Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 3-1 (November 2011)R.J. van Zoolingen: Rural cult places in the civitas Cananefatium

1 Introduction

As comprehensive as our knowledge of rural habitation in the Cananefatian area is, our knowledge of cult and religion within this region is limited. So far, no clear traces of temples, as known from other parts of the Roman Empire, have been found in the study area, limiting our knowledge of Roman rural cult places in the western Netherlands. Although temples might very well have stood in the area, most places of worship here are likely to have been open-air sanctuaries. However, in line with our limited knowledge of temple structures, only a few examples of these open-air sanctuaries could be identified in past decades, resulting in a lacuna in our understanding of rural Cananefatian communities.

The discovery in more recent years of a number of indigenous Roman rural cult places in the coastal area between the Rhine and Meuse estuaries furthers our understanding of rural cult in this specific part of the Roman Empire, complementing our knowledge of the Cananefatian society as a whole. By presenting these sites in a single overview, this paper therefore aims at a more constructive definition of rural cult places in the Cananefatian area. In addition, the sites presented add to our knowledge of cult in a much broader geographical context.


Figure 1 Study area (civitas Cananefatium) with underlying geology.

First, this article briefly introduces the coastal settlement between the Rhine and Meuse in the Late Iron Age and Roman period. Special attention is paid to the underlying geology, rural settlement in the area, and known places of worship. Second, there is an overview of the study on rural cult places outside the study area. This forms a framework within which the cult places in the study area are introduced. Each structure is briefly described, focusing on the features and the accompanying finds. This paper concludes with some general remarks on cult and broader themes.