Archaeologists are intrigued by the mystery of the unusual discovery
German archaeologists from the Regional Association Westphalia-Lippe (LWL) have discovered the remains of the foundations of two mini-Roman temples and a sacrificial pit on the site of a former Roman camp in Haltern, a small town near the border of Germany and the Netherlands.
Photo: Westphalia-Lippe Regional Association
Archaeological finds date back to the time of Caesar Augustus. Such religious buildings have never before been discovered in Roman military camps, reports arkeonews.net.
Rectangular clay foundations were all that remained of the temples, which were made of wood and covered an area of almost 100 square feet. They seemed to be modeled after the cult stone sanctuaries that dotted numerous Roman cities.
“The two rectangular cult structures consisted only of clay frames, – says LWL Rome expert Dr. Bettina Tremmel. – But they were based on the typical large podium temples made of stone that could be found in many Roman cities during the time of Emperor Augustus.
The find is extraordinary, since similar religious buildings have not been found anywhere else on the territory of Roman military installations, Arkeonews emphasizes. The remains of the building that have now been discovered were first explored almost 100 years ago. Until today, this unusual combination of Roman camp and religious buildings has hardly been noticed by science due to the lack of comparisons.
In the current excavation area, experts have now managed to almost completely reveal the floor plan of the Western religious building. The rectangular wooden building with an area of 30 square meters had an entrance five meters wide at the front. The facade of the building was architecturally highlighted by two wooden columns on the sides.
Both small temples are located in a 2,000 square meter complex previously explored in 1928, which the chief Westphalian archaeologist Professor Dr. August Stieren originally identified as a meeting house for Roman military personnel. In subsequent years, the complex was converted into a military workshop, as evidenced by the numerous tools found on the site.
According to the researchers, the find is unique, since no other examples of religious buildings have previously been discovered at Roman military sites.
Between two clay foundations, archaeologists discovered a ground-level sacrifice pit that had been disturbed during previous excavations. The depth and Roman finds it contains are comparable to the Roman burial ground at Haltern, however the practice of burial within such settlements was prohibited by Roman law.
LWL Head of Culture Dr Barbara Ruesch-Parzinger comments: “When you think about Romans in Westphalia, the first thing that comes to mind is – it involves complex logistics, large military installations and shiny equipment. The beliefs of the Romans have hitherto played a minor role in our work. Therefore, in the coming months we will explore the question of what secret is hidden behind this unique find”.