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DFG-Project "Investigation on the Stratigraphy and Chronology of the Asklepieion of Kos"

The new project began in 2012 and was continued until 2015. The works have been interrupted by a series of administrative and teaching activities of research fellow Prof. Dr. W. Ehrhardt. By this, the duration of the project has been prolonged several times without additional costs.

The primary goal of the project was to gain knowledge on the original construction and later development of the Asklepieion of Kos by excavation trenches on the intermediary terrace. Among the questions of the project were such on architectural problems as well as questions on the late classical to early Hellenistic history of the city. Questions on medicine history were also addressed. 

Based on the new photogrammetrical and graphic documentation of the exposed foundations and walls on the intermediary terrace, a conceptional and uniform planning of the entire complex in the second half of the 4th century BC must be assumed. The complex’ intentional orientation towards a middle axis that is aimed uphill not only influences the distribution of buildings and staircases on the intermediary and upper terrace but also the orientation of the lower terrace that has falsely been placed too far east on the plan of Schazmann.

On the intermediary terrace the temple B in the west, the altar in the center and building E in the east still lie on a straight line, which therefore means that they follow a uniform concept. This concept also takes the ascending axis that is marked by stairs into account. Both lines intersect in a right angle west of the entrance to the altar.

Schazman identified the structures of the first phase of the Asklepieion by the used building material, a yellow, weathered grey travertine. The blocks of this material show a specific kind of stone working which is characterized by an edge that is archived by a chisel and a roughly picked inside. This building material was used at the northern end of the western stoa of the lower terrace, in the old foundations underneath the late Roman temple C and reused in the walls of the late Roman building D on the intermediary terrace as well as in the first phase of the hall of the upper terrace. A terminus ante quem for the use of the building material and thus the previously mentioned buildings can be given by mason’s marks that date to the late 4th century BC.

The previous dating of the first altar phase by an inscription on a marble orthostate would support this dating. It also supports the late classical dating of the preserved figural furnishing of the altar and its production in the workshop of one of the sons of Praxiteles.

The trenches inside the late Roman building D contradict Schazman’s reconstruction of its Hellenistic design. It is not a two-naved, east-west oriented building with a column supported, oblique vestibule. In the first half of the 2nd century BC a stoa was constructed on the next terrace towards the slope in a right angle to the east-west axis and the support wall. The dating of the stoa can be achieved through pottery and coins that were found in the fill of the supporting elements. For the fill of one of the foundational trenches of a foundation that was abandoned contemporary with the construction of the stoa, the original material was used without any trace of pottery or other additions. Aside from that, no other older layers have been found in building D.

In conclusion, it can be said that the Asklepieion has been constructed after the new establishment of the city of Kos in the year 366 BC. the terrace complex of the 4th century BC cannot be considered as an intermediate step of a development of agglutinatingly composed to axially ordered sanctuary complexes. The axial orientation of the lower terrace of the Asklepieion is not a conceptional inconsequence but a tribute to the geomorphological characteristics of the slope in which the terrace is integrated. From the beginning on, the complex was composed as a three step construction whose buildings are aligned with the orthogonal axes.

A building for healing sleep is missing in the late Classical to Hellenistic phase of the Asklepieion as it was central in the rites of Epidauros. Neither the halled buildings on the lower terrace nor the ones on the upper terraces were close enough to the ritual center of the terrace sanctuary, which was marked by the altar. The late Hellenistic hall on the intermediary terrace was opened toward the east and not closed like the equivalent building in Epidauros.

Based on the results of the DFG-Project “Investigations on the Stratigraphy and Chronology of the Asklepieion of Kos”, it would make sense to document the lower and upper terrace of the sanctuary in the same way and to analyzed them by their phases as well as the  architectonical development of the Asklepieion. In this investigation, it is likely that the functional differences to the Asklepieion of Epidauros and its ritual medicinal practices will become clearer.

Supervisor:  Prof. Dr. Henner v. Hesberg, Prof. Dr. Dietrich Boschung

Scientific Employee: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ehrhardt

Employees: W. Aulmann; Dr. D. De Maria; Dr. N. Fenn; Dr. A. Hanöffner, Dr. S. Hofmann, Dipl. Ing. K. Ringle, Dr. L. Siftar


  • KB Ephorie Rhodos
  • Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Athen
  • KIT (Institut für Photogrammetrie und Fernerkundung)


  • W. Ehrhardt, Hellenistische Heiligtümer und Riten: Die westlichen Sakralbezirke in Knidos als Fallbeispiel, in: A. Matthaei, M. Zimmermann (Hrsg.), Stadtbilder im Hellenismus (2009) 93-115
  •  Inklusion und Exklusion: Die Temene innerhalb des Westsektors in Knidos, in: A. Matthaei, M. Zimmermann (Hrsg.), Stadtkultur im Hellenismus (Heidelberg 2014) 9-51
  • Ergebnisse des DFG-Forschungsprojektes zum Asklepieion von Kos in den Jahren 2010–2013: Ein Resümee, Kölner und Bonner Archaeologica 4, 2014 (2015), 75-107 (s. Anlage)
  • Αρχαιολογικό ερευνητικό πρόγραμμα στο Ασκληπιείο της Κω, in: P. Triantaphyllidis (Hrsg.), Το Αρχαιολογικό έργο στα νησιά του Αιγαίου. Συνέδριο Τετάρτη 27 Νοεμβρίου-Κυριακή 1 Δεκεμβρίου 2013 (Rhodos 2017) 1-10
  • Das Askleipieion von Kos, Herodas und die Söhne des Praxiteles, in: A. Delivorias u.a. (Hrsg.), Volume dedicated to the memory of George Despinis (erscheint Athen 2017)