AAS Meeting #193 - Austin, Texas, January 1999
Session 23. Tools and Techniques of Data Collection and Reduction in Archaeoastronomy
Oral, Wednesday, January 6, 1999, 10:00-11:30am, Room 9 (A and B)

[Previous] | [Session 23] | [Next]

[23.03] New Measurements of the Azimuthal Alignments of Greek Temples

M.E. Mickelson (Denison University), C. Higbie (Harvard University), T.W. Boyd (Center for Hellenic Studies)

The canonical opinion about the placement of Greek temples is that they are oriented east-west (Dinsmoor 1975). Major exceptions, such as the temple of Apollo at Bassae which faces north-south, are always noted in the handbooks, but many other temples are scattered across the Greek landscape in a variety of orientations. Although no surviving ancient author ever discusses the criteria for placing or orienting temples, we may assume from scattered remarks that Greeks had reasons for choosing the sites and orientations. In the last century, archaeologists and architects such as Nissen (1896), Penrose (1893) and Dinsmoor (1939), have measured the alignments of Greek temples on the Greek mainland, the west coast of Turkey, and the Aegean islands. Their data have varying degrees of precision and accuracy, as a recent paper by Papathanassiou (1994) makes clear. Parallel work done in Italy on Etruscan temples by Aveni and Romano (1994) provides further stimulus to re-investigate Greek temples. We have undertaken two field seasons in Greece to make preliminary measurements for a number of temples associated with Athena, Apollo, and Zeus. These temples were chosen for a number of reasons. The structures have to be well enough preserved to allow determination of the orientation of foundations, location of doorways and other openings, placement of cult statues etc. By focusing on these three gods, we may be able to discover patterns in the orientation and placement for specific divinities. For some of these questions, we are dependent on literary and inscriptional evidence, such as the work of the Greek travel writer, Pausanias. This paper describes the preliminary measurements made over our two field seasons in Greece. Field methods and analysis of the data will be presented along with proposed applications.

Research supported by the Denison University Research Foundation.

[Previous] | [Session 23] | [Next]