Former Mithraic Temple in Spain Was Built to Align with the stars

Picture: University Pablo Olavide (C)

Picture: University Pablo Olavide (C)

Researchers have determined that an ancient Spanish tomb was once a temple dedicated to Mithras, and the structure was built to align with the stars.

Via LiveScience:

Some astronomical sleuthing has revealed the cultic past life of a Roman tomb in Spain. Researchers believe the burial site was once used as a Mithraic temple, positioned to line up with the constellations and guide sun through its window during the equinoxes.

The Carmona necropolis in Seville is full of burials from the 1st century B.C. through the 2nd century A.D., including the so-called Elephant’s Tomb, named so for an elephant-shaped statue discovered inside the structure.

Researchers have debated what this structure was used for and archaeologists from the University of Pablo de Olavide in Seville now propose that it served as a place of worship for devotees of Mithraism, a cult that thrived during the Roman Empire.

“In some stages, it was used for burial purposes, but its shape and an archaeoastronomical analysis suggest that it was originally designed and built to contain a Mithraeum [temple to Mithras],” study researcher Inmaculada Carrasco told the Spanish news agency SINC.

“From our analysis of the window, we have deduced that it was positioned so that the rays of the sun reached the centre of the chamber during the equinoxes, in the spring and autumn, three hours after sunrise,” Carrasco was quoted as saying.

The researchers even think the light may have illuminated a now-lost statue of Mithras slaying the bull, the central image of the cult.

The building was also strategically placed with respect to the constellations, the researchers say. During the spring equinox in the 2nd century, Taurus would rise to the east while Scorpio would be hidden the west. These positions would have been flipped during the autumn equinox.

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11 Comments on "Former Mithraic Temple in Spain Was Built to Align with the stars"

  1. BuzzCoastin | May 13, 2013 at 8:51 pm |

    the first time people figured out that the ancients
    paid a lot of attention to the equinoxes, solstices & sky patterns
    and reflected these observations in architecture
    it was really mind blowing
    but now it’s kinda Meh

    • I thought the same thing, and then I thought about why I would lack being wowed by how awesome it is.

      • BuzzCoastin | May 13, 2013 at 10:41 pm |

        the first time I heard about this
        must have been about 15 years ago
        & it sill is awesome
        but this article merely addresses
        what has been addressed now numerous times
        before the electric era became established
        humans paid far more attention to the ebb & flow of Nature’s timings

        • We needed to for our crops and other reasons. I bet there are many books covering just those details.

          The one I read is quite interesting.

          Uriel’s Machine: Uncovering the Secrets of Stonehenge, Noah’s Flood and the Dawn of Civilization

          Christopher Knight,

          Robert Lomas

  2. Simon Valentine | May 13, 2013 at 10:36 pm |

    despite bad experiences with cult

    ‘Christianity’ etc.
    i never got out of … experience
    there’s still something timelessly catchy and distinct
    despite seeming vagueness

    the morale to build. to recognize. to remain unified
    until the next time
    destiny’s memento

  3. emperorreagan | May 14, 2013 at 9:44 am |

    I sometimes find this sort of article annoying.

    The stories are on one end:
    Look at our great discovery! In the past, people could raise their eyes to the heavens and observe the world!!

    And on the other end:
    We have discovered you use less energy if you pay attention to how you orient a building, use natural light to light spaces instead of fluorescent bulbs, etc. Yay technology! Yay research!

    We’re only a couple of generations removed from an era where you would pay attention to the sun, dominant wind patterns, etc. when you built a house or other buildings. That people paid attention to the sky and the land shouldn’t be a surprise.

    The failure to be aware of one’s surroundings is a new phenomena. The story really should be how stupid the past few generations have been.

  4. Alex Silveyra | May 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm |

    Correct me if I am wrong but Mithraism a cult it was a religion?

    • Matt Staggs | May 15, 2013 at 10:30 am |

      It was a mystery cult, but really when you’re talking about cults vs. religions it’s six of one versus half a dozen of the other. The important thing to remember is that the world cult in a historical context shouldn’t have the sinister connotations it does today.

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