Release date: February 2019

A unique religious shrine uncovered next to the north gate of the fort at Vindolanda Roman fort in 2009 contained three precious altars. After excavation they were removed and put on public display in the adjacent museum.  Now, archaeologists at the site have taken the unusual step of replicating the altars which has enabled them to be visible in the landscape for the first time in 1,800 years.

The cult of Jupiter Dolichenus is shrouded in mystery.

Very little evidence has survived of the myths, liturgies or rituals of the ancient cult.  All that is known about the religion is based on surviving inscriptions, sculptures or other pieces of decorative art from different parts of the Roman Empire.  The largest of the three altars uncovered at Vindolanda, which stands at 110cm high, shows the god standing on a bull holding an axe and a thunderbolt. The inscription reads: “To Jupiter Best and Greatest of Doliche, Sulpicius Pudens, prefect of the Forth Cohort of Gauls, fulfilled his vow gladly and deservedly”.

 Dr Andrew Birley, Vindolanda’s CEO explained “For conservation reasons we cannot put the original altars back, they belong in a museum environment to protect them against the elements, but we can put identical replicas of the stones back into the exact position they were found in.”

 The original altars were carefully molded to enable them to be recast in jesmonite by Northumbrian sculptor Kerry Boyes.  The material looks and weathers like stone and the result is striking, enabling visitors to the site to not only appreciate the significance of the shrine but they can also touch, read and see the altars where they belong.