A SANCTUARY dedicated to the ancient god Mithras has been uncovered by archaeologists excavating at the Villa del Mitra in Cabra, Spain.
Mithras was a demiurgic figure, believed to be the god of oaths and justice, as well as having influence over the sun, water and cattle.
A cult religion dedicated to this god spread to all corners of the Roman Empire, including Spain, during the first century CE.
The villa del Mitra in Cabra, was originally excavated between 1972 and 1973, and takes its name from the discovery of a Mithras Tauroctonus—Mithras sacrificing a bull, a symbol of death and resurrection—in the vicinity.
During that first excavation a courtyard with a pond and several adjacent rooms with mosaic flooring were discovered.
A later archaeological excavation campaign carried out in 1981 unearthed the remains of a hypocaust, a heating system that produces and circulates hot air below the floor of a room, as well as several coins showing Philip the Arab, Diocletian, and Valentinian II.
Recent excavations, conducted by archaeologists from the University of Málaga, the Carlos III University of Madrid, and the University of Córdoba, have now unearthed the remains of a sanctuary dedicated to Mithras dating to the second century AD, with a second phase of construction from the end of the third century AD.
The uncovered sanctuary is a rectangular room located to the southwest of the domus, measuring 7.2 by 2.5 metres, and according to the archaeologists, is standard for the cult religion.
It has a narrow entrance that descends several steps leading into the sanctuary that has two flanking stone benches which the archaeological team suggest would have been used by worshipers to perform rituals and hold feasts in honor of Mithras.
The walls have fragments of Roman bricks, with some niches, which would have likely held tauroctony sculptures.
Furthermore, a dark burnt layer covers the floor, which upon a closer examination has revealed fragmented remains of pigs, birds, and rabbits, indicative of the kind of cooking done during the ritual banquets.