(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists have unearthed a temple in a late Roman port on the Red Sea. It turned out that rituals were performed there that neither the Romans nor the Egyptians had previously known.
The American Journal of Archeology published an article with the results of the work of archaeologists from the Sikait project of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain).
They conducted surveys on the site where Berenice once stood – a Greco-Roman seaport on the edge of the Arabian Desert (Eastern Egypt).
Berenice was founded in the first half of the 3rd century BC by the Egyptian king Ptolemy II Philadelphus, he named the city in honor of his mother, Berenice I.
The port of Berenice was one of the most important transit points for trade on the way from India, Sri Lanka, Arabia to Upper Egypt . Under the Ptolemies, war elephants were actively traded through it.
At the end of the 3rd century BC, the inhabitants suddenly left the seemingly prosperous port – scientists suggest that due to a severe drought. And they returned back only in the 1st century BC.
Further, this port functioned, as previously believed, until the middle of the 4th century AD – that is, until the time when the Roman Empire gradually loses its power and no longer controls the colonies too much.
But it turned out that not only the Romans had views of Berenice.
Archaeologists from the Sikait project have unearthed a religious complex that has been dated to the 4th-6th centuries AD. The Western Roman Empire, we recall, fell in the 5th century.
This piece of desert, overlooking the Red Sea, was not particularly interesting for Byzantium either – not everything went smoothly in other places. Who performed the rituals in the temple?
The researchers concluded that during this period (from the 4th to the 6th century AD), Berenice was occupied and controlled by the Blemmi, a nomadic people from the Nubian region.
This ethnic group was first mentioned in Greek sources in the 3rd century BC: in one of the poems of Theocritus and Eratosthenes.
And by the 4th century AD, the nomads began to expand their possessions, mastering the Arabian desert.
In the found religious complex, scientists unearthed a temple, which they called the Sanctuary of the Falcon.
We managed to read the inscriptions on its walls and correlate them with some of the names of the Blemmy rulers known to us.
Most likely, the original Falcon Sanctuary was a small traditional Egyptian temple, which, after the 4th century, the Blemia adapted to their own belief system.
This is evidenced by the finds of traditional votive offerings, such as arrows and harpoons, as well as special cubic figurines that had no analogues in Egyptian history.
Also found in the sanctuary were the bones of 15 falcons (hence the name). Most of the birds were buried without heads, but with eggs.
The very mention of the falcon hints that the origins of the beliefs of the nomads from the Nubian desert have a completely understandable origin – ancient Egyptian.
Horus, the second most important god of the Egyptian pantheon, the lord of the Sun and the sky, is depicted on the walls of ancient Egyptian temples and pyramids as a man with a falcon’s head.
The Temple of Horus at Edfu is the second largest temple in ancient Egypt after Karnak.
The worship of falcons and the burial of these birds for religious purposes are associated with the cult of Horus: such finds were repeatedly made in the Nile Valley.
But for the first time birds were found buried in the temple, and even with eggs. In other places, researchers have found mummified headless falcons, but always only individuals, never in a group.
The authors of the work suggested that the burial of falcons in the temple may be associated with both the worship of Horus and, on the contrary, with the cult of the moon god Khonsu.
Perhaps the symbols of the enemy were sacrificed to Khonsu. But earlier archaeologists have not seen traces of such rituals in any of the Egyptian temples.
Another feature of the Sanctuary of the Falcon is the stele located at the entrance. An image of a god resembling the Egyptian Horus is carved on it, and an inscription informing that the head cannot be boiled in the temple.
It is not very clear who would take it into their heads to do this in the temple, but the researchers believe that such an act was considered defiling and, accordingly, warned against its inadmissibility.
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