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Advancing the systematic study of ritual deposition in the Greco-Roman World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Ian Haynes

Bemerkungen zu bothros und fauis(s)a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

John Scheid

Individuelle Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Jörg Rüpke

Des espaces et des rites Archéologie des cultes de l’époque romaine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

William Van Andringa

Zu einigen rituellen Deponierungen im Heiligtum von Artemis und Apollon bei Kalapodi
in der antiken Phokis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Rainer Felsch

Deponierte Heiligtümer ?
Archäologische Beobachtungen zur rituellen Schließung von Thesmophorien . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
Lorenz E. Baumer

Müllhalden statt Marmortempel? Zum Phänomen der Aschehügel auf dem

Gebiet des Bosporanischen Reiches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
Ivonne Ohlerich

Votivdeponierungen im Oxos-Tempel (Baktrien) – Tradierung griechischer Kultpraxis ? . . . . . . . . 97

Gunvor Lindström

Rituelle Deponierungen: phönizisch-punische Bauopfer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115

Karin Mansel

Rome. The Anna Perenna Fountain, Religious and Magical Rituals Connected with Water . . . . . 151
Marina Piranomonte

Eine begehbare Votivgrube mittelrepublikanischer Zeit in Gabii . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167

Gabriel Zuchtriegel

Stelenfelder und Deponierungen in Saturnheiligtümern Nordafrikas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171

Günther Schörner

Gruben als rituelle Räume : Das Fallbeispiel eines bakchischen

Versammlungslokals in der Colonia Aurelia Apulensis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183
Alfred Schäfer

0_MAS_10_Titelei_CS6.indd 9 03.07.13 12:57

X Inhaltsverzeichnis

Rituelle Deponierungen im Domnus und Domna-Heiligtum

von Sarmizegetusa (Dakien) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199
Manuel Fiedler, Constanze Höpken

Deponierungen in römischen Heiligtümern: Thun-Allmendingen und Loreto Aprutino . . . . . . . 215

Stefanie Martin-Kilcher

Offrandes rituelles et dépôts de consécration en vallis poenina

(Grand Saint-Bernard, Martigny, Leytron, Massongex) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 233
François Wiblé

Die Grube G 11 im Heiligtum des Iuppiter Heliopolitanus in den Canabae

von Carnuntum – Zeugnis eines großen Festes oder „sacred rubbish“ ? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 259
Verena Gassner

Bemerkenswerte Deponierungen aus den Heiligtümern von Aventicum /Avenches (CH) . . . . . . . 279

Daniel Castella, Sabine Deschler-Erb, Marie-France Meylan Krause

Deponierung mit Hirschgeweih in einem römischen Gebäude bei Kelsterbach,

Kreis Groß-Gerau – Fallbeispiel einer clausura zur Zeit des Limesfalls ? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 299
Alexander Heising

Rituelle Niederlegungen im Heiligtum für Isis und Magna Mater in Mainz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317
Marion Witteyer

Ein Gastmahl mit Göttern in Notzeiten – Das Opferdepot am Rand

der römischen Villa rustica bei Marktoberdorf-Kohlhunden . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 353
Wolfgang Czysz, Markus Scholz

Rituelle Deponierungen in Germanien – die Funde und Befunde vom Martberg

an der Mosel (Kreis Cochem-Zell) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 369
Claudia Nickel

« Deponere » und « votum dissolvere » in der christlichen Glaubenspraxis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 383

Maike Berchtold-Rettenbeck

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Advancing the systematic study

of ritual deposition
in the Greco-Roman World

Ian Haynes

The range of ritual deposition practiced in the ancient world has long frustrated attempts at system-
atic analysis. Diverse modern categories have been advanced and ancient terms pressed into service,
but the result is often unsatisfactory. Modern terms, such as ‘foundation deposit’ or ‘cult pit’, fre-
quently obscure the similarities between deposits of ostensibly different functions, while the com-
mon tendency to apply Latin and Greek labels, such as favisa and bothros, often lumps together de-
posits created for quite distinct purposes. We know much less about what ancient terms for temple
deposits meant to their users than is often assumed. Furthermore, while many shared features may
be identified in the temples of the Greco-Roman world, a fact that clearly aids broader-based analy-
sis, geographical, chronological and cult-specific patterns informed the rituals within these sites to a
degree that is only very partially understood. It is necessary to recognise that many of the trends in
ritual deposition in these temples fall within longer-lived and broader traditions than those conven-
tionally analysed within classical archaeology.1 In avoiding detailed discussion of ancient and mod-
ern terminology in this paper, my desire is not to diminish its importance, but rather to shift the
focus onto the detailed interpretation of excavated data.2
One important recent development with profound implications for terminology must be acknowl-
edged however: this is the recognition that the deposition of votive objects – long a privileged theme
in the archaeology of Greco-Roman cult – is but one aspect of ritualised and structured deposition.
There is now a growing body of literature dealing with the notion of ‘ritual rubbish’ and its relation-
ship to both cult activity and the broader spectrum of discard strategies.3 Heightened awareness of
the complexity of structured deposition has in turn problematised what was once considered rela-
tively straightforward. Even identifying a deposit as votive can prove problematic. That votives played
an important role is abundantly clear, but to claim that all structured deposits at cult sites were votive
deposits, intended to invoke divine favour, would be to misconstrue the spectrum of practice attested
in the archaeological record.
What follows attempts to expand our understanding of this spectrum through addressing three
key methodological considerations. It begins with the challenge of on-site identification of ritual dep-
osition. How can we identify a ritual deposit? This challenge leads naturally to questions about the
potentials and perils of analogy in interpreting the deposits themselves, the focus of the second sec-
tion. It is one thing to argue for certain practices within a single site, but how far can we identify the
‘web of associations’ within ritual deposition across the Greco-Roman world?4 The healthy use of
analogy requires us to look far beyond individual artefacts to patterns of activity and, in so doing, to
reflect on how far we understand the patterns that we believe we have already identified. The final
section considers the implications that spring from identifying key associations. It argues that the
study of ritual deposition in sacred space should not be seen as an end, or a field in itself, but rather
something that illuminates the wider visual language of cult practice.

