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

6 Rural cult places in the civitas Cananefatium

We know only a few rural places of worship in the civitas Cananefatium (fig. 5). One possible explanation for this limited number is that the sanctuaries were used by several families belonging to one pagus and are therefore not found in each rural settlement. Another explanation is that the cult places are not always recognized as such. All sites mentioned in the following overview consist of a square, rectangular or U-shaped structure. As these typical structures do not represent the only possible form of sanctuaries, the overview is followed by examples of other ritual structures.


Figure 5 Rectangular and U-shaped structures from the civitas Cananefatium. A) The Hague Lozerlaan (after Van Zoolingen 2010); B) The Hague-Hoge Veld (after Siemons & Lanzing 2009, fig. 3.48); C) Leidschendam-Leeuwenbergh (after Wiepking 1997, II, p. 33); D) Midden-Delfland (after Van Londen 2006, fig. 93); E) Poeldijk-Westhof (after Blom and Van der Feijst 2007 fig. 4.12).

The Hague-Lozerlaan

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Five small-scale excavations were carried out in the 1990s by the Municipal Department for Archaeology along the Lozerlaan in The Hague (Van Zoolingen 2010). These excavations revealed an extensive indigenous Roman settlement. One of the buildings has been interpreted as a polyphase sanctuary, on the basis of relevant features and associated material culture.


Figure 6 Plan of the three phased sanctuary at The Hague-Lozerlaan.

The sanctuary shows three phases of construction (fig. 6). The first phase (AD 70-100) comprises at least five palisades, ranging in length from 2 to 16 m. Except for one, all palisades have the same orientation, NNW-SSE. An interesting parallel for these palisades is the open-air sanctuary near Empel, where two parallel rows of poles are considered to represent its first phase (Roymans & Derks 1994, 19). The Lozerlaan palisades are overlapped by a rectangular structure formed by a double palisade with poles placed in a ditch (phase 2, AD 100-130). The dimensions are approximately 9 by 8 m, the eastern and western sides being the longest. The orientation is roughly NNW-SSE. A cluster of posts was found within the rectangular area and a single pit was found outside the area. The rectangular structure was overlapped by a third construction (AD 130-190). This phase of the sanctuary is in many respects comparable with rural places of worship outside the study area (fig. 7). The structure consists of a square-shaped ditch with corners pointing to the four winds. The sides measure approximately 10 by 10 m. No traces of poles or stakes were recognized in the ditch. In the south corner of the structure there is a T-shaped post configuration consisting of at least eight posts. Though it could not be precisely dated, the orientation of the axis in line with the edges of the square shaped ditch suggests that both structures are contemporary. A very disturbed pit was documented within the boundaries of the square area.


Figure 7 Reconstruction of Lozerlaan sanctuary (C) based on examples of Kontich (A) and Hoogeloon (B) (after Annaert 1993, fig. 52; Slofstra & Van der Sanden 1987, fig. 6).

The sanctuary (or cultic place) is surrounded by ditches in the second and third phases of use. The western ditch has the same orientation as the palisades of the first phase and, as evidenced by the finds, forms an important element for the ritual character of the site. A bronze jug was found at the intersection with the southern ditch, about 6.5 m from the south corner of the square-shaped structure (Van Zoolingen 2010, 95-98). The jug is nearly complete, only the lid is missing (fig. 8). The object is composed of three parts: the jug itself, made of sheet bronze[3] and a spout and handle cast from a single piece of brass and mounted on the jug with a brass strip. The jug is of the Eggers 128 type (Eggers 1951; Koster 1997, 33-35) and dates to the 2nd and 3rd centuries. This find is unique in the region. The discovery of a brass handle of a second jug during construction of an apartment building next to the cult place renders the situation even more exceptional. The jugs identify the place as a ritual site and their ritual function is documented elsewhere (for example Empel, see Koster & Derks 1994, 174-180). Metal ware was used for the preparation of sacrificial meals or deposited as a cultic object. The location of the bronze jug at the junction of two ditches surrounding the cult place is remarkable and may indicate that the deposition of the jug was carried out at a meaningful spot at the site.


Figure 8 The bronze jug from The Hague-Lozerlaan (photograph: O. Odé, Amsterdam).

Next to the jug, large quantities of metal, pottery and slag were collected, especially from the western ditch. The metal finds include fragments of a bronze (or copper?) cauldron, a folded belt fitting, fragments of bronze wire, copper fittings and a late 1st century bronze bracelet. In total, three fibulae were found (fig. 9). The imported pottery includes fragments of several South Gallic terra sigillata bowls, an olive oil amphora and coarse ware cooking pots (fig. 10). However, the majority of finds consisted of hand-shaped pottery. This material shows a low level of fragmentation (Van der Linden 2010), an indication that the vessels were deposited intact, possibly with contents (fig. 11).


