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Mysterious ancient altar found in Roman fort

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posted on Jul, 24 2009 @ 07:12 PM
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Figure on relic appears to be god favored by Roman soldiers in England
www.msnbc.msn.com...


By Rossella Lorenzi
updated 39 minutes ago

A massive altar dedicated to an eastern cult deity has emerged during excavations of a Roman fort in northern England.

Weighing 1.5 tons, the four-foot high ornately carved stone relic, was unearthed at the Roman fort of Vindolanda, which was built by order of the Emperor Hadrian between 122-30 A.D.

The Romans built the defensive wall across the north of Britain from Carlisle to Newcastle-on-Tyne, to keep out invading armies from what is now Scotland.
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"What should have been part of the rampart mound near to the north gate of the fort has turned out to be an amazing religious shrine," said archaeologist Andrew Birley.

A jar and a shallow dish is depicted on one side of the altar, while the other side shows a god-like figure standing on the back of a bull, with a thunderbolt in one hand and a battle axe in the other.

Romans called this god Juppiter Dolichenus, but it was originally an ancient weather god, known to the Semitic peoples of the Middle East as Hadad and to the Hittites as Teshab.

It was in its war-like representation that the Anatolian god Juppiter of Doliche became a favorite deity among Roman soldiers.

Indeed, an inscription indicates that the altar was dedicated to the Dolichenus god by "Sulpicius Pudens, prefect of the Fourth Cohort of Gauls."

Cult of Dolichenus
According to Birley, Sulpicius Pudens was the commanding officer of the Roman regiment based at Vindolanda in the third century and he may have dedicated the expensive stone to the god in thanks for fulfilling a vow.

This was a normal practice, as partial inscriptions from badly damaged Dolichenus shrines, all found in England, testify.

"The Vindolanda shrine is unique as it is situated within the walls of the fort, something which has yet to be encountered elsewhere. This casts new light on ritual spaces inside Roman forts," Birley told Discovery News.

Originally worshiped as a weather god on a hilltop close to the small town of Doliche (what is now the modern city of Duluk in southern Turkey) Juppiter of Doliche began attracting Roman worshipers by the early second century AD.

From then on, the cult of Dolichenus took off and spread all over the Roman empire.

According to Anthony Birley, chairman of the Vindolanda Trust and the author of many books on ancient Roman history, the discovery is important because "there are absolutely no literary references to Dolichenus, so all that we know about the religion is based on some 300 surviving inscriptions and sculptures from different parts of the Roman Empire."

The shrine at Vindolanda includes a small feasting room and reveals evidence of animal sacrifice.

"Since the worship of Dolichenus is not exclusively military, it is quite possible that all members of the military community, including non-combatants, may have worshiped at the shrine/temple and enjoyed the feasts held there," the archaeologist said.

Thousands of artifacts found
As for the success of the walled fort — it's uncertain how long it may have held off advancing enemies since conflicts in the rest of Europe eventually drew the Romans away from this northernmost reach of the Empire.

The altar stone is one of thousands of artifacts found from excavations at the fort and a settlement at Vindolanda.

Home to Romans from 85 A.D. until about 410 A.D., the fort has revealed the largest early archive of Latin documents (more than 1,500 documents known as "Vindolanda tablets") related to military movements.

Other finds include letters home by Roman soldiers, written in ink on wood, asking for warm clothing and socks.

While the excavation continues until mid-September, the archaeologists estimate that it could take more than a decade of work before Vindolanda reveals all of its treasures.




posted on Jul, 24 2009 @ 11:09 PM
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Fascinating, thank you


S & F



posted on Jul, 24 2009 @ 11:49 PM
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S & F as well
its always interesting the new stuff that is being found everyday
wondering exactly what this site will produce



posted on Jul, 25 2009 @ 12:34 AM
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S&F

I can't wait to see some detailed pictures.
Great find



posted on Jul, 25 2009 @ 01:12 AM
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Originally posted by SLAYER69
S&F

I can't wait to see some detailed pictures.
Great find


In case you didn't go to the article, there is a picture of the stone there. I want to see something more in depth, myself.



posted on Jul, 25 2009 @ 01:15 AM
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reply to post by Pauligirl
 


