Conference Paper

Visualscapes and Cultic Space: Measuring the "Cult Stage" of the Argive Heraion

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Abstract

Few sanctuaries command their landscape as successfully as the Argive Heraion. Yet no detailed study exists to help us understand precisely how the sanctuary’s situation and components interacted visually with the wider territory, and especially vis-à-vis the various settlements within its viewing range. In this paper, I present a series of digital investigations of the Heraion’s landscape, from its initial establishment in the 8th century B.C.E. through the end of the Hellenistic period. I consider the potentially divergent experiences of visitors to the sanctuary and also those passing through the Argive plain. I integrate time-phased 3D structural models into a GIS environment in order to consider the distinctive visualscapes that existed over the course of the sanctuary’s development. Since its initial excavation in the 19th century, scholars have noted the Heraion’s situation and view, whether for those inside it (Foley 1988: 135), or those in the Argive Plain (Polignac 1995: 33), for whom the sanctuary seems to sit on a “cult stage” (Kerényi 2015: 118). Yet we lack data to determine if specific viewing features had particular significance. Using GIS and 3D modeling, I offer a robust analysis of the sanctuary’s topography and recreate its visualscape to better understand how these functioned as elements of religious space. Seeing how its vistas changed over time, if at all, allows us to consider its evolving significance as a landmark for the inhabitants of the Argive plain. By comparing the Heraion’s visualscape with those of other Peloponnesian sanctuaries, I seek to elaborate on the differential experiences of the place itself -- and more specifically, whether and how these so-called significant views from and towards the sanctuary contributed to its functioning as a cultic space. On a larger scale, this approach offers a framework by which the visualscapes of other Mediterranean sanctuaries can be assessed, by creating tools that allow considerations beyond ritual activities within sanctuary spaces themselves -- such as facilitating communication, asserting prominence, or otherwise defining interactions between disparate settlements.

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