Researchers Say Elephant's Tomb in Carmona May Have Been Temple to God Mithras

Posted on May 11, 2013

Researchers believe Elephant's Tomb in the Roman necropolis of Carmona was not always used for burials. The Carmona necropolis in Spain is a collection of funeral structures from between the 1st century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D. One of these is known as the Elephant's Tomb because a statue in the shape of an elephant was found in the interior of the structure. The researchers found four stages during which the building was renovated and used in different ways.

The researchers say the original structure of the building and a window through which the sun shines in during the equinoxes suggests that it was a temple of Mithraism, an unofficial religion in the Roman Empire. The authors believe that the sun would have illuminated a statue of the tauroctony, the statue of Mithras slaying the bull (which has been lost).

Inmaculada Carrasco, one of the authors of the study, says in the announcement, "In some stages, it was used for burial purposes, but its shape and an archaeoastronomical analysis suggest that it was originally designed and built to contain a Mithraeum [temple to Mithras]. From our analysis of the window, we have deduced that it was positioned so that the rays of the sun reached the centre of the chamber during the equinoxes, in the spring and autumn, three hours after sunrise."

Here is a video showing how the sun would have lit up the statue during the equinoxes. Take a look:

A research paper about the findings was published in Archivo Espanol de Arqueologia.

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