Descensus ad Inferos: Taming (Easily) the Monsters in the Daunian Pictorial Tradition. The Exorcism of the Underworld and the Representation of Opposites Boundaries

Marisa Corrente


The city of Canusium (Canosa di Puglia) is one of the most important archaeological sites of southern Italy. The archaeological contexts of chamber tombs shed light on constructions of gender, personal identity, family relationships, and how the living interacted with the deceased. The major shift of daunian pictorial tradition occurs in the second centuries BCE with new decorative system and distinctive emphasis. In this paper, I analyze crucial components of the Daunian afterlife and the preferences of the iconographic evidence. In figurative Daunian imagery,the chamber tomb, liminal space for interaction between the living and the dead, clearly merits further investigation: it is not simply replicating some sort of house, but a tomb of the dead. The Daunian dimension of the Afterlife was marked by elements symbolic of passage identifiable in the doors of the tombs ant in that sort of interim space, antechamber of Hades(vestibulum).The burial chambers were a territory of unclear boundaries: the figured representation, the Hermes’s psychopompic abilities, the high visibility of the women in procession, participants in the ritual, were intentionally positioned in the antechamber, in the cross-cultural association with death and the underworld. I argue that the terracotta statues of women in various gestures of praying or mourning, discovered arranged in small groups,were physical collaborators of the liminality. The daunian tomb is the word of the gorgon Medusa, apotropaic symbol: the snakey head of medusa in the representations on the vases with polychrome and plastic decoration has a cross-cultural association with death and the underworld. The vase, showing snakes, chthonic elements, could be related to the apotropaic function and signify the ability to travel between worlds, the earth and the underworld.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2015.v4n1p457

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Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies ISSN 2281 3993(Print) ISSN 2281-4612(Online)

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