Archaeologists in Turkey have discovered a 2,400-year-old terra cotta mask of the Greek god Dionysus. The mask, believed to have been a votive offering to the deity, was found almost intact at the acropolis of the ancient city of Daskyleion in western Turkey.
The discovery was made by a team of archaeologists from Mugla SK University in western Turkey, led by Professor Kaan Iren. Their unique find grabbed headlines around the world.
“Excavations at Daskyleion are 32 years old, and this is the first time that we unearthed a mask which is nearly intact,” Iren told Hyperallergic in an email.
Iren believes that the mask was offered to Dionysus during rituals related to winemaking. “It presumably belongs to the end of the 4th-century BCE,” he added.
Dionysus, the god of fertility and wine in Greek mythology, was also known as the “masked” god of theater and a patron of arts. In myth, wearing a Dionysus mask was believed to elevate oneself to a state of uninhibited ecstasy.
Located about 20 miles inland from the coast of the Sea of Marmara, Daskyleion was first established around the time of the Trojan War. It was settled by the Phrygians in the 8th century BCE and was conquered by the Lydians 100 years later. The city is believed to have been named after the Lydian King Daskylos.
“The peak time of the city was when it became a satrapal (administrative) center of the Persian Empire in 546 BCE,” Iren continued. “After the arrival of the Macedonians under the leadership of Alexander the Great (334 BCE), the city started to be ‘Hellenized.’”
Remains of Daskyleion were first discovered in 1952. Excavations ran from 1954 to 1960 and resumed again in 1988, and have been ongoing ever since.
“Daskyleion was a multicultural city,” Iren said. “Mysians, Phrygians, Lydians, and Persians were living peacefully together in this city. Earliest finds go back to the 3rd Millenium BCE.”
Earlier this year, Iren’s team unearthed a cellar beneath a Lydian kitchen in the city’s acropolis.
“Every season, archaeologists unearth a lot of interesting artifacts of those different ethnicities,” the archaeologist added.