Ancestral and chthonic cults at Tenos


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Ancestral and chthonic cults at Tenos

By Nota Kourou (University of Athens, Greece)


This paper presents the material evidence from two neighbouring Early Iron Age sites at Xobourgo on Tenos, identified as sacred places, and comments on their religious character and evolution. The first, conventionally named the Pro-Cyclopean Sanctuary, has a purely mortuary character. It starts in the Late Protogeometric period with an ancestral cult on a pebble platform over an empty grave, continues with a number of pyre pits inside enclosure walls, and ends up with a chthonic cult at an eschara in the Late Geometric period to be replaced by a small sacred oikos in the 7th century. The second starts as an open-air shrine, named the Pre-Thesmophorion Shrine, with an eschara and a protected place for storing pithoi, and it is turned into a Demeter sanctuary, a Thesmophorion, with a small temple in the Classical period. After considering the development and phases of both sites, it is claimed that they have similar, though not identical, cultic roles. Their different architectural and religious evolution is considered as largely dependent on social changes and historical conditions. They are compared and discussed against contemporary archaeological evidence for ancestral and chthonic cults focusing on such evidence from Tenos.

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Bibliographical information

Nota Kourou, ’Ancestral and chthonic cults at Tenos’, Opuscula. Annual of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome (OpAthRom) 14, Stockholm 2021, 305-329. ISSN: 2000-0898. ISBN: 978-91-977799-3-7. Softcover, 478 pages.

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