III.C.5. Fragments of a miniature, Athenaion, Timpone della Motta
Upon encountering these small, bichrome fragments with their strange shapes, the inexperienced finder would probably not know what to make of them.
Specialists, however, like Gloria P. Mittica who studied and assembled the tiny fragments, are able to draw many conclusions from them.
Firstly, when assembled correctly the fragments form a kalathiskos, a miniature imitation in clay of a basket with flaring rim. Normal-sized wicker baskets were used in antiquity to store a variety of objects such as fruit, flowers, eggs etc.
In Greek vase paintings we see these tall baskets with flaring rims often also being used to store unspun wool. The images suggest that the baskets were strongly associated with women’s work, and sanctuary inscriptions make clear that they were considered acceptable dedications to goddesses like Athena, Hera and Demeter.
We know that the Greeks dedicated a part of their products to the gods to ensure the deities’ blessing for the entire production, and this may well be what women did when dedicating wool in a basket and praying to the goddesses for help in the production of good yarn and fine cloth.
The idea to produce miniature baskets in clay – with open lattice work being created by cutting triangular sections of the wall away - was already known to the Minoans and Mycenaeans. Widespread production for tombs and sanctuaries, however, started in the last quarter of the 8th c. BC.
These early miniatures, which preserved very little of the looks of the original product, show that the idea of the ex voto had become more important than donating an actual part of an individual’s production.
The matt-painted fragments from the Athenaion of the Timpone della Motta, with their nice wicker imitation, must be dated on the basis of style and technique to ca. 700 BC. They show that the South-Italian sanctuaries were no slower to absorb the new idea of token votives than the sanctuaries in Greece itself were.
The fragments come from the Athenaion and were found during the Scavi Kleibrink 1991-2004. They are now in the National Archaeological Museum at Sibari.