Roman Religion

Apulum Mithraeum III Project in Alba Iulia 2014

The archaeological campaign of 2013 on the Cartier Cetate site, findspot Mithraeum III, from Alba Iulia, Alba District, is part of a multi-annual research project developed by the National Museum of Unification.

Alba Iulia worked together with the Princeton University (USA), Babeş-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca and the Institute of Archaeology and History of Art Cluj-Napoca. The main scope of this campaign, carried out in July – August 2013 and 2014, was to systematically uncover the building identified in a 2008 rescue excavation as the sanctuary of Mithras, using a complex, interdisciplinary approach.The investigations led to the identification of a complex stratigraphy, consisting of several layers belonging to different chronological phases, which were dated according to the archaeological evidence. Besides the structure of the sanctuary, which has a NW – SE orientation, the excavations also uncovered a large refuse pit that predates the building and a part of a rectangular timber structure, both belonging to the Roman period, as well as a part of a medieval house.

The recovered inventory consists of: altars, architectural elements, pottery, objects made of glass, iron, bronze, stone, coins and a large quantity of animal bones. Sets of palynological, archaeobotanical, archaeozoological, soil and radiocarbon samples were also collected.

Our team is two weeks into the second season of the Mithraeum III Project and so far, progress is being made. We have made important finds and are moving in the right direction to understand several layers of different occupation occurring on site. The hope of the site is to unearth the mithraeum structure in it’s entirety and to understand the human occupation surrounding. This year we have a geophysical science student collecting geophysical data of unexcavated areas near the excavation and we hope to understand what is happening around the Mithraeum.

We are staying in the University of Alba Iulia’s accommodation, about twenty minutes from our site, and our day begins around 7:30am and we work until 4:30pm with lunch and a few breaks in between from Monday to Saturday (Saturday is a half-day). Sunday is our free day in which we go to select locations in the Transylvanian region, such as the mines of Rosa Montana or the Roman capital of Sarmizegetusa as our team visited last year.

As the Student Education Coordinator, I have had the pleasure of working with the directors to plan a weekly lecture for the students and creating a manual for quick archaeological information. This has been a sensational project to be a part of and this season promises to answer many questions our team holds. Thank you to all members of the excavation team, universities, museums, and the city of Alba Iulia for your support!