37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 4 HAD Posters
HAD Posters, Monday, September 5, 2005, 11:00am-5:30pm, Umney Theatre Foyer

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[4.02] Solar Alignments of Greek Temples Revisited

M.E. Mickelson (Physics and Astronomy Dep., Denison University), C. Higbie (Classics Dep., University at Buffalo SUNY)

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 approximately north-south, are noted in the literature, but many other temples are scattered across the Greek landscape in a variety of orientations but predominately (about 80 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, Roman and Greek temples by Aveni and Romano (1994) provides further stimulus to re-investigate Greek temples. We have undertaken three field seasons in Greece in order to check previously reported alignments. Where possible, in addition to determining the orientation of foundations, we have attempted to determine the, location of doorways and other openings, placement of cult statues, horizon altitudes etc. In this preliminary study we hope to be able to discover patterns in the orientation of these temples which relate solar observations to temple ritual and thus extend Dinmoor’s hypothesis. For some of these questions, we are dependent on literary and inscriptional evidence. This paper describes the preliminary measurements made over our three field seasons in Greece. Field methods and analysis of the data will be presented along with possible application.

1. Dinsmoor, W.B., The Architecture of Ancient Greece, 3rd ed. Rev. New York, 1975. 2. Nissen, H.,Das Templum,Antiquarische Untesuchungon (Berlin, 1896). 3. Penrose, F.C., Trans. Roy. Soc., CLXXXIV, 805-834 (1893). 4. Dinsmoor, William Bell, Archaeology and Astronomy, Proc. Am. Phil. Soc. 80, 95-173 (1939). 5. Papathanassiou, Maria K., Archaeoastronomy in Greece: Data, Problems and Perspectives, in Trends in the Historiography of Science, 433-443, Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands (1994). 6. Aveni, A. and Romano, G., Orientation and Etruscan Ritual Antiquity, 68, 545-563, (1994).

Research supported by the Denison University Research Foundation.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
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