1 Studies of ritual deposition by Bradley (1990) and Müller (2002) highlight the longevity and interrelatedness of practices
in the prehistoric and classical periods.
2 Osborne (2004, 5–6) similarly notes the lack of agreement on appropriate terms and the dangerous belief that ancient

texts provide ‘safe ground’ for interpretation of ritual deposits.

3 See Hill (1995), discussed below, for a survey of the development of thinking in this area. More recently, note the work

of Lindenlauf (2000) who considers ritual rubbish within a study of the wider issue of waste management in Ancient
Greece and Martens (2004) who uses the concept of ritual rubbish when discussing the Tienen Mithraeum.
4 For the need to sonsider ‘a web of associations’ rather than simply the contents of a deposit see Hill (1995, 100).

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8 Ian Haynes

Identifying Ritual Deposits

How can an excavator claim to have discovered a ritual deposit? Over the years many scholars have,
implicitly or explicitly, identified votive deposits on the basis of certain key attributes. Osborne notes
that the most common are ‘religious imagery, precious or exotic material, distinctive architectural
context and concentration of non-functional items’, but crucially he observes that such deposits can
vary greatly and that ‘it is not necessarily the case that any single item would be out of place in a rub-
bish deposit’ (2004, 4). Certainly such attributes are strongly suggestive particularly when found in
close association, but in practice the identification of ritual practice at cult sites requires more. Though
the religious iconography of the Greco-Roman world is intensely studied, it would be a mistake to
believe that we can always recognise religious imagery. Much remains obscure and local patterns of
symbolic communication may easily go unrecognised. Similarly, the definition of ‘precious’ or ‘exotic’
allows for ambiguity. Material may be defined by its dedicator as special even when it is not discern-
able to us as such. Furthermore, as excavations at the third century AD Liber Pater cult site at Apu-
lum (Alba Iulia, Romania) demonstrated, even a crudely formed and poorly fired vessel type, such as
the CAM 306, can serve as an indicator of ritual practice.5
Attempts to identify deposits on the basis of their architectural context are no less problematic.
Observation shows that the context may be anything but distinctive; indeed in many cult sites the
only identifiable ‘architecture’ lies below the surface, and takes the form of the pits containing the
deposits themselves. In several recent notable cases, it has been the distinctive character of the pits
that have suggested that the badly damaged structures with which they were associated played a role
in cult, rather than the other way round.6 Furthermore, many deposits that have been interpreted as
of ritual significance lack any architectural context at all. Combinations of objects recovered on land
sites and construed as votive dedications are well paralleled in bogs and rivers. In some cases, for
example Empel in Holland (Roymans / Derks 1994), the sites of riverine deposits are monumental-
ised with the addition of a temple, but such structures are not a prerequisite for votive deposition.
Indeed, compelling evidence for such deposits can be found across such a wide range of site types,
from cemeteries to private homes and from forts to open spaces, that the presence of distinctive archi-
tecture can hardly be deemed a guide.7
Even the term ‘non-functional’ is problematic. Is it even meaningful to argue that an object pro-
duced to perform a role can be non-functional? Our growing knowledge of miniature objects, the
category of artefact most routinely dismissed as non-functional in academic literature, suggests that
they performed a range of functions. The limitations inherent in seeking ‘non-functional’ objects as
indicators as cult deposits becomes steadily more apparent as one reads the growing body of scholar-
ship that claims to identify as votive deposits such diverse objects as shoes, buckles, stylus pens and
medical instruments.8
Yet the limitations inherent in using any set of criteria go further. Does it follow that deposits
without Osborne’s listed attributes lack ritual significance? Osborne rightly avoids claiming that his
list is comprehensive and notes, that the selection of material, context and similarities with other
deposits ‘found in more explicit contexts’ (2004, 4) are vital too. Certainly scholars would do well to
avoid assuming that they can generate a general tick test to identify such deposits. For the excavator,
the challenge of interpreting ritual deposition does not lie simply with the more conspicuous depos-
its of Osborne’s type, but with elucidating the associations found in more ephemeral and ambiguous
assemblages. Excavation reports reveal that while there are distinctive deposits which most fieldwork-
ers could agree were the result of votive deposition, there are many others where even such a loose

5 The character and role of these vessels are discussed in Fiedler (2005, 98–99), Haynes (2008) and Symonds / Fiedler
6 This important point is particularly well made in the case of the identification of the Tienen Mithraeum by Martens

7 See the discussion of visual language of cult practice below.
8 For shoes see van Driel-Murray (1999), for pins, brooches and styli see Merrifield (1997), for medical instruments see

Baker (2004). I do not accept all of these arguments, but the very fact that they can be plausibly advanced indicates the
challenges inherent in identifying that an object was a votive or indeed that it was ‘non-functional’.

