The organic content of the bronze vases of the heroon of Paestum: new data for a new interpretation

  • Elisabeth Marie Dodinet University of Southern Brittany
  • Nicolas Garnier Laboratoire Nicolas Garnier, Vic-le-Comte, France,
  • Delphine Barbier-Pain
Keywords: Paestum, organic residue analyses, pollen, Cannabis, oil


The famous hypogaeum of the Greek city of Poseidonia (Paestum), excavated in 1954 and dated from the end of the VIth c. BCE, has been interpreted as a heroon based on the archaeological material retrieved. It encompassed 5 iron rods (obeloi) wrapped in a thick wool cloth, deposited on a wood table (trapeza) in the center, of 8 bronze vases (6 hydria; 2 amphoras) and of an Attic amphora with black figures, set along the north and south walls of the structure. The walls and the bottom of the bronze hydria and amphora revealed a thick and paste-like yellow-brown organic substance. Many researchers still interpret this substance as honey or the remains of honeycombs, which would have been offered as part of a heroic cult to the founder of the city. Yet, the different sets of analyses performed during the 1950s and 1980s, although they could not identify the nature of the fatty substance, had allowed to reject the honey hypothesis. New analyses took place recently within a research program led by the Jean Bérard Centre in Napoli. The pollen analysis and organic analysis by GC-MS have brought concordant data. The chemical analyses did not reveal any wax or animal fat, nor oleoresin or plant pitch, but rather the markers of a siccative oil. The extracted pollen was dominantly that of Cannabaceae (eg. Cannabis / Humulus type). The interpretation of these intriguing findings is discussed.


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How to Cite
Dodinet, E., Garnier, N., & Barbier-Pain, D. (2023). The organic content of the bronze vases of the heroon of Paestum: new data for a new interpretation. Layers. Archeologia Territorio Contesti, (8), 87-101.
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