Archaeologists find 1st century Roman sanctuary in the Netherlands
Archeologists from RAAP discovered a complete and relatively intact Roman sanctuary, including at least two temples, remains of idols, reliefs, and painted plaster, in Herwen-Hemeling in Gelderland. What makes the discovery extra special is several complete votive stones or altars dedicated to various gods and goddesses.
“The sanctuary in Herwen-Hemeling is special for several reasons. Never before has such a complete complex been found in the Netherlands with a temple building, votive stones, and pits with the remains of sacrifices. In addition, the amount of limestone sculpture fragments is unprecedented,” RAAP said.
The sanctuary was mainly used by Roman soldiers, as can be seen from the many roof tile stamps - an industry that was an army activity at the time. The archeologists also found remains of horse harnesses, armor, and weapons. The soldiers prayed to their gods in Herwen-Hemeling, in the municipality of Zevenaar, from the 1st to 4th century.
At least two temples were built at the junction of the Rijn and the Waal rivers, where there was already an elevated area. One was a Gallo-Roman commune temple with colorfully painted walls and a tiled roof. The other, smaller temple, also had painted walls. The archeologists also found the remains of several votive stones or small altars, placed by soldiers to thank their gods for victories won or safe returns home. The stones were dedicated to Hercules Magusanus, Jupiter-Serapis, and Mercury.
The sanctuary is also remarkably well preserved. Where other Roman buildings were often broken down to reuse the ready-made stones in other construction projects, that hardly happened in Herwen-Hemeling, RAAP said.
“Gelderland has unexpectedly gained a special Roman site,” said the province’s Heritage Commissioner Peter Drenth. “A valuable addition to our story about the Roman Limes. We will now investigate this beautiful site as best we can and show it to the residents of Gelderland.”
Various key pieces from the site will be displayed in Museum Het Valkhof in Nijmegen from June 24.