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Advancing the systematic study of ritual deposition in the Greco-Roman World 9

label would provoke widespread disagreement. It is important to ask here, not simply how archaeol-
ogists should advance the interpretation of deposits where there is some consensus that ritual activ-
ity is or is likely to have been involved, but how they can recognise ritual activity where it lacks its
more obvious attributes.
J. D. Hill’s study of ritual activity in Iron Age Wessex offers an important model for how this
might be achieved. In interpreting ritual deposits, Hill notes ‘I have interpreted these practices as
ritual by trying to avoid arguing from the contents, more from the nature and shape of activities … .
Throughout this thesis I have stressed the importance of a contextual approach, showing that all the
elements of this depositional practice were treated in similar ways and formed part of a web of asso-
ciations. Concentrating on a single category of finds, say animal bones, cannot adequately explain
the nature of these deposits …’ (1995, 100). Hill’s work, which was heavily influenced by the research
of prehistorians, should be essential reading for all those who seek to identify ritual deposits in all
periods.9 Its strength lies not only in reaching beyond particular artefact types to look at broader asso-
ciations, but also in recognising that there may be ritual practices involved in cult sites that do not
revolve around the more conspicuous and better known votive objects on which so much discussion
has focussed.
Before returning to the ‘web of associations’ which so rightly interests Hill, it is necessary to reflect
on the implications for all these approaches for field practice, associations are seldom discernable
simultaneously. Many, sometimes most, intra-site associations are identified only at a much later stage
during post-excavation analysis. Interpretation starts at the trowel’s edge certainly, but the identifi-
cation of associations at site level and beyond is an open ended process which should continue long
after the publication of the excavator’s ‘final report’. This has implications for all areas of archaeolog-
ical interpretation, but it has particular significance for students of ritual deposition. The ancient
world was littered with pits. The pressures of excavation mean that some are overlooked, others
half-sectioned while others again receive special attention. Historically, key sources of information
about ritual deposition, from traces of closure rituals to spatial associations between object types, have
often been disturbed before their significance was appreciated. In many cases they may have been
dug away entirely. The artefacts may have survived, but other evidence of no-less relevance may be
under-recorded or disregarded altogether. Conventional recording of bulk-finds may fail to preserve
vital evidence for structured deposition, for example fragmentation patterns in pottery assemblages
might be insufficiently documented. Environmental data may be overlooked.
In practice, the best-recorded votive deposits are often those that are identified as somehow spe-
cial at an early stage in their excavation. In an ideal world this would not be the case. Everything
would be so meticulously recorded throughout the excavation process that little would be lost. Yet
the reality of contemporary excavation, where resources of time and money are frequently tight, should
be enough to remind us how far removed from an ideal world our working lives are today. As for the
recording techniques of earlier generations, a quick survey of relevant literature is sufficient to remind
us of the huge gaps that exist in site documentation. It has often been the range of attributes Osborne
identifies that serves as a trigger, directing attention to a particular context, concentrating the ener-
gies of the field team and (often) instigating more detailed documentation. The extra investment in
recording then allows more profound analysis of the associations between attributes, but it also cre-
ates a hierarchy of contexts in the archaeological mind and that can be problematic. The danger then
is to ensure that other seemingly less important contexts do not get overlooked as attention moves
It might be useful here to offer an example of the dynamics of excavation at the sanctuary of
Liber Pater in colonia Aurelia Apulensis (Alba Iulia, Romania). This is in no sense a model, but rather
an example of how the field interpretation evolves and the way information can flow through a team.
The Apulum Project was launched as a tri-national excavation in 1998 with the express purpose of
exploring a section of the Roman town where Alexandra Diaconescu had discovered a cache of cult

9 Theapproach is best summarised in Hill (1995,95–101) in which Hill deftly tackles the vexed problems of terminology,
notably with regards to notions such as ‘special’, ‘structured’ and ‘ritual’ deposition.

