In the ancient city of Aigai, located in the western region of Turkey, specifically in Manisa, two fascinating statuettes depicting Demeter, the Greek goddess of the earth and fertility, were recently discovered inside a cistern during archaeological excavations. This extraordinary find sheds new light on the history of the city, which was an ancient Greek city, later Roman, and a bishopric in Aeolis.
Aigai, also known as Aigaiai, was mentioned by both Herodotus and Strabo as part of the Aeolian dodecapolis and played a significant role as a sanctuary of Apollo. Its golden age occurred under the Attalid dynasty, which ruled the region from nearby Pergamon between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. The remains of the city are now located near the modern village of Yuntdağı Köseler, in the province of Manisa.
Professor Yusuf Sezgin, head of the Department of Archaeology at Manisa Celal Bayar University and leader of the excavation team in Aigai, led the discovery of the Demeter statuettes in the cistern. The cistern, located near the road to the "sanctuary of Athena" in the city, exhibited unique features compared to other similar discoveries.
Professor Sezgin explained that the Demeter statuette was deliberately found positioned under what they call the "cistern bracelet," a recess at the entrance of the cistern. This was an extraordinary discovery, as figurines like these are not typically found inside these structures. The statuette depicts the goddess Demeter, a figure of great importance in Greek mythology, especially as the goddess of agriculture, provider of fertility, and protector of plants.
Even more surprising was the discovery of another Demeter statuette inside the same cistern, also depicted in the same posture. The third find, although damaged, is a piece of a decorated vase with fragments depicting sheaves of wheat, clearly associated with the goddess Demeter.
Professor Sezgin emphasized the importance of the figure of Demeter in ancient rural cities like Aigai, where the cult of the goddess was particularly strong. The agricultural goddess played a key role in ensuring soil fertility and productivity, making her one of the most important deities in an agricultural context.
The recent discovery of a cistern a few meters from the sanctuary of Athena in Aigai, presumably used for festivals and religious rituals, suggests a direct connection to celebrations related to Demeter. The cistern is unique in its kind, as more figurines were found inside than in any other cistern, making this site an archaeological treasure rich in historical and mythological significance.