Hawarti Mithraeum

Description

During two weeks in 1998 the north and east walls were excavated. The mithraeum lies north/south and at that time was estimated to be wider than long 6m north/south and 7.4m east/west with a southern entrance as yet unexcavated. Its floor lay 3.5m below the mosaic floor of the 4th-cent. church, and its west wall was obscured by a foundation wall for the narthex of the 4th-cent. church, apparently built after the ceiling of the mithraeum had already collapsed. A podium was recovered only on the east side (that on the west was possibly destroyed by the foundation wall of the church).

Originally the north, east and west walls and the ceiling were painted, but the paintings from the east wall have disappeared for the most part and most of the ceiling collapsed and now lies in fragments under the fill on the floor of the sanctuary. Gawlikowski has identified between two and five or six layers of paintings. In the latest layer the paintings seem to have been part of a continuous frieze extending to the east and west walls.

The north wall has an unpainted semi-circular niche of sandstone blocks inserted into the natural rock of the hillside. It is framed by two pilasters supporting a lintel and was undoubtedly meant to house a tauroctony relief (not yet recovered). At a later point a small podium was added in front of the niche, perhaps to provide a new setting for the tauroctony relief. Later still a "pedestal" with two steps leading to the podium was added on the east side. The latest two layers of painting also cover the pedestal and podium as well as the walls.

This dating makes this mithraeum the latest known and used.

Extracted from A New Mithraeum in Hawarti, Syria from A. B. Griffith

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