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10 Ian Haynes

objects relating to Liber Pater.10 While Diaconescu’s earlier excavations had recovered four statues of
this deity, along with a votive plaque dedicated to him and a range of cult material, the early years of
the Apulum Project revealed little that could be explicitly linked to cult activity. The Roman ground
surface had been severely damaged and few features survived in situ. An important break-through
came with the discovery of the edge of a large pit on the northern side of the excavation area. One
of the project team, Dr Robin Symonds, noted the presence of a vessel type known to British archae-
ologists at CAM 306, after its initial identification at Camulodunum (Colchester, England). He
observed that there appeared to be a correlation between the type of sites where these artefacts were
identified and ritual activity, but noted that this had yet to be proven conclusively. Symonds’ obser-
vations were to prove pertinent as the pit was excavated. A series of layered deposits within the pit
indicated a pattern of ritual practice at the site, dateable to second quarter of the third century AD.
At the bottom of the pit the team found CAM 306 vessels, which had been smashed by stones after
they had been deposited. The targeted destruction of crude mass-produced objects suggested that
they had greater significance in cult activity than might otherwise have been suspected.
The discovery of the first pit was to have important implications for project management. Fur-
ther funds were secured to extend the area of excavation, complete the investigation of a further three
pits in the same, northern passageway of the complex, and undertake the substantial task of assess-
ing the material. The combined cost of analysing these pits, which was met by the AHRC, DFG and
private donors came to a little over £ 100,000; this serves as an important reminder that the detailed
and comprehensive analysis of such deposits is not inexpensive.
Recognition of the particular character of these pits triggered in turn a range of special approaches
to recording. There was, for example, an attempt to break the recording of bulk finds down into
smaller units within each context in order to assess patterns of fragmentation. This initiative and the
analysis that followed from it came from Drs Manuel Fiedler and Constanze Höpken. Early recog-
nition also ensured that the more ephemeral traces of ritual practice, traces that have frequently been
overlooked elsewhere, were adequately recorded at the time of excavation. The most notable of these
was the discovery by Doru Bogdan, the area supervisor, of traces of fires, lit on the northern side of
the upper level of the cult filling (but below the walking surface) of each pit. The presence of evi-
dence for this practice at sites separated by time, place and cult affiliation is suggestive of a broader
pattern of ritual activity.11
It should be noted that even within the Liber Pater site the pit contents and their treatment
showed significant variation. The earliest of the major pits in the northern passageway was conspic-
uous by its layered treatment of deposits, but the third pit in the sequence contained a fraction of
the material recovered from the first and little evidence of successive deposition. That pits closely
located in time and space can reveal such variation serves as a caution against over-generalisation, a
point to which it is necessary to return, but it does not undermine their value when attempting to
advance interpretation by analogy. Indeed, the associations discernable within the first pit were to
prove illuminating elsewhere within the site.
Towards the end of the site excavations, the team encountered a notable concentration of mate-
rial best paralleled by that found within the cult pits. Initial suspicions that the concentration might
indicate the location of a further cult pit proved misleading however, as no pit cut was identified. This
was one of the areas of the site were the Roman ground surface was substantially intact and the clear
impression was that the material had been deposited upon that surface rather than being dug into it.
Significantly, perhaps, this concentration was found on the edge of the cult buildings away from the
main thoroughfares. Subsequent work by Drs Fiedler and Höpken in the cult area at Sarmizegetusa
and the insights they have derived from it, suggests an explanation for this type of deposit (Fiedler
and Höpken, this volume). Their excavations have demonstrated that cult refuse was swept out of
the main shrine building and was allowed to build up prior to final disposal. It seems likely that the
accumulation of cult material identified at Apulum similarly represents an area within the cult site

10 Diaconescu’s initial discoveries are documented in Schäfer and Diaconescu (1997), for more recent work see Diaconescu,

Haynes and Schäfer (2001), Fiedler (2005), Höpken (2004) and Haynes, Diaconescu and Schäfer, forthcoming).
11 For further discussion of this phenomenon see below.

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Advancing the systematic study of ritual deposition in the Greco-Roman World 11

where broken items were swept and gathered prior to the next pit opening. The identification of these
transitory depots has further implications for our study, for if the clearing of these deposits was less
than thorough there is a likelihood that material could become mixed up prior to its internment.
Such a mixing process is the best explanation for the presence of fragments of the same pottery ves-
sels in different pits. Though it is not always possible to demonstrate the relative dates of these pits,
there is enough evidence from Apulum to indicate that some pits of different dates did indeed con-
tain fragments of the same item.12

The Role of Analogy

Perhaps the most obvious way to develop our collective ability to identify ritual deposition in the
field is to disseminate existing knowledge of the attributes and associations that have already been
identified through excavation. This must be seen as an ongoing process, the study of one set of asso-
ciations frequently reveals other patterns hitherto unidentified which in turn illuminate a still wider
‘web of associations’. Though the perils inherent in developing a list of common associations is at
once apparent and there is a real risk that such an exercise will prioritise some phenomena over oth-
ers, there is equally a risk that much crucial data will be lost if greater attention is not paid during
future excavations to the often subtle patterns we are now able to identify. Greater attention, it is to
be hoped, will in turn allow us to identify a steadily wider range of significant associations.
This desire to develop our ability to identify ritual deposition informed the development of a
ritual deposits database within AHRC-funded research into votive practice in the Roman Empire.
Work on the development of the database highlighted the problems and potentials of taking a com-
parative approach to such deposits.
In general detailed discussion of structured deposits is limited to site excavation monographs and
is very frequently broken up so that different elements are discussed in different sections or indeed
volumes of the report. The range of terms used to describe even the most common elements, such as
the pits themselves, is so broad that much is lost. Our reporting mechanisms, which often depend
on different specialist reports for different categories of evidence, be they features or finds, can obscure
the broader patterns within a site.
Yet, while the excavator must always remain alert to the particular practices of sites and localities,
it is clear that there are recurrent features that manifest themselves archaeologically in ritual practice
in the Greco-Roman world. Associations found in some regions can be paralleled to an impressive
degree within far flung sites.
In what follows I would like to look at evidence for three different elements of association that
are commonly found at Greco-Roman cult sites. These are not intended to be exhaustive, but they
are illustrative of the challenges of this type of analysis. Each forms only part of the ‘web of associa-
tions’ with which we are concerned, but crucially each also looks at contextual relationships rather
than particular artefact types – the preoccupation of many earlier studies. The first association to be
considered, that between pit type and contents, is frequently under-examined and poorly recorded.
The second and third, fragmentation and miniaturisation respectively, are frequently observed, but
the complexities inherent in their interpretation remain ill-understood.
We should begin then with what should be an obvious starting point: the pits within which so
many deposits are recovered. Much attention was placed on the contents of ritual/votive pits, or more
specifically, particular types of items within those pits, but much less on the relationship between the
pits and their contents. Yet the pits can reveal a huge amount. Recent scholarship on Balkan pit sanc-
tuaries has suggested, for example, that there may be a deliberate correlation between the shape of
some pits, and the form of some of the pots deposited within them (Varbanov, Dragoev and Haw-
thorne, 2010). At present it is hard to explore the broader implications of this hypothesis because pit
shapes are relatively seldom detailed in academic literature. Nevertheless, it is clear that many pits are
not simply dug to inter a simple one-off deposit. That cult sites might contain places which were

