(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of archaeologists received new direct evidence that during the time of Ancient Rome, in the Eastern Egyptian Desert, there was an active mining of emeralds in specially developed mines.
According to EurekAlert, excavations were carried out on the territory of the Roman-Byzantine settlement of Mons Smaragdus, which, according to scientists, played an important role in a well-built emerald mining network.
This region is famous for the emerald mines of the Roman era. The fact is that they were described by such authors as Pliny the Elder and Claudius Ptolemy. That is, written mentions of them appeared a little less than 2000 years ago.
It is noteworthy that at some point in time, these mines virtually disappeared from history. And only in the 19th century they were rediscovered by the French mineralogist Frederic Cayo. But archaeologists first got to them only in the 1990s.
It was then that this area was first surveyed, after which the first excavations began. Then the work was stopped again for a long time. The next excavations took place in 2018 and 2020. The researchers tell about the results of these works in their scientific article.
They write that they managed to find and excavate three ancient buildings. Scientists conditionally named one of them administrative. Probably, it housed a temple that was actively used in the period between the 1st and 4th-5th centuries AD.
During the excavations of this building, 19 coins from that time period were discovered, as well as other objects indicating their ritual use. In particular, incense burners were found, as well as bronze and steatite figurines.
The second building, presumably, was also a cult building. Scientists named it “The Great Temple”. By the way, this is generally one of the best preserved buildings in the area. Religious artifacts have also been found here, including fragments of terracotta sculptures and amulets.
This building, according to the analysis, was actively used in the IV-V centuries AD. But scientists do not exclude that it was built much earlier, and the Roman temple itself was erected on the site of an older Egyptian sanctuary. This is indicated, for example, by the Egyptian hieroglyphs preserved in the building.
The third building turned out to be no less interesting, which received the symbol “Complex of six windows”. It consists of two parts, one of which, the basement, was built much earlier than the second. This building, according to scientists, was directly related to the extraction of emeralds.
Probably, one part of this building was residential, apparently, workers lived here. The second part could have been a warehouse where tools and extracted materials were kept.
As for the emerald mines themselves, scientists have tried to identify them as well. They studied the underground structures found here. This made it possible to document several places with traces of the extraction of beryl – a mineral, one of the varieties of which is emerald.
A detailed analysis of the mines also made it possible to classify them by type and determine their age. They really belong to the so-called Roman Egypt.
New finds indicate that the mining of emeralds in ancient times was closely associated with religious cults. Probably, the very process of mining precious stones was considered sacred. Therefore, a large number of temples operated near the mines.
Archaeologists plan to continue excavations by expanding their territory. They intend to check the data of other written sources of antiquity. In one of them, for example, it is said that in the 5th century AD, to enter these emerald mines, permission was required from the Blemmigan king himself – a nomadic Nubian tribe that lived from about the 3rd century BC to the 6th century AD on the territory between the Nile and the Red Sea.
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