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

9 Conclusion

The study of cultic practices among rural communities in the civitas Cananefatium during Roman times takes into account recent discoveries of structures and material assemblages associated with ritual practices, thereby offering the first clear overview of the subject. There is some evidence for temples or shrines at Forum Hadriani and in vici near Roman fortifications, but these structures are anything but representative of the rural communities. This study of rural cult places thus offers a deeper insight into ritual that took place in rectangular structures, a well-known phenomenon found in a much wider area, and singular depositions lacking any structural arrangements.

On the basis of this evidence the following characteristics for rural cult places in the civitas Cananefatium can be listed:

The appearance of built cult places in the rural parts of the Cananefatian territory differs little from those outside the region. Although a geographically bounded group, the Cananefatian structures do not differ from other Late Iron Age Roman open-air sanctuaries used by various social groups.

Cananefatian rural cult places are areas enclosed or marked by ditches, embankments and/or palisades. The shapes vary from rectangular or square to U-shaped. They are located at the periphery or in isolated parts of settlements and are oriented to the four cardinal directions. Post configurations and offering pits are found in the enclosed areas.

In addition, we also find singular depositions that do not follow specific patterns. These are found in isolated pits and wells, as foundation and abandonment deposits associated with houses, and at special offering sites. All depositions involve a concentration of specific objects. Although some materials are more common (see below), no pattern can yet be defined.

Singular depositions are made up of predominantly local objects. Most commonly, we find considerable quantities of hand-shaped pottery similar to that found in built sanctuaries. Its limited fragmentation refers to the ritual use of intact vessels as (containers of) votive offerings. Metal finds include various types of objects such as table wares, fibulae, ornaments and fittings. For other find categories there is less evidence for a cult context.

Little can be said about the actual cult practices themselves. The objects point to sacrifice and other ritualized symbolic practice involving deposition. It is however unknown which deities were received such sacrifices. Although there are indications that mother goddesses played a significant role in rural communities, there is no relationship between these goddesses and the cult places. Evidence from cult places in the surrounding regions indicate that ancestor worship may also have played a role in the region of the Cananefates.