12 Martens (2004, 343) observed a similar phenomenon at the Tienen site.

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12 Ian Haynes

repeatedly used to inter materials is well known. Evidence exists from cisterns, wells and other pur-
pose built structures, but even where only sub-surface features are recovered, it is clear that pits too
could be used for repeated deposition. At least one of the pits discovered at the sanctuary of Liber
Pater in Alba Iulia, Romania would allow for this, as a ramp was built against its eastern side after the
pit was cut. At the mid Republican site of Gabii (Zuchtriegel, this volume) the evidence is still more
explicit; here a series of stairs was identified. Ramps, steps and pipes/chutes must, of course, be con-
sidered alongside the evidence for successive deposits of material, but they add an important level of
additional information. Whereas successive layers of deposition might still reflect a series of activi-
ties over a relatively brief time, perhaps no more than a few hours or days, the incorporation of some
sort of access point normally suggests recurrent deposition over longer cycles bound up with the
sacred year. The study of age/season of death in animal bone assemblages found within some cult
pits reinforces this impression.13
Pits are, therefore, as much part of the web of associations we seek to elucidate as their contents.
This important point is underscored by the identification of a key practice. The opening and closing
of cult pits emerge from the archaeological evidence as ritual acts in their own right. Relatively ­subtle
traces of pit closure discovered at Apulum were identified in section only after the distinctive char-
acter of the first pit was established. They were marked by a concentration of burnt material on the
northern side of the pit, a pattern subsequently found to have parallels elsewhere on the site. Similar
deposits have since been identified at the Temple of Isis and Magna Mater in Mainz (Witteyer, this
Unlike the association between pit and contents, the phenomenon of fragmentation has attracted
considerable academic interest. The deliberate breaking of objects is a widespread feature in cult prac-
tice, one that is attested far beyond the Greco-Roman world.14 Crucially, it is a practice that is attested
in association with a broad spectrum of artefacts and ecofacts. In some cases ritualised fragmentation
characterises the treatment of a range of artefacts within an assemblage, in others particular object
types are targeted for this special treatment. In still others, such as the so-called anatomical votives
representing body parts, objects are created in fragmentary form from the outset. Much more work
is needed if we are to appreciate the range of fragmentation practices in use and their associations.15
What is clear is that the common scholarly explanation for fragmentation, that the act renders a
‘functional’ object ‘non-functional’ and thus less vulnerable to appropriation for profane use by ‘kill-
ing’ it, is inadequate. While deformation of an object may have this objective, fragmentation can also
achieve other purposes. Fragmented objects can be used or deposited in a way that gives new life to
the whole or new meaning to the part.16 The selection of an element to represent the whole or pars
pro toto may, for example, be observed in the Greco-Roman world. It should certainly be considered
in the study of surviving statue fragments. Croxford has demonstrated that the surviving statue frag-
ments from Roman Britain represent a non-random sample of key body parts, and that hands are
statistically under-represented (Croxford 2003, 86-8). A partial explanation of this may lie in the fact

13 For a discussion of the archaeology of brief time see Isserlin (1994).

14 A recent monograph-length discussion of fragmentation by Chapman (2000) focuses on the practice during in the Neo-
lithic Balkans and offers insights that can aid our analysis. Chapman observes five major categories of fragmentation
activity, but it would be a mistake to believe that this categorisation works for Greco-Roman cult activity. As Croxford
(2003, 93 and fn. 59) has observed, Chapman’s notion of ‘enchainment’, the practice of binding together groups through
the distribution of fragmented objects, is hard though not necessarily impossible to relate to what is known of Greco-Ro-
man practice.
15 Hughes‘ (2008) work on anatomical votives re-examines the significance of producing body fragments within the ­context

of healing, a process which she argues was conceived of as the reintegration of the parts of the deseased person‘s broken
body. Her attractive arguments remind us of the constant need to consider the context and style of diverse forms of frag-
mentation when advancing interpretation.
16 The notion of resurrecting a broken object or animal through ritualised deposition is documented in anthropological

studies of living societies, such as the Bali Aga of Indonesia whose the Wangun Urip ritual involves the resurrection of
a sacrificed animal (a buffalo) through the reordering of its body parts in an offering arrangement (Reuter 1998, 83). It
would be archaeologically impossible to demonstrate that such notions existed in the Greco-Roman world, not require
the full reassembly of parts to be deemed effective. Nevertheless, the evidence for this practice in living societies is suffi-
cient to warn us of the danger of assuming a simple association between breaking and ‘killing’ objects.