Yeah I did.
I always want more



posted on Jul, 25 2009 @ 02:59 AM
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Interesting how the middle easterners had names for them too. I guess the gods got around?
Kind of reminds me vaguely of Thor. People often mistook the Hammer for an axe in the carvings.



posted on Jul, 25 2009 @ 03:54 AM
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Absolutely amazing
its making me want to take a trip back there

Tip: If you're walking anywhere along Hadrians Wall, keep an eye out for molehills and gently kick them over...you can find all sorts of stuff like coins that get brought to the surface



posted on Jul, 25 2009 @ 06:43 AM
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reply to post by Pauligirl
 
Hiya PG, it's good to see you in my favorite section
Very interesting stuff, I've read a lot about Mithraism but knew nothing about the soldier cult of 'Iuppiter Dolichenus'.


The earliest portrayals of the Dolichene god, dating from the mid-second and early first millennia B.C., identify him as in origin a Hittite thunder-god, with mixed Khurrite and Semitic attributes. He is shown as a bearded figure, with a pigtail, standing on a bull (symbolical of thunder and fertility), facing right, wearing a peaked and horned bonnet, fringed tunic, girdle, and sword, and brandishing a double axe in his right hand and a triple thunderbolt in his left; in the field above his head is the winged disk of the sun.
CUP abstract




The cult was a mystery religion where the theology, temples and rituals were open only to the initiates. Very little is known about the cult as it did not last long enough to appear in the Christian literature that provided so many useful clues on other secret cults such as mithraism. Nor can the archaeological evidence help much. It is only from the epigraphic sources that we can gain much insight. References to a sacerdotus (priest)[5] shows that there was an internal structure, though one that did not seem to have any great complexity.
Jupiter 'maximus optimus' Dolichenus

A book by M Speidal describes how there are records that governors, senators and soldiers alike were followers. Interestingly their temples were hidden from sight like Mithraic ones and whatever the heck rituals they enjoyed practicing were concealed within windowless rooms. He points out that it *possibly* originated in N Africa and had connections to Syria and Egypt. The workings of the cult is so obscure and lost to time that although the earliest shrines are found in N Africa, they aren't thought conclusive proof of origin. He notes that Hadrian himself wasn't a follower but didn't seek to suppress 'oriental' religions. The next Governor of Britain was a follower and the Governor of lower Germany too so in terms of military influence and political power they certainly had a lot of muscle. I'm reminded of masonic practices whereby networks of influence can use private channels to ensure or suggest that certain things happen...

The book's available...The Religion of Iuppiter Dolichenus by M Spiedal






posted on Jul, 25 2009 @ 02:56 PM
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reply to post by Pauligirl
 


Thank you for the article. The figure does resemble Mithras, who was also popular among the Roman soldiers.

Thank you for the altar picture, Kandinsky.



posted on Jul, 26 2009 @ 10:11 PM
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reply to post by Kandinsky
 


Thanks for the additional information...this was a new one to me too. It's a shame that mystery religions are such a ..mystery. Makes you wonder how much was divulged to new initiates to get them to join or if it was more political in nature. An ancient good ole boy network.



posted on Jul, 26 2009 @ 10:54 PM
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This is great.

Day by day more and more evidence of our prior civilizations are being uncovered.


Soon there will be some some super profound artifacts found.

I cant wait.



posted on Jul, 28 2009 @ 07:08 AM
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an amazing find

thnaks posting and sharing, its stunning that we still find such sites, in our apparently explored globe

im sure one day a discovery will change are very fabric of being, mind you it would never be revealed to us lowly humans

many thanks



posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 09:48 AM
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Originally posted by CaptainAmerica2012
This is great.

Day by day more and more evidence of our prior civilizations are being uncovered.


Soon there will be some some super profound artifacts found.

I cant wait.


I'd argue that the Antikythera mechanism is one of those super profound artifacts you speak of, which has already been discovered.

en.wikipedia.org...



posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 10:02 AM
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reply to post by BaronVonGodzilla
 


The Antikythera mechanism is one of those things that makes me think that there my be other such things that did not survive, because I doubt that this would have been created as a one off device, it is possible but does not makes much sense to me. I would think that there were other devices of this type around, but what could have happened to them?



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