Figure 9 Metal finds from the The-Hague-Lozerlaan sanctuary.


Figure 10 Selection of pottery found near the The-Hague-Lozerlaan sanctuary; scale 1:4.


Figure 11 Hand-shaped pottery in a ditch flanking the Lozerlaan sanctuary during fieldwork (photograph: Department for Archaeology, Municipality of The Hague).

The Hague-Hoge Veld

Between 2001 and 2003 excavations were carried out at the Hoge Veld in The Hague (Siemons & Lanzing 2009). They revealed a rural settlement first occupied from AD 40 to 220. A total of fifteen farmsteads, eighteen outbuildings, several ditch systems, wells and a number of other structures were documented, including a possible cult place (Siemons & Lanzing 2009, feature 502, 138-139).

The cult place of The Hague-Hoge Veld resembles the third phase of the Lozerlaan sanctuary (fig. 5B). It too features a square shaped ditch, with its corners pointing to the four cardinal directions. The structure is situated at the northern border of the settlement and measures 16.5 by 14 m. Post holes within the structure may have been part of the cult place as a pole configuration. The function of a ditch section within the limits of the structure remains unclear. Whilst the features have a clear parallel with the Lozerlaan sanctuary, the finds are less convincing. Although the majority of finds are hand-shaped (n=36) and wheel-thrown pottery (n=12), six fragments of medieval pottery were also found. A medieval date would be in line with the dark soil filling the traces, but the Hoge Veld structure is dated to the first half of the 2nd century on the basis of the dominant Roman material, the few medieval sherds are considered as secondary contamination.


An indigenous Roman settlement was excavated in two stages at Leidschendam-Leeuwenbergh, in 1991-1993 by the former Dutch State Archaeological Service (ROB) (Wiepking 1997), and in 1997-2001 by the Municipal Department of Archaeology of Rijswijk (De Bruin & Koot 2006). The excavations yielded a rural settlement with two nuclei and a field layout in between. The settlement is dated AD 40-250. It bordered a former tidal channel and was situated only 600 m southeast of the Roman town of Forum Hadriani. The documented features include seven farmsteads, nine outbuildings, nine wells, seven palisades, seven cremation burials and four animal burials.

A cult place was excavated at the northwestern edge of the southern nucleus, along the former watercourse (Wiepking 1997, F14a, 40-41 and 84-85). The structure lay in a separate part of the settlement away from other features. The Leeuwenbergh cult place is rather different from the rectangular sites of Lozerlaan or Hoge Veld. It consists of a U-shaped ditch, with the opening on the east side (fig. 5C). The west side is 16 m long, the north and south sides approximately 12 m. A series of pits was dug along the inner end of each of the short sides. The cult function of the structure is not only based on the unusually shaped features and the absence of other buildings in the vicinity, but also on the associated finds. In total thirteen mainly wire fibulae were collected, as well as imported wheel-thrown pottery and large quantities of hand-shaped made local wares. The imported pottery includes South Gallic terra sigillata and some rare types of painted ware. The hand-shaped made pottery comprises the majority, 86% in total. The cult place stands out from the surrounding farmsteads where local pottery comprises 48-77% (Wiepking 1997, 128-129). Furthermore, the material is comparable to the hand-shaped pottery from the Lozerlaan in terms of deposition. According to the excavators several fragmented, but complete hand-shaped pots were found in situ, placed in a row in the ditch (pers.comm. J.K.A. Hagers, Wiepking 1997, 41, note 4). The cult place is dated to the second half of the 2nd century and the beginning of the 3rd century.


The University of Amsterdam conducted extensive archaeological research in Midden-Delfland in the years 1991-1999. Seven micro-regions were studied via monitoring work, trial trenches and excavations. Several indigenous Roman settlements and a large scale Roman field system were identified. Three sites (MD 01.23, 20.17 and 21.15) yielded traces that were interpreted as cattle corrals (Van Londen 2006, 34-49, 138-142, 134-136). They were located in isolated parts of the site where traces of buildings were virtually absent. The U-shaped structures and vague impressions of hoof-marks have resulted in the interpretation as areas for keeping livestock. Another interpretation is however plausible, particularly for the MD 21.15 structure (fig. 5D). This three-sided structure measures approximately 7 by 6 m and is situated east of a silted up channel. The finds included six fibulae as well as hand-shaped pottery. Part of a hand-shaped pot was found in situ in a pit at the end of an immediately adjacent ditch. The entire complex of features and finds is at least unusual for a corral or outbuilding. The faint traces within the structure were interpreted as hoof-marks on a basis of similarity to the impressions found at site MD 20.17. They are however far from convincing as such, and could easily be interpreted as traces of poles or stakes. Taking everything into account, it appears that this building was not a cattle corral but the locus of rural cult.