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Advancing the systematic study of ritual deposition in the Greco-Roman World 13

that hands are more likely to break off. Yet the recovery of statue fragments under controlled excava-
tion may lend partial support to the notion that elements were selected to represent something larger
than themselves. Excavations at the Apulum Liber Pater sanctuary for example recovered only two
fragments of statuary from one of the cult pits, and interestingly one of these was the hand of a Liber
Pater statuette holding a canatharos. It provided an instant visual link to the cult and its deity. The
other fragment, was however, rather less distinctive. It consisted of a small lock of marble hair. Future
observation may help us to learn more about whether there were indeed practices that involved the
deliberate selection of statue fragments to represent a bigger force. Interestingly, Henig has argued
that there may have been on rather different grounds, suggesting that broken torsos of Bacchus found
at the Walbrook mithraeum were selected to preserve and emphasise the generative parts of the dei-
ty’s body (Henig 1998, 230). Such arguments are only ultimately convincing when the same selected
body parts can be shown to occur repeatedly in the archaeological record.
Pottery vessels are open to a still broader range of fragmentation practices than statuary. This is
only partly because there was more pottery around to adapt and exploit. The range of vessel forms is
itself a consideration. In addition to vessels that were specifically made for cult purposes, there were
a range of common vessel types that could readily be attributed symbolic significance by a devotee.
Not only do complete pots sometimes serve as symbols of the human body, but parts of pots are
sometimes selected to represent body parts.17
Pottery is especially frequently singled out for breaking and a range of practices may be identi-
fied. Pottery can, for example, be dropped onto a stone placed within the pit, smashed after being
placed in a pit or broken elsewhere so that only a symbolic portion of each vessel is deposited. Some
of the evidence for fragmentation could be attributed to a single agent, though many examples appear
to suggest multiple actors were involved. Should we view all of these actions as simply different ways
to achieve the same aim, with the intention being simply to render cult objects unusable after they
have served their primary purpose? I would suggest that we should not. The stoning practices at the
Liber Pater sanctuary of Apulum clearly reflects a rather different process from the symbolic vessel
portions deposited at the near contemporary Tienen Mithraeum in Belgium. The Apulum vessels tar-
geted for fragmentation enter the pit whole, the Tienen vessels, by contrast, are broken first and only
parts of them are deposited in the pit (Fiedler 2005; Martens 2004). Such variation in practice points
to the existence of greater complexity in fragmentation rituals than is generally acknowledged.
As the reuse of broken objects suggests, fragmentation cannot easily be separated from the wider
theme of recycling. Not only does fragmentation sometimes serve to facilitate recycling, but that
which is available for fragmentation is determined in part by that which is deemed recyclable and
that which is not.
The implications of this for metal objects are perhaps most obvious. Many metal objects can, after
all, be melted down and reused by the cult in another form or, as is particularly the case with coin,
used to pay for objects or services required by a site’s guardians.18 They are more suited, therefore, to
recycling and should in theory be less likely to appear in pits. Nonetheless, ritualised damage fol-
lowed by deposition is widely attested. Much has been made of the bending of metal objects, but of
all metal objects it is perhaps coins where ritualised damage has been most extensively discussed. The
folding and slashing of coins are both well attested in Western Europe as is their cutting. Determin-
ing the degree to which the latter actually results from ritual practice rather than simply the need to
provide smaller change is not, however, straightforward.19

17 Forthe pot as a metaphor for the human body see DuBois 1988, 46-9, 132-6 and Hughes 2008, 231-2. Evidence for the
use of pottery fragments to symbolise human and animal heads comes from a fort ditch terminal at South Shields where
clay discs, cut from pots, were found deposited alongside animal faces cut from vessels.
18 Rouse (1902, 342–347) was the first scholar to consider the disposal of Greek votive offerings systematically. Important

recent studies have considered the removal and melting down of objects (Linders 1989/90; Aleshire 1992). CIL XI 4123
records how offerings were collected from a lacus and used to pay for building work and sculpture for a temple at Narni
in Umbria. The use of coinage in this way must have been widespread.
19 Sauer (2005, 79–86) offers an excellent discussion of the challenges of assessing ‘ritual‘ mutilation of coins.

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14 Ian Haynes

There are, however cases where the mutilation of coins appears to serve as a counterpart/succes-
sor to the ritualised damaging of other object types. Perhaps one of the finest examples of this comes
from the cult site of La Villeneuve-au-Chatelot, a place of ritual deposition from the fourth century
BC, which acquired a sacred enclosure in the mid first century BC. The site yielded multiple model
wheels, deliberately damaged weaponry and, concentrated within the enclosure ditches, coins muti-
lated by cross-shaped cuts. Coin mutilation at the site clearly fits into a longer tradition of damage
prior to deposition.20
Miniaturization is another feature of cult practice widely attested in ritual deposition. It is also
a feature that is in no way confined to the Classical world, as the pre-Roman wheels from La Ville-
neuve-au-Chatelot remind us, nor to a particular material or form. Yet, as Kiernan has recently
observed in his study of miniature and model votive offerings from Rome’s north-western provinces,
there is a general tendency to lump these objects together (Kiernan 2009, 5–7). In fact it is clear that
miniature objects discovered in ritual deposits served a wide range of roles and were treated in var-
ied ways, ways that further illuminate the web of associations which shaped Greco-Roman cult prac-
tice. As with damaged or fragmentary items, miniatures are sometimes dismissed by archaeologists
as ‘non-functional’, but the deliberate bending or breaking of some miniatures clearly suggests that
this was not the original perception – their use clearly needed to be redefined by this process in just
the same way as full-sized votives.21 This and the very fact that both full size and miniature models
of some forms, notably body parts, weapons and other tools, further underscore the danger of focus-
sing overwhelmingly on the size of the items.22
While fragmentation is frequently associated with the actual act of deposition in pits (i.e., objects
are frequently broken at the around the time of their deposition), miniaturization does not have the
same sort of relationship; objects are not shrunk for disposal. Miniature objects are, however, con-
spicuously associated with cult pits. In some cases their interment was necessitated by their sheer
numbers.23 It appears that many forms, notably jars and pots, were produced for a single event and
then disposed of, to leave them lying around a sanctuary would have created an almost impossible
level of clutter. Yet, it is clear that it was not always for this reason that miniatures found their way
into pits. The cleaning-up of sanctuary space, often in accordance with a cult’s own notions of sacred
time, would often entail the removal of the less extravagant offerings. Miniatures were amongst the
most affordable, the most likely to be replicated by future donors and the most easy to remove and
replace. While some of these were certainly deposited in huge numbers, others are found in much
smaller concentrations.
Some miniatures, notably anatomical votives, have been studied extensively for over a century,
while others have only recently been identified in the archaeological record.24 The range of types is
so extensive that it is impossible to describe all here, but a few examples will suffice to demonstrate
that much more research is required if we are to appreciate the range of associations with which dif-
ferent types were linked in the ancient world.

