Finding archaeology online about Mithras

I’m extremely busy at the moment adding material to the Mithras site.  At the moment this is driven by a list of Mithraeums discovered since 1960.  I am attempting to research each of these online, grab some text, some images, and create a page for it.  This is, inevitably, a very time-consuming business.

Several things have struck me while doing this.

It’s often really hard to work out what is the formal publication of an excavation.  You can search the web as much as you like; you will only find the printed sources most commonly referred to.  In the case of an obscure site, you may not find this, and will have to be content with webpages.

It’s very hard to get even a site plan of the excavation.

It’s very hard to get a list of “finds”, never mind a list of minor finds which may be of critical importance.

It’s also very difficult to physically obtain publications, in many cases.  The Vulci Mithraeum (il Mitreo di Vulci, for the benefit of the search engines, since nearly everything is in Italian) seems to be documented in an exhibition catalogue published by a certain Dr. Anna M. Moretti Sgubini.  The exhibition was ephemeral, and no copies of it are present in any Anglophone country.  I am considering writing to the author, on the off-chance that she has a PDF of her own work.  More and more people do, these days, but it’s not satisfactory.

I have also found that material placed online, in the “Electronic Journal of Mithraic Studies”, in zip files, has gradually become corrupt over the last 10 years and will not open any more.  Being in zip format, it isn’t archived anywhere.

All of this seems remarkably unsatisfactory.  Archaeology is considered a scientific discipline; yet these are fundamental problems.

Of course it may be that the problem is with me.  Perhaps all the archaeologists are “in the know”.  Some may read this and say, “What? You mean you didn’t know that it’s all at www.xyz.edu?  Haw haw!”  Well, if so, I don’t know.  Nor has such a resource come my way.

So I suspect that archaeologists need to consider how they use the web.  Indexes, catalogues, ways to find data — these are what the web is for.

There’s room for improvement here, chaps!

7 Responses to “Finding archaeology online about Mithras”


  1. Suburbanbanshee

    Noooo, that’s exactly what archaeology is like. They cite “private correspondence with Dr. XYZ” a lot, because most archaeologists take twenty or thirty years to publish anything they find. Or at least that is my impression from taking a few archaeology classes and having to look stuff up.

    The problem that results is that very few people _are_ in the know, and most of them are either buddies or students of Dr. XYZ and Professor ABC. I think there are oral presentations at conferences or roundtable discussions that help fill the gap, but….

    It should be remembered that archaeologists have apparently been finding dinosaur bones at Greek sites for years, but the archaeologists just knew they were fossils and they didn’t bother to find out what kind. Only in recent years did a paleontologist get brought in.

    Archaeologists are learned and amazing folks, but everybody in any kind of anthropology department is nuts.

  2. Roger Pearse

    Hmm… of course you’re right about the depressing tendency of archaeologists never to publish their excavations.

    Still, it will all get better.

  3. Craig Baugh

    Roger,
    I picked up a book at the National Museum in Rome last year entitled Guida dei Mitrei di Roma Antica. In it are two pages on Vulci with four color photographs. I don’t see any sourcing info on the photos so don’t know whether copyright would be a problem posting to the internet. There is two columns of text accompanying the photos, all in Italian (which I don’t read). I could do a Google Translate on the text (typing it in by hand) if you think it would be useful. I could also just photo and send you via email. Let me know if you are interested.

  4. Craig Baugh

    Also, if you search Google for this “Rivista n. 0 PDF – Roma Archeo Magazine” it gives you a pdf which has a 14 page article on Vulci. Regretably, all in Italian, but there are gobs (That’s American for “A lot”) color photos.

  5. Roger Pearse

    I’ve replied off-line to your kind offer.

    It’s amazing what another pair of eyes can see. Downloading that Rivista article now! (I can manage Italian, thanks to Google Translate).

    Just worked out that I have 356 Mithraic artefacts online now. A nice number, but the CIMRM alone is more than 2,000, and of course there are loads of subsequent finds.

  6. Robert H. Consoli

    From the Rivista:

    Immediately behind the Domus
    of the Cryptoporticus, connected to
    another domus of the first century
    BC of which is preserved the
    peristyle and some of the surrounding [material], is
    found a mithraeum with two side benches [-> 'balconi'],
    supported by small arches, on which were the seats ['posto']
    of the initiates. On the back wall
    was the statue of the god
    Mithras slaying the bull (tauroctono).
    During the excavations there happened to be
    found statues of the third century A.D.,
    including two groups, with Mitra and the
    two dadofori Cautes and Cautopates,
    the bearers of torches and who accompany
    the God. In mithraeum and
    on the statues have been found
    traces of a violent destruction, and
    it is therefore likely that the Christians
    set fire to the sanctuary and disfigured
    the cult statues soon
    after the famous edict of
    Theodosius (380 A.D.). p. 37

    On the adjoining page, above: The Mithraeum of Vulci. p. 40 referring to p. 39

    On the adjoining page, beneath: Graphic reconstruction of the Mithraeum of Vulci. p. 40 referring to p. 39

  7. Roger Pearse

    Useful – thank you!