Swiss Archaeological School
Eretria : Metalworking in the Sanctuary of Apollo Daphnephoros during the Geometric Period
The issue of metalworking (mainly bronze) in the Sanctuary of Apollo is not a recent one, as traces indicating this type of activities have already come to light in relation to a building dating back to the Geometric period and called "atelier de bronzier" for this very reason (Huber 1991). However, recent excavations (1998-2003) have revealed more abundant material which, although still undergoing research, deserves to be presented at this early stage.
Pieces testify to the use of at least three metals (bronze, iron, gold):
- Remains linked with bronze work are the most numerous, essentially fragments of crucibles, bellows nozzles (tuyeres), slag as well as casting debris (spills and drip).
- Very little evidence of ironwork. Nevertheless, slag has been found.
- And, most unexpectedly, evidence of gold work. Three pieces of handmade pottery do, in fact, bear traces of the noble metal.
- It is worth pointing out incidentally that lead might have been used on the site, for example to repair large vases (lead clamps on kraters).
Few structures can be directly linked with metalworking:
- The casting pit in the building called "atelier de bronzier".
- A hearth set apart from the others by the presence of bronze spills.
- An unusually-shaped hearth positioned just in front of one of the apsidal buildings.
Bronze work appears from the beginning of the occupation of the sanctuary and carries on at least up to the end of the Geometric period. For the time being, gold work is evidenced more towards the end of the geometric period.
According to the spread of debris and the location of structures, metalworking was carried out in various spots around the sanctuary, not only inside any one building. Most of the remains, as well as an existing hearth, were actually found outside the walls marking the main sanctuary area in a zone frequently covered over by alluvium. This would indicate that working structures were only set up there on a temporary basis.
Metalworking and the sanctuary
These discoveries obviously question the link between metallurgical activities and the sacred vocation of the site (it should be noted that we take into account the doubts expressed by A. Mazarakis Ainian concerning the religious function of the first buildings).
In this respect, the following can be put forward:
- There is no crafts area as such at the sanctuary; metalworking appears to have been carried out sporadically, indicating the likely presence of itinerant craftsmen.
- It is quite possible that votive objects like those found in large quantities in a deposit to the north of the sanctuary (small bronzes, tools and iron weapons, gold leaf, cf. Huber 2003) were made on the spot but we lack evidence for this (no moulds or unfinished pieces). In addition, these votive objects do not appear (apparently) at the beginning of the occupation whereas bronze work is already well established at that time.
When interpreting these remains, scrupulous consideration should therefore be given to the chronology and spatial organization of the sanctuary area.
Huber S. 1991, Un atelier de bronzier dans le sanctuaire d'Apollon a Eretrie?, AntK 34, 137-154.
Huber S. 2003, L'aire sacrificielle au nord du sanctuaire d'Apollon Daphnephoros a Eretrie, Eretria XIV.