20 Aubin / Meisonnier (1994). While it is important to acknowledge that there is greater consistency in the mutilation of
the Celtic coins at the site than of the Roman ones (Sauer 2005, 84), mutilation of Roman coins here must surely be
seen as part of the same practice. The sanctuary is a fine example of how the interpretation of cult sites in the Greco-
Roman world also requires an awareness of regional indigenous traditions which emanate from neither Greece nor Italy.
21 Miniature spears found in Roman contexts at Baâlons-Bouvellmont in France (Squevin 1992,140 fig. 2.5 and 2.9) and

Woodeaton in England (Bagnall-Smith 1998, nr. 2.3–10) were ritually bent prior to deposition. Kiernan discusses these
examples, with others, and deems them substitutional votives (Kiernan 2009, 97–104).
22 I note, of course, that there is good evidence the production of miniature versions of these versions were often more

commonly used after the deposition of full-sized examples became less common.
23 Excavations at Lavinium in Italy, for example, recovered about 15,000 miniature storage jars deposited between 650 and

600 BC (Fenelli 1984: 331).

24 For recent surveys of anatomical models see Forsen (1996) and van Straten (1981). Excavations at the sanctuary of

Liber Pater, Apulum have revealed a previously unknown category of miniature, the mini-money box (Fiedler 2005,
101 fig. 8).

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Advancing the systematic study of ritual deposition in the Greco-Roman World 15

The residue found in miniature vessels indicates that they frequently served as actual containers;
they were not necessarily produced therefore to represent a larger item. The concentration of differ-
ent forms of human and animal figurines often links reflects different types of cult site. The rep-
resentation of humans, or of human body parts, may play a range of roles, but the latter are most
commonly recovered from healing sites. Animal figurines appear, and it has been suggested that they
are more likely to be found at rural sites, reflecting the dependency of the cult community on key
beasts. Yet there are cases where other explanations can be advanced for both human and animal fig-
urines. Egri has shrewdly observed that some of the clay figurines in the Apulum pits may be associ-
ated with children and has suggested that coming of age rituals, may account for some of the items
recovered within the pits. Some of the miniatures may thus be toys discarded on adulthood, items
which are only secondarily incorporated into this ritualised context (Egri, forthcoming). The connec-
tion with childhood rituals is suggested by the fact that some of the human figures appear to wear
crepundia, necklaces worn by children prior to their coming of age. The analysis here is made all the
more interesting by virtue of the fact that other figurines in the same contexts were clearly images of
Some objects appear to represent the attributes of the deity, while others appear to have been
designed as gifts for him or her. Both categories could, it would appear, be made of a range of differ-
ent materials. We tend to assume that these materials indicated what the dedicant was able and/or
prepared to pay, but it is not necessarily the case that this was the dominant consideration.
What is clear is that many miniature forms, even those found in large numbers, had particular
regional distributions. Miniature spears are, for example, best known from Britain, though some have
also been identified in Gaul. Miniature money boxes have, to my knowledge, only been discovered
at one site (Apulum) to date.
It will be abundantly clear to readers that this brief discussion of analogies and the associations
is in no sense exhaustive. The intention is rather to stress that associations are more complex than site
reports often allow. We have often grouped together behaviour open to more profound analysis. We
cannot afford to constrain our research to the presence or absence of certain object types. Rather it
is the treatment of objects of different types and forms within the context of the pits and indeed, of
the pits within the context of sacred space, which should command our attention. This allows us to
observe associations found at temple sites across the Greco-Roman world which, though not always
unique to that world, were collectively quite distinctive.25 At the same time, it also allows us to see
that differences existed within the Classical World which were not just linked to particular cults, but
also to distinct regional traditions. All these considerations must be considered when we then try to
relate the deposits we unearth to the structures within which they were once used and displayed.

The visual language of cult practice

To a profoundly significant degree, our notion of the visual language of cult in the Greco-Roman
world has been conditioned by texts, structures and sculptures. Yet if we visualise cult sites exclusively
in terms of altars, architecture and statuary, we are left with a wholly misleading impression of stark
grandeur. Ancient visitors to cult sites would have seen much more. Exceptionally inscriptional evi-
dence survives which enhances our understanding of temple interiors. The inventories of sanctuary
of Asklepios in Athens which allowed the scheme by which votives were displayed to be reconstructed
(Aleshire 1991, 41-6) are a fine example of this, but we seldom recover such detailed documentation.
The excavation of temple interiors, as distinct from pit deposits, only exceptionally furnishes us with
the detailed information required to visualise the cluttered and fascinating scenes that must have been
familiar to worshippers. The discovery of in situ offerings at the temple of Allmendingen, which were

25 I avoid here entering into discussion ofthe striking parallels between Greco-Roman and contemporary practices of votive
offering of the type visible in Catholic and Orthodox traditions Though this offers an interesting analogy to think with,
its use is replete with dangers. Discussions of these traditions tend to draw us back to the discussion of votive objects
and away from the wider theme of association.

