The long-lost temple of Hercules Gaditanus may have finally been located in Spain. The temple, which dates back to at least the 9th century BC, was a very important pilgrimage site and its location has a remained a mystery for many hundreds of years. But perhaps that mystery has finally been solved.
Ricardo Belizón, who is a Ph.D. student at Seville University in southern Spain, believes that he found the lost temple and his theory is so convincing that it is backed by scientists at his university as well as the Andalusian Institute of Historical Heritage (IAPH). Software programs and digital terrain models have revealed the possible location of the temple in a shallow channel in the Bay of Cádiz known as the Caño de Sancti Petri (it is between the towns of Chiclana de Frontera and San Fernando).
That area was previously identified as a possible location for the temple by a traveler and historian named Antonio Ponz back in 1794 who questioned how far the land reached into the sea. In his doctoral thesis, Belizón decided to focus on the ancient landscape of that area during ancient times, but his research took a very interesting turn when he possibly found the resting place of a long-lost temple.
By analyzing the landscape from around 3,000 years ago, he noticed “a totally anthropized coastline, with a large building [the possible temple], several breakwaters, moorings and an inner harbor,” he said. The structure is in the shape of a rectangle and measures 300 by 150 meters (984 by 492 feet) which appears to coincide with previous descriptions of the temple. It is located between three and five meters underneath the water (9.8 to 16.4 feet).
The temple of Hercules Gaditanus was a very important site in ancient times and was visited by numerous well known individuals such as Julius Caesar and the Carthaginian conqueror Hannibal. Milagros Alzaga, who is the head of the Center for Underwater Archaeology (CAS) and who helped with the research, noted that in the Latin and Greek literature that mention the temple, it states that there was “a changing environment, in contact with the sea, subject to the changing tides, in a temple where there must have been port structures and a seafaring environment.” This makes the Spanish location identified by Belizón very possible.
Now that a location has been identified, a lot of fieldwork needs to be done in order to know for sure whether or not it is the remains of the long-lost temple of Hercules Gaditanus. There have been important archaeological discoveries made in the area already, like big bronze and marble sculptures of Roman emperors, as well as numerous statuettes from the Phoenician Period. So, perhaps the temple is there as well.
A 3D model and an aerial view of where the temple is believed to be located can be viewed here.