Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology


This dissertation establishes the first systematic and comprehensive study of cylindrical terracotta altars, often referred to as arulae. Arulae are considered characteristic of the material culture of Hellenistic Sicily and thought to represent a significant body of evidence for domestic cult practice. However, no comprehensive treatment has been published, and critical information about their use has not been securely established. As a result, arulae have not been fully incorporated into research on Hellenistic religion, and assertions about their ritual function remain conjectural. This study focuses on the complete corpus of arulae from Morgantina, comprising more than 300 fragments, but examples from other sites are also included. The material under consideration substantially increases the previously available dataset and clarifies impressions about their form, production, decoration, context, and chronology. Arulae are first discussed with respect to their range in size in Chapter 2 with a view to developing a new typology across sites. Using statistical analysis, I distinguish four types made in standardized sizes and propose functional differences between them. Chapter 3 addresses production, both in terms of the manufacturing process and decorative practices. The former highlights the skills and technical knowledge involved in the production of arulae, while the latter analyzes ornamental motifs and sequences to propose workshop groupings and identify regional decorative preferences. In order to evaluate more critically the use of arulae, Chapter 4 applies formation theory to welldocumented deposits and revisits the composition of their assemblages. I demonstrate that arulae were used in households, sanctuaries, and public spaces and argue that they served as cult furnishings in these settings. Chapter 5 establishes a chronology of Sicilian arulae through stylistic and contextual analysis and discusses changes in their form, decoration, and use. I argue that arulae first emerge in the late fourth century B.C.E. and exhibit more uniform decorations and production techniques over the course of the next century. They decline sharply after the Roman conquest of Sicily in 211 B.C.E, but a few late examples from the first century B.C.E. attest to some degree of cultural continuity in domestic settings.

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