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16 Ian Haynes

preserved under silt as a result of the flooding of the site, is a rare example which gives us a sense
of how the interior of a temple may have appeared at a single moment in time.26 We see the small
offerings left where they were deposited by worshippers: coins that had been thrown, containers for
food offerings and flowers, candle holders, miniature statuettes added to the throng. Ordinarily most
would have to be gathered up or swept away for use or simply to clear the way for further offerings.
This dynamism is a crucial part of the visual language of cult practice. It invites and sustains the
involvement of a spectrum of worshippers. Its character and intensity could change during the course
of the sacred year as feasts, cult days and pilgrimages came and went.
The survival of such detailed inscriptions as those discovered at the sanctuary of Asklepios and
of in-situ offerings on the floor of the Allmendingen are rarities. Even when we are fortunate to have
such evidence, it is necessarily limited in what it can tell us about the visual syntax of cult offering.
For the most part our key vehicle for studying the pattern of contrasts that characterised temple inte-
riors must come from the analysis of ritual deposition. It is through sifting through the sacred rub-
bish and the contents of cult pits that we encounter the material and it is here too, that we can hope
to unearth clues to the patterns by which these were discarded.
Ritual deposits are not therefore simply a subject in themselves. They carry with them crucial
clues to the visual language of cult practice. They demand that we review all that we think we know
about the operation of discard strategies in cult spaces. Sometimes, the entry points to cult pits help
suggest from where in a sanctuary space the interred objects derived. The inclusion of animal bone
will, in particular, offer clues to the patterns of sacred time in cult space. It may be possible to iden-
tify in slaughter patterns, for example, indications of the time of year when animals were sacrificed
and/or butchered. Often the burial of objects together can suggest associations between artefact types
that might have remained unsuspected, though the evidence for holding points for ritual rubbish
means that care must be taken in offering bold assumptions that items buried together were neces-
sarily used together. As our study of these deposits advances, this challenge must remain before us,
guiding us to rethink assumptions about cult practice and the appearance of the sacred in the ancient
One area where rethinking is clearly already underway is in terms of thinking about the ritual
landscape of the Greco-Roman world. The associations discussed in this paper are not limited exclu-
sively to temples and shrines. The visual language of cult practice was much more widely used. Depos-
its at temple sites can often show strong parallels with ritual deposits at different types of site in the
immediate vicinity. In their study of Pompeii, for example, Ciaraldi and Richardson (2000, 80) noted
‘It is interesting that the ritual deposits found at the House of the Vestals and in later contexts at the
atrium house of the Wedding of Hercules are repeated in the ritual deposits of the Temple of Isis’. In
the provinces, other notable parallels may be cited, particularly with funerary practice. At Karden in
Germany, Nickel (1999, 202, 207) observed a strong connection between ‘Gaben für die Toten’ and
the ‘Gaben für die Götter’ for example. The settings may be different, but these are still places of
ritual, and the range of offerings and their treatment remind us that similar strategies are used to
evoke the sacred dimension of the acts that precede their deposition.
There can be no doubt that rewarding new lessons are emerging from the time-consuming and
intricate study of these deposits, whether they are found at temples, grave sites or in domestic set-
tings. At cult sites, though, another advantage accrues. The patterns of devotion suggested by dedi-
catory inscriptions and statuary are cast into a new context. There is nothing new in noting that many
deities could be commemorated in a single cult site, but it is illuminating to encounter within some
votive deposits a predominance of lower value cult material that privileges other deities than those
carved in marble. Mariana Egri’s diligent research at Apulum has shown, for example, that the of 77
terracotta figurines of deities discovered in the Liber Pater sanctuary, Liber Pater was actually only
the fourth most popular deity (Egri, forthcoming). Venus came first with 40 figurines, followed by
Telesphorus with 10, Aesculapius and Hygeia with eight; Liber Pater only counted for six. Interest-

26 For the site see Martin-Kilcher (1995). This is not to suggest that the material was wholly undisturbed after offerings
were placed nor that the site interior was typical of all cult sites.

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Advancing the systematic study of ritual deposition in the Greco-Roman World 17

ingly, the only examples to be found in the cult pits themselves were of Venus and Telesphorus, though
an Apollo figure may also have been included. 1 would suggest that such a pattern allows for various
explanations, from different discard patterns associated with ‘visiting’ deities over the site’s divine
patron to distinct cultic allegiances amongst diverse income groups, but the key point is that it offers
a different view of devotional practice at the site to what might have emerged from the major statu-
ary and the epigraphic evidence.
As the papers in this volume indicate, there is already a substantial body of evidence available to
help us build a more complete picture of the visual language of cult practice in the Roman world.
The diligence of excavators, the emphasis on good contextual recording, the desire to compare not
just objects but depositional practice are all integral to developing a new and more profound under-
standing of cult in the Greco-Roman world.


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Supplementary Series

Professor Ian Haynes

School of Historical Studies
Newcastle University
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE 1 7RU

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