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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

September 09, 2020
The Greek god mask of Dionysus recently unearthed in an ancient Lydian kitchen in western Turkey. 

Archaeologists digging in an ancient ‘kitchen’ in western Turkey have unearthed a terracotta mask of the face of a Greek god, dating back nearly 2,400 years. Archaeologists digging at the ancient acropolis of Daskyleion City, located on the shore of Lake Manyas in the western Balıkesir province of Turkey, have told the Anadolu Agency ( AA) that they have found a rare mask depicting the ancient Greek god Dionysus. This exceptional Greek god mask and where it was found is providing new insights into the rituals, foods and other aspects of the ancient people who lived in the area.

Discoveries From The Ancient “Religious Pits” Of DaskyleionFirst settled in the early Bronze Age, the ruins of Daskyleion were first discovered in 1952 by archaeologists Kurt Bittel and Ekrem Akurgal. The first archaeological dig at the site was undertaken between 1954 and 1960, under the supervision of Ekrem Akurgal. In 2005, the Pharnabazus palace was discovered at the site.

Beginning in 2012, archaeologists focused their attention on the acropolis area situated near Manyas Lake and the village of Ergili, an area where a Satrap's palace and a Zoroastrian religious ritual site have already been found.

In 2018, a Hurriyet Daily article reported on the discovery of a building surrounded by walls nearly two meters high, on the ancient acropolis of Daskyleion. It was here that tools and food remnants related to the culinary culture and eating habits of the ancient Lydians were found, dating back to the seventh century BC. Many pits were also discovered that had been used for storage and religious purposes.

Dionysius: Greek God Of Carnivals, Masquerades, And More!
The Greek historian, Dionysius of Halicarnassus , lived during the reign of Augustus Caesar and wrote about the city of Daskyleion saying it had prospered in the times of the Trojan War . Later, Strabo, the ancient Greek geographer, said that after the war colonists from Aeolis, comprising the western and northwestern region of Asia Minor, settled in Daskyleion. And according to Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism website, during the first two centuries of the first millennium BC Daskyleion was under Phrygian control. Then, around 700 BC, the city was conquered by the Lydians, who named the settlement “Daskyleion” in honor of Dascylus, the father of Lydian king Gyges.

Head of Dionysus. Marble. Found in the theatre near the Zea harbor, Piraeus. (George E. Koronaios / CC BY-SA 4.0)
Head of Dionysus. Marble. Found in the theatre near the Zea harbor, Piraeus. (George E. Koronaios / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Archaeologist Kaan Iren, a professor at Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University , who is leading the current excavations at Daskyleion, told Daily Sabah that the terracotta mask of Dionysus was discovered in a cellar unearthed in “the Lydian kitchen” on the city's acropolis. In trying to account for its presence, the researchers said kitchen was probably “votive” and used for rituals connected to the Greek god of carnivals and masquerades. The archaeologist also explained that Greek legends recount the wearing of such a masks as a way of paying homage to the god Dionysus because they allowed people to free themselves “from secret desires and buried regrets.”

The Origins Of Dionysus: God Of Wine, Fertility, And Fruit
The god Dionysus, known as Bacchus in the Roman pantheon, was believed to have been born from the union of the god Zeus and the goddess Persephone. Dionysus represented a darker aspect of the god Zeus. He was the spiritual governor of the grape-harvest, wine, winemaking, fertility, orchards, fruit and vegetation. But over time, his influence increased to include insanity, ritual madness and religious ecstasy in Greek and Roman religion. Later, he also became a deity of the arts.

Dionysus had a dual nature. On the one hand, he brought joy and divine ecstasy. His other aspect, the darker one, included brutal, blinding rage. Together, these two faces of Dionysus reflected the dual nature of wine.

When worshiped as “Eleutherios” (“the liberator”), wine, music and ecstatic dancing freed followers from their self-conscious fears and cares. According to Rosemarie Taylor-Perry’s 2003 book “ The God Who Comes: Dionysian Mysteries Revisited ” revelers who embraced the god's mysterious nature became “possessed and empowered by the god himself.”

Though the discovery of the Greek god mask at this site is amazing, archaeologists are also extremely hopeful that the Lydian kitchen will also yield more evidence such as seeds and other organic materials. These natural material artifacts will hopefully help scientists build a clearer picture of the cuisine and eating habits in this region roughly 2,700 years ago. If one thing is for sure, this location is likely to yield many broken wine vessels and ancient wine production tools. For where Dionysus was worshiped, wine flowed in abundance like an endless river.

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