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Fragments of a terracotta pinax (small decorated slab) with a procession of priestesses and women, produced for the sanctuary on the Timpone della Motta., 6th century BC. From the former Bern-Getty collection of objects looted from the Timpone della Motta, now in the Archaeological Museum at Sibari.
Fragments of a terracotta pinax (small decorated slab) with a procession of priestesses and women, produced for the sanctuary on the Timpone della Motta., 6th century BC. From the former Bern-Getty collection of objects looted from the Timpone della Motta, now in the Archaeological Museum at Sibari.

III.A.9. Fragments of a terracotta pinax with a procession, Athenaion, Timpone della Motta

Among the objects looted from the Timpone della Motta in the former Bern-Getty collection were several fragments of a pinax forming part of a representation of a procession.

The pinakes form a rather interesting scene, which has been reconstructed by Madeleine Mertens-Horn on the basis  of similar frieze plaques that once adorned a small temple in the sanctuary at Metapontion.

That temple was probably dedicated to the goddess Athena, as were the temples on the Timpone della Motta.

The pinax was reproduced from a mould (matrix), which means that more specimens will have existed.

The frieze shows two women seated on a cart, one of the women holding a flower and the other a whip. Three girls follow on foot, their left hand extended in a gesture of greeting and in their right also holding a flower.

A boy holding the reins in his right hand and an incense container in his left leads the hinnies drawing the cart. Votive objects may be present in the cart itself.

All women wear a light mantle or veil over their head, shoulders and back as well as a tight dress. The flowers are in different stages of blossoming. Only the lotus flower held by the women on the cart is in full bloom, and these women are also older than their followers are.

According to Mertens-Horn, this scene depicts a procession towards a sanctuary and a cult statue,[1] with the women on the cart possibly being priestesses.

In general, a veil or mantle covering the head marks separation from the group, and it is therefore an appropriate garment during the liminal stage of classic, tripartite rites of passage; brides also wear it.

As the girls seem to have the appropriate age for dancers it is possible that what is depicted here is their arrival at the sanctuary to perform duties such as processing wool, weaving and dancing, and culminating in the performance of the sacred dance on the temple plateau later on (cf. Museum No.V.B.4A and 4B).

The older women on the cart are likely to be married women officiating either temporarily or for life as priestesses. In a passage in book 6 of the Iliad describing the offering of dresses to Athena, such older women are called geraiai or gerairai, which is not to be understood as ‘old women’ but as ‘spouses of the gerontes’ (leaders) of Troy.

Homer and other sources are quite explicit on these women’s main task, which is to attend to the cult statue with offerings, prayers and during festivals.

The two women seated in the cart probably represent such geraiai, on their way to fulfil their duties. Another indication is the incense container held by the young boy, which would be needed later on in the cultic ceremonies to be performed by the geraiai in the cart.

Because of these connections with the Homeric passage on the dedication of dresses to Trojan Athena, it is very likely that the goal of the processions was a seated cult statue of the ‘Athena in naiskos’ type (cf. Museum No. III.A.5). 

The fragments are associated with Temple V.d on the Timpone della Motta. They are now in the Archaeological Museum at Sibari.

References:

[1]Mertens-Horn 1992, 53.