Terracottas in The Religious Practice of the Hellenes of the Lower Dniester Region (VI – I centuries B.C.)
Terracottas are one of the important information categories of findings connected with religious life of the Lower Dniester region population. The main function they performed was voluntary. These items are a valuable source for studying the cults of the gods, which they were dedicated to. The terracottas from the collection were studied in the context of the complexes in which they were found. Three groups of archaeological objects with terracottas found in them can be distinguished in the region: 1) public places of worship (favissae, escharae, botroses); 2) dwelling and utility premises; 3) dustholes.
The objects, related with the performance of public cults include the premise from Nikonion, which was used for no longer in use sacred utensils from the sanctuary (favissa). Three terracottas were taken from this complex: the upper part of the figurine of Aphrodite standing with a pigeon pressed to the breast and two fragments of the statuettes of the goddesses sitting on the throne. All three statuettes could have been gifted to Aphrodite.
The complex of religious pits was explored at the site of the settlement Nadlymanske III (end of VI – the first third of V century B.C.). In some of these pits, the traces of long time burning have been found, which, combined with a set of findings, allow to identify them as escharae. In the filling of the pits the findings are made that relate to the sacral sphere. Among the terracottas are a statue of silen, a standing goddess, a sitting boy, and two pigeons. The findings do not provide enough data to attribute the complex to the cult of a certain Greek god, however, a significant part of the materials indicates the worship of Aphrodite.
The second category of objects – residential and utility premises (home sanctuaries). The remains of such sanctuary were found in the semi-dugout dated the end of V – the first half of IV century B.C. at the site of Ovidiopol-II settlement. Near the fire there was a small enclosure built of three limestone slabs. Inside the enclosure a statue of a goddess sitting on the throne and a fragment of a moulded cup-censer on a high stem were found. Probably, this terracotta could be linked with the cult of Demeter.
In some cases in the dwellings of Thira settlement, the remains of home sanctuaries in the form of enclosures and niches were found. Analysis of the findings from these houses makes it possible to make a conclusion about the private worship of Aphrodite, Dionysus, and Cybele.
The third category of objects with the terracottas findings – special dustholes used to store the sacred items that become worthlessness and ash after family sacrificial offerings.
In general, the analysis of terracottas in the archaeological context made it possible to make a series of observations on changes that took place in cult life during the mentioned period.