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Archaeologists Build New Understanding of Ancient Temple
From: University Currents
Date: April 7, 2000
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Archive: Campus News, Research News

Imagine that you're trying to understand Christianity and how it is practiced, but you can only base your conclusions on church architecture and artworks, and you can't talk to clergy or Christians or even consult the Bible.

Now you have some idea of the task facing UC archaeologist Brian Rose and a handful of his peers around the world.

image of Brian Rose

Except the religion these scholars are trying to understand is not Christianity, but one thought to be dedicated to Samothracian Gods - a mysterious religion that emerged on the Greek island of Samothrace in the 3rd century B.C., hundreds of years before Jesus Christ is said to have lived.

The primary information source for this team lies in a pile of ruins, once a sanctuary, on the southwest side of the legendary site of Troy, where the universities of Cincinnati and Tuebingen (Germany) have excavated as partners since 1988. According to Rose, this research project will mark the most comprehensive analysis of a Greco-Roman sanctuary ever attempted.

"Previous researchers concentrated on architecture and artifacts in their evaluations of sanctuaries of this kind. We hope to reconstruct how this religion functioned in society through an analysis of all of the evidence we've uncovered, including ancient botanical and faunal remains.

Because much of this sanctuary was virtually untouched by prior excavations, we had a tremendous opportunity to excavate it fully and systematically," said Rose, head of UC's Troy excavation team and of post-Bronze Age excavations at the site.

All the work will result in two volumes to be published by Philipp von Zabern Press of Mainz, Germany. But before the plans for the book can be finalized, Rose is calling all the co-researchers together at UC April 9-10 for a brainstorming session and conference devoted to this single religious facility. The conference will meet 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Old St. George's Library on Calhoun.

The participants will include: Rose; Maureen Basedow of University of North Carolina, Wilmington; Machteld Mellink and Carolyn Chabot of Bryn Mawr College; Mark Lawall of University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada; Billur Tekkok-Bicken of Bilkent University of Ankara, Turkey; Blanche Menadier of Royal Holloway College, University of London; Marian Fabis of University of Nitra, Slovakia; Prof. Dr. Manfred Korfmann (director of the Troy Excavation Project) and Simone Riehl of University of Tuebingen, Germany.

The subject of all this scrutiny - the sanctuary in Troy - features five altars, four temples and a grandstand for viewing theatrical events or ritual acts.

Sponsors for the book and the symposium include The Storer Foundation, the Kress Foundation, James Ottaway, senior vice president of Dow Jones and chair of the board/chief executive officer for Ottaway Newspapers Inc., and the Louise Taft Semple Fund at UC.