Timber Temple III.a, Acropolis, Timpone della Motta
The most important timber temple (no. III.a) once stood all the way at the back of the Acropolis, gently rising from the highest area and in the centre.
Because these were the remains of the third building that Dr. Stoop discovered, it was named Temple III, but it certainly is number one for position and importance.
On the westernmost top of the Acropolis, one may thus come across a rectangular pattern of large round holes, cut in the rock, with riverbed stones on the surface in a similar but slightly askew rectangular pattern, partially covering the holes. The post holes are the remains of Temple III.a, whereas the wall foundations are from Temple III.b.
With their diameter of half a metre and their depths ranging from 50 to 60 cm, the holes obviously once held very sturdy wooden posts that together formed a long quadrangle. Through the middle of the rectangle, one can observe a row of more post holes, although spaced more widely; these held the posts that supported the central roof beam.
Furthermore, through the interior, another two rows of widely but regularly spaced post holes divided the space between the middle row and the sides: the main room of this timber structure, the naos (ancient Greek for the main room), was divided into four rather narrow naves.
In front of the cella (Latin word for same), which itself measures circa 7 x 14m, a portico was attached of c. 3.30m deep.
Building III certainly can be called a temple because of its regular proportions – its width:length ratio is 2:1 – and because it is part of a complex of three buildings (I, III and V) with an altar (in Temple V.c).
Temple III itself had no altar, either in the courtyard of the building itself or in the area to the east, but burnt offerings were conducted at a special place on the east side where some ash was found by the excavator, Dr. Stoop.
Other information on the use of Temple III in antiquity is scarce because, in more recent times, charcoal was burned here and shepherds built a shelter on this highest spot of the Acropolis.
The rectangular layout southeast of Temple III should be disregarded as a mistake by former researchers. Because of slope wash, there is very little soil that could retain finds on the bedrock here.
The most important element of this temple is the large rectangular inner room interrupted by the two rows of central posts that supported the roof. As was mentioned, there was a deep portico on the eastern side, with an entrance between a row of smaller posts. It may have been open laterally and covered with a roof of the veranda type.
Ancient Mediterranean temples are known as special residences for the Deity and, except for priestesses, they were not intended for many human visitors. People often substantiated their idea of the superior being living in the temple through a statue, which they could wash, dress and make-up as a venerated Grand Dame.
The cult image in this oldest phase of the timber temples will have been either a seated or a standing version of the Goddess worshipped on the Acropolis (see the terracotta figurines Museum nos. /// and the statuettes of the Copenhagen type, Museum no. III.B.5.).