sections of each individual category discussed in the main text. Kalapodi II is one more substantial step towards the publication of one of the most important sanctuaries in central Greece. Its effect will be felt well outside the immediate circle of those specializing in material culture.


1.   Since the 1970s the bulk of new data from cemeteries, sanctuaries and settlements has emerged from rescue excavations conducted under the aegis of the 14th Ephoria of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities (a collaborator in the Kalapodi excavations), under whose jurisdiction a good part of ancient Phokis falls. I mention, for example, Dr. Phanouria Dakoronia's important finds at Kynos (Livanates), which provide a fascinating backdrop against which the late Mycenaean finds from Kalapodi should be considered. These are displayed in the Archaeological Museums of Lamia (which showcases reconstructed architectural members and some bronze artefacts from the sanctuary of Kalapodi) and Atalante (also displaying gold jewelry from Mycenaean graves at Kalapodi).
2.   As Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier, director of the current excavations, has emphasized in several public lectures, the strata beneath the preserved sequences of the south temple comprise an uninterrupted succession of cultic structures that can be traced back to the Late Helladic period.
3.   Kalapodi I, also edited by R. Felsch (Mainz am Rhein 1996), contains the publication of the Late Mycenaean and early PG pottery (M. Jacob-Felsch), the Corinthian pottery (K. Braun), the graffiti on the pottery (A. Palme-Koufa) and the Byzantine and Later Pottery (P. Amstrong). The pottery of the Geometric period will be published by R. V. Catling.
4.   These numbers are, of course, most likely to change once the entire temenos has been explored.
5.   The reviewer has addressed these issues in two recent studies (The Visual Poetics of Power: Warriors, Youths, and Tripods in Early Greece, Lanham 2005; Hesperia 77 (2008) 251-282).
6.   The case of the "Kultbank" associated with the temporary naiskos inside the Classical temple I is already too well known to warrant further comment here.

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