An excavation campaign in the historic Valley of Temples (Agrigento) in Sicily has stumbled upon a huge votive deposit consisting of 60 terracotta statuettes, protomes and female busts, fragments of bronze mixed with a large number of bones, lamps and small vases. The findings have helped shed light on the destruction of Akragas of 406 BC by the Carthaginians, forcing the inhabitants to flee in exodus towards the city of Gela.
60 terracotta statuettes have been found the Valley of Temples in Sicily. Among them are female busts, small lamps and jars. ( Sicilian Regional Institutional Portal )
From the Temple of Juno: A Scientific Intervention with Important Results
The awesome findings emerged from House VII b, a component of the residential enclave north of the Temple of Juno. Significantly, these votive offerings were uncovered above layers indicating destruction within the house. This positioning suggests that following the city’s pillaging by the Carthaginians, its inhabitants placed these objects as offerings, according to a press release by the Sicilian Regional Institutional Portal .
“It is a scientific intervention that we have supported in recent years, and which immediately gave important results. In the excavation area, which gives us a detailed reading of historical events, a large sector of inhabited area had already been identified, that is houses from the Greek age, whose main phase ends with the conquest and destruction of the city by the Carthaginians,” says the director of the Valley of the Temples Park Roberto Sciarratta.
The well-preserved Temple of Juno in the Valley of the Temples. (Leonid Andronov /Adobe Stock)
The Valley of Temples: A Rich Mediterranean Architecture
This ‘valley’ (a misnomer as the site is located on a ridge outside Agrigento) is an integral part of the ancient city of Agrigentum, located in the province of Agrigento, Sicily. Historical records attribute Agrigentum’s establishment to Greek colonists from Gela in eastern Sicily, around 582-580 BC. Additional settlers from Crete and Rhodes further contributed to its development, reports Heritage Daily .
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, the expansive Valley of the Temples spans 3212 acres (4046.86 sq m) and boasts remarkable structures from Ancient Greek civilization. The site was once part of the ancient city of Akragas, which was founded by Greek settlers from Gela, Crete, and Rhodes. It became one of the most important Greek colonies in Sicily and a center of culture, trade, and architecture.
It is renowned for its exceptionally well-preserved ancient Greek temples and ruins, offering a captivating glimpse into the architectural and cultural achievements of ancient Greece. These include the colossal Temple of Olympian Zeus, the divine Temple of Castor and Pollux, and the venerable Temple of Hephaestus (Vulcan). The Temple of Asclepius honors the healing arts, the resplendent Temple of Concordia, embodies harmony, the majestic Temple of Juno is seen as a guardian of women and the enduring Temple of Heracles is a tribute to strength.
The temples exhibit characteristic Doric architectural elements , such as sturdy columns with fluted shafts and simple capitals. They are constructed from local sandstone and marble. Apart from the temples, the Valley of the Temples is also home to the Tomb of Theron, a pyramidal structure believed to commemorate the fallen Romans of the Second Punic War.
“We work tirelessly to restore moments of history to Sicily that belong to it. The finds of the Valley, which is currently experiencing an extraordinary season with over 23,400 visitors only in the last weekend. They have arrived during an excavation campaign started in 2019 and then blocked by Covid and this makes the discovery even more significant. It seems that every site right now has something to tell us”, concludes the Councilor for Cultural Heritage and Sicilian identity, Francesco Paolo Scarpinato.
Top image: Votive offerings have been unearthed in the Valley of Temples in Sicily, Italy. Source: Sicilian Regional Institutional Portal .
By Sahir Pandey