Jupiter column found in Roman well in Germany

Archaeologists have unearthed a Roman well containing the remains of a column with depictions of Jupiter and three goddesses in a lignite mine in Kerpen, Germany. Columns with figural depictions of this kind from the Roman era are extremely rare in the Rhineland. The well was exposed when the opencast mine pit was 50 feet deep.

The timber-sided well and its fill were discovered in the Hambach mine and archaeologists from the Rhineland Regional Council’s Office for Monument Preservation in the Rhineland (LVR-ABR) called in to excavate it. Inside they found the remains of marble carving of Jupiter seated on a throne. It was heavily damaged with only the throne and lower body of the god extant, but its dimensions indicate the column was around 16 feet high when intact.

A relief at the foot of the column is also believed to depict Jupiter, but it too is damaged enough to make identification tentative. Another relief carved around a cylindrical drum shows three goddesses: Juno, consort of Jupiter, Minerva, goddess of wisdom and an extremely rare depiction of Nemesis-Diana, a composite of the goddess of vengeance and the goddess of the hunt. She is identifiable as such because she wears the short dress of Diana and is accompanied by a wagon wheel, an attribute of Nemesis. There is evidence of the worship of Nemesis-Diana in the Roman Empire, but iconographic representations are scarce. This is the first one ever discovered in the Rhineland.

The remains of Jupiter columns have been found before on Roman villas in Germany. Archaeologists believe they probably adorned the courtyards of wealthy homes. The quality of construction of the well suggests it too was part of luxury estate. Its foundation is composed of large sandstones each weighing several tons. They had to be transported to the site. The cost of moving such large stones would have been exorbitant and affordable only to the elite.

Similar wells found in the area mostly date to the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Ceramic fragments found in the backfill of the well indicate that it was in use until the 5th century. It’s hard to say when the Jupiter column parts were deposited in the well. It could have been as early as the 3rd century, perhaps as a result of destruction wrought by Germanic invasions, or the representations of Roman deities might have been damaged and drowned by Christians in late antiquity. Archaeologists hope the well-preserved wood elements of the well will provide an absolute date on its construction.

4 thoughts on “Jupiter column found in Roman well in Germany

  1. The town of Kerpen is to be found right next to Cologne or ‘Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium’, and it therefore might be fair to assume a farming estate (‘villae rusticae’). There are also instances where they had indeed ‘sanctuaries’ out in the countryside, but usually next to Roman roads.

    In a well from the Villa Rustica of Burgweinting (i.e. on the other side of the Danubian Limes in Regensburg), a skull of a 3rd century CE decapitated scalped woman was found with some relatives, which sends an even nastier signal than just a broken sand stone column, and where people are made Christian, they usually keep their scalp.


    The Pagan Libanios in “Προς Θεοδόσιον τον βασιλέα υπέρ των ιερών”, a complaint letter to Emperor Theodosius: — “…Those black-garbed people eat more than elephants and demand a large quantity of liquor from the people who send them drink for their chantings, but who hide their luxury by their pale artificial countenances,—-These men, O Emperor, even whilst your law is in force, run to the temples, bringing with them wood, and stones, and iron, and when they have not these, hands and feet. Then follows a Mysian prey, the roofs are uncovered, walls are pulled down, images are carried off, and altars are overturned: Our priests must be silent upon pain of death. When they have destroyed one temple they run to another, and a third, and trophies are erected upon trophies: which are all contrary to the law. …”

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    The well itself looks like a quality bit of work as well; I hope they preserve that :yes:

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