Sacrificial Calendar Inscription (I-1)

Date: Archaic, 7th-6th c. BCE

Excavation Site: Corinth

Location: Temple Hill Steps

Material: Poros

Excavation Info: Excavated in April 1898. 

Database Entry: Artifact Database Entry 

Museum: Corinth Museum I-1

This inscribed poros stone was excavated in 1898.  It was found about 2m away from the stepped ramp of Temple Hill, the location of the Temple of Apollo. The inscription is badly damaged, and seems to have been broken deliberately in antiquity through the use of a pick or other sharp tool. Numerous pick marks are visible  along the front and back of the block. This section is made up of two portions rejoined by the museum, but another fragment is also know that does not precisely join with these preserved fragments. 

Excavated near the Temple Hill Steps. Plan courtesy of Corinth Excavations.

This block is one of the earliest known inscriptions from Corinth, dating to about 600 BCE. The text is boustrophedon, meaning that the text runs left to right and then back the other direction. It is also one of the earliest known sacrificial calendars. Sacrificial calendars generally provide a list of important rituals and dates, with specifics provided so that the people preforming the rites will honor the gods appropriately.

With this inscription, the text is very archaic and poorly preserved, so that the Greek it is not completely understood. The clearest part of the inscription can be translated:

"In the month of Phoinikaios [on (date?); for (divinity)] four piglets."

 

This archaic inscription from Corinth fits the standard pattern, giving us the name of the month (Phoinik-) and the number and type of animal offering (tetr]es xoiroi-). (Lupu 2009, 65-66).

In ancient Greece, each city or region had its own local calendar, with different month names based on the the important moments in their year. Our knowledge of the Corinthian calendar is incomplete, since we only know  the names of about seven months.

In the archaic period, month names usually derived from the major festival that occurred in that month, so this inscription in all likelihood preserves the name of an otherwise unknown festival of the Corinthians, the Phoinikaia. Other texts reveal that there was a hill in the town called the Phoinikaion and one of the deities worshiped was Athena Phoinike, so it may be that the festival mentioned in the inscription related to this goddess or location (Dow 1942).

As for the sacrificial animals for this event, our inscription preserves no other details. Normally, when animals were sacrificed, the thigh and tail bones were burned on the altar as part of the god's share, while the meat was consumed by the human worshipers away from the altar. Archaeologists who study the bone debris around altars have found that cattle, sheep, and goat bones frequently appear, but pig bones were rarely burnt on the altar (Ekroth 2009). Instead, there is plenty of evidence for eating pigs in other parts of sanctuaries. During Phoinikaios at Corinth, the details and procedures of piglet sacrifice may have taken some other ritual form.

3D Model

Image: K.A. Rask and Corinth Excavations.

File Specs

Software: MeshLab

File Size: 164 MB

Vertices: 4,095,091

Surface Reconstruction: Poisson

Works Cited

Dow, Sterling. 1942. "Corinthiaca. I. The month Phoinikaios," American Journal of Archaeology 46, 69-72.

Ekroth, Gunnel. 2009. "Thighs or tails?: The osteological evidence as a source for Greek ritual norms," in Pierre Brulé (ed.),  La norme en matière religieuse en Grèce ancienne: Actes du XIe colloque du CIERGA (Rennes, septembre 2007). Liège: Centre international d'édtude de la religion grecque, 125-151.

Lupu, Eran. 2004. Greek sacred law. Brill.

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