Introduction In the Classical world, death rituals were a means of healing for both the family of the deceased and the community that suffered the loss of one of their members, and therefore their correct performance was vital to guarantee private as well as public regeneration of the community. Administering some of these rituals was one of the major responsibilities that women had in antiquity, whether that involved mourning or praying for the deceased, taking care of the corpse, or visiting and bringing offerings to the grave. This chapter discusses a unique corpus of Hellenistic half-life size terracotta statues of young women from tombs at the Daunian site of Canosa, in south-eastern Italy ( Fig. 4.1 ), in order to elucidate the role that Italic women played within the funerary sphere. 1

Modern scholarship on the Canosan statues has so far concentrated mostly on technical issues and the history of the collecting of the statues, whereas this chapter aims to adopt a broader approach and shift attention to the ritual function of these artifacts. In the fi rst part of the chapter, we discuss some important aspects of the manufacture of these terracotta statues as well as the archaeological and sociocultural contexts in which they were produced. A proposed study of the statues’ iconographic typologies, materials, and technical features leads to a reassessment of their complex role within the funerary process. By placing them within a broader context of South Italian and Mediterranean funerary art, this chapter argues that the terracotta statues found inside some of the Canosan tombs were not, as has always been assumed, grave goods per se and that they did not serve to express and celebrate the socioeconomic status of the deceased. Rather, they had a public, ceremonial, and practical function: they represented pubescent girls and were employed as actors in funerary rites, where they served to accompany the cortège and perform some crucial tasks of the death rituals in front of the community. This premise allows us to treat the statues as material evidence refl ecting the public roles played by adolescent girls within the context of the social, cultural, and ritual changes that took place in Daunia in the course of the third century BCE .