Lidar guided archaeologists to the trail of the lost temple of Hercules

(ORDO NEWS) — Spanish scientists using laser scanning technology have discovered submerged ruins off the coast of the Gulf of Cadiz.

According to ancient sources, in the south of modern Spain, around the 9th-8th centuries BC, the Phoenicians built a temple in which they worshiped Melkart, the patron god of navigation. