Portrait of Dr Efrosyni Boutsikas

Dr Efrosyni Boutsikas

Lecturer in Archaeology


Dr Efrosyni Boutsikas is a classical archaeologist with research interests in Greek religion, ritual experience, monumental architecture, mythology and astronomy (archaeoastronomy). She undertook her studies at the universities of Sheffield and Leicester before joining the University of Kent. Efrosyni is currently co-director of the University's Interdisciplinary Centre in Spatial Studies (KISS).

Efrosyni served as a Vice-President of the Société Européenne pour l’Astronomie dans la Culture (SEAC) between 2011–2014. She is currently a Council Member of the International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in culture (ISAAC) and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Astronomy in Culture. Her research has been featured on TV, radio and the press throughout Europe and North America.

Research interests

Efrosyni's research focuses on the expression of ancient Greek perceptions of the cosmos in myths, religious performance and architecture, and the temporal and spatial organisation of festivals.

Her recently-completed project (partially funded by the British Academy, the Society of Antiquaries of London and the British School at Athens) investigates the shaping of memories, ritual experience and cosmological beliefs in ancient Greece. A second recent project, funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand, focused on the survey of Greek religious spaces in Sicily, Asia Minor and Cyprus. It investigated the choice of landscapes and temple placement in the context of multicultural religious interactions.

Efrosyni is a member of the Centre for Heritage.   


Efrosyni teaches various aspects of ancient Greek culture such as religion and mythology, art and architecture and ancient Greek astronomy and cosmology.


Efrosyni has successfully supervised doctoral research on Greek religious practice. Current PhD supervision includes the use of virtual reality in interpreting and understanding religious landscapes and ritual experience in ancient Greek oracles. 

She welcomes enquiries from prospective postgraduate students looking to undertake research in any aspects of Greek religion, mythology and astronomy; the application of digital humanities in the study of the Greek world; religious architecture, performance and landscapes. 



  • Kechagias, C. and Boutsikas, E. (2018). Διδασκαλία και μάθηση στον Προμηθέα Δεσμώτη του Αισχύλου = [Teaching and Learning in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound]. Παιδαγωγική Επιθεώρηση (Educational Review: The Journal of the Hellenic Educational Society) 35:34-47.
  • Boutsikas, E. and Hannah, R. (2012). Aitia, Astronomy and the Timing of the Arrhephoria. Annual of the British School at Athens [Online] 107:233-245. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0068245411000141.
    This paper deals with the cult and myths of the daughters of the mythical king of Athens, Erechtheus, who lived on the Acropolis. The myth, preserved in Euripides’ tragedy Erechtheus, establishes the deceased daughters as goddesses who are owed cult by the Athenians. It further equates them with the Hyades, a prominent star cluster in the constellation of Taurus, which they form after their deaths. We examine here the possibility that this myth not only narrates the placement of the girls after their death in the sky in the form of the Hyades, but also may have bound the constellation to certain festivals held on the Acropolis, which through their aetiological myths were connected to the daughters of Erechtheus and in which the participation of young girls (arrhe?phoroi) was important. To explicate this cult, we explore its context on the Acropolis as fully as possible, through the visual arts, the literary myth, the festival calendar, and the natural landscape and night sky, so as to determine whether the movement of the Hyades was indeed visible from the Acropolis during the time when the young maiden cult rites were performed on the hill. This study investigates for the first time the role of the night sky and astronomical observations in the performance of the nocturnal festival of the Arrhe?phoria.
  • Boutsikas, E. and Ruggles, C. (2011). Temples, Stars, and Ritual Landscapes: The Potential for Archaeoastronomy in Ancient Greece. American Journal of Archaeology [Online] 115:55-68. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3764/aja.115.1.0055.
  • Boutsikas, E. (2011). Astronomical Evidence for the Timing of the Panathenaia. American Journal of Archaeology [Online] 115:303-309. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3764/aja.115.2.0303.
  • Boutsikas, E. and Hannah, R. (2011). Ritual and the cosmos: Astronomy and myth in the Athenian Acropolis Ruggles, C. ed. Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union [Online] 7:342-348. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1743921311012336.
  • Barker, G., Barton, H., Boutsikas, E., Britton, D., Davenport, B., Ewart, I., Farr, L., Ferraby, R., Gosden, C., Hunt, C., Janowski, M., Jones, S., Langub, J., Lloyd-Smith, L., Nyiri, B., Pearce, K. and Upex, B. (2009). The Cultured Rainforest Project: The Second (2008) Field Season. Sarawak Museum Journal 66:119-184.
  • Boutsikas, E. (2009). Placing Greek Temples: An Archaeoastronomical Study of the Orientation of Ancient Greek Religious Structures. Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Astronomy in Culture 21:4-19.
    This paper re-visits the generally accepted view that the normal orientation of ancient Greek temples is towards the east, through a general analysis of 107 Greek temple orientations collected by the author. The paper also attempts to establish whether there existed a general principle that related to specific astronomical observations and could have determined the orientation of Greek temples. The analysis applies archaeoastronomical methodology in investigating orientation patterns of Greek temples from the Geometric to the Hellenistic periods in Greece. These first results show that the sun does not seem to have played as a decisive role in the orientation of temples as currently thought. Instead, there appears to be a much larger variation than accounted for at present that cannot be simply explained by the concept of the predominance of eastern orientations. It is concluded that all-encompassing interpretations do not appear to apply in Greek religion and cult practices, and that the study of Greek cult needs to account for local variations, traditions and landscapes.
  • Boutsikas, E. and Salt, A. (2005). Knowing when to Consult the Oracle at Delphi. Antiquity 79:564-572.
    The cities of Greece had their own calendars, so how did they all know when the god Apollo had returned from the northern realms and it was time to consult the oracle at Delphi? The authors show that the heliacal rising of the constellation Delphinus probably provided the annual marker, and that because of the mountains it appeared to rise a month later at Delphi than elsewhere, giving would-be visitors time to travel. The landscape of Delphi was itself instrumental in creating or enhancing the cosmology of Apollo.

Book section

  • Boutsikas, E. (2017). The Role of Darkness in Ancient Greek Religion and Religious Practice. In: Papadopoulos, C. and Moyes, H. eds. The Oxford Handbook of Light in Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198788218.001.0001.
    Aiming at a better understanding of ways through which the ancient Greek religious experience was shaped, this chapter investigates the role and use of darkness in religious belief and practice. The orientation and certain architectural features of Greek temples, Dionysiac and Mystery cults, divination, rites of passage, magic, and other nocturnal rituals are examined here in an investigation of the interplay between light, darkness, and shadow and the aims fulfilled by such associations. It transpires that darkness was a decisive element in the religious experience, one that intensified the emotional condition of the participants, whilst shaping the ritual experience and memory of the event.
  • Boutsikas, E. (2015). Landscape and the Cosmos in the Apolline Rites of Delphi, Delos and Dreros. In: Käppel, L. and Pothou, V. eds. Human Development in Sacred Landscapes. Between Ritual Tradition, Creativity and Emotionality. Goettingen: V&R Unipress, pp. 77-102. Available at: https://doi.org/10.14220/9783737002523.77.
  • Boutsikas, E. (2014). Greek Temples and Rituals. In: Ruggles, C. ed. Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy. New York: Springer, pp. 1573-1581. Available at: http://www.springer.com/astronomy/book/978-1-4614-6140-1.
    Whether the positioning of ancient Greek temples was deliberate and facilitated astronomical observations has been a concern for scholars since the nineteenth century. Twenty-?rst-century research on Greek archaeoastronomy has identi?ed the shortcomings of earlier approaches and has built on a new methodology which integrates archaeological, epigraphical, and literary evidence on the astronomical observations, in order to create interpretations that improve our narrative, understanding, and reconstruction of the role of astronomy in ancient Greek cult practice.
  • Boutsikas, E. (2007). The Cult of Artemis Orthia In Greece: A Case of Astronomical Observations?. In: Zedda, M. and Belmonte, J. eds. Lights and Shadows in Cultural Astronomy. Proceedings of the SEAC 2005, Isili, Sardinia, 28 June to 3 July. Isili, Sardinia: Associazione Archeofila Sarda, pp. 197-205.
    Two case studies are presented in this paper that aim to discuss the significance of the orientation of ancient Greek temples. The structures examined are the temple of Artemis Orthia at the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia in Sparta and the two temples of Artemis Orthia at the Asklepieion in Messene. The cult of Orthia was introduced in Greece during the tenth century BC and remained active for more than a millennium. The surviving archaeological, written and mythological evidence are presented and possible astronomical connections are examined in terms of the role they may have played in the cult.
  • Boutsikas, E. (2007). The Orientation of Greek Temples: A Statistical Analysis. In: Pasztor, E. ed. Archaeoastronomy in Archaeology and Ethnography. Papers from the Annual Meeting of SEAC (European Society for Astronomy in Culture) Held in Kecskemet in Hungary in 2004. Oxford: Archaeopress, pp. 19-24.


  • Barfoed, S. (2016). Cult in Context - The Ritual Significance of Miniature Pottery in Ancient Greek Sanctuaries from the Archaic to the Hellenistic Period.
    Several previously overlooked questions related to ancient Greek dedicatory practices are investigated in this thesis. The main questions addressed are: how do the contexts of Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic votive miniature vessels inform us about the Greek cults in which they are used, and the transmission of such cults? What role did miniaturisation play in the sanctuaries and the rituals in ancient Greek society, and why miniaturisation? A number of supplementary questions accompany the main questions, for example, what did miniaturisation mean in the context of votive dedications in sanctuaries? This thesis aims to demonstrate that earlier explanations arguing that miniatures are simply and profoundly cheap substitutes for more expensive objects do not work well, since many of these small objects are carefully made and some are elaborately decorated, and would thus not have been cheaper, or less time consuming to produce compared to full sized objects.
    The chronological time frame of the thesis is limited to the Archaic to the Hellenistic period, and its core is three case studies with different themes and different geographical locations in focus (Kalydon, Olympia, Kombothekra, various sites in South Italy, and other sites for comparison). The thesis addresses also issues relating to, for instance, miniaturisation, imitation and models, the functionality, and non- functionality of small votive objects, agency, trade, and colonization.
    The study of ancient Greek dedicatory practices within the scholarship of Classical Studies tends to concentrate on votive statues, religious architecture, inscribed metal dedications, and stelai. Little attention has been paid to less extravagant dedications even though these groups of material have been found in abundant amounts in sanctuaries throughout Greece. Moreover, in those cases where this material has been published interpretation and thoroughly analyses are often lacking. As a result, this study makes important contributions to two large questions within Classical studies: how did the Greeks view their gods and how did the Greeks interact with the gods. Miniature pottery contributes to our understanding of ancient Greek ritual practice as well of specific rituals. The work presented in this thesis accentuates that miniature pottery’s material meaning and symbolic importance can no longer be dismissed.


  • Boutsikas, E. (2020). The Cosmos in Ancient Greek Religious Experience: Sacred Space, Memory, Cognition. [Online]. New York: Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/cosmos-in-ancient-greek-religious-experience/8F7C2F7E3FA631C7519AB21CE28A7941.
    In this book, Efrosyni Boutsikas examines ancient Greek religious performances, intricately orchestrated displays comprising topography, architecture, space, cult, and myth. These various elements were unified in a way that integrated the body within cosmic space and made the sacred extraordinary. Boutsikas also explores how natural light or the night-sky may have assisted in intensifying the experience of these rituals, and how they may have to determined ancient perceptions of the cosmos. The author's digital and virtual reconstructions of ancient skyscapes and religious structures during such occurrences unveil a deeper understanding of the importance of time and place in religious experience. Boutsikas shows how they shaped emotions, cosmological beliefs, and ritual memory of the participants. Her study revolutionises our understanding on ancient emotionality and cognitive experience, demonstrating how Greek religious spaces were vibrant arenas of a shared experience of the cosmos.
  • Boutsikas, E. (2019). The contribution of ‘total environment’ reconstructions in interpreting ancient Greek experience of ritual spaces. Open Archaeology [Online]. Available at: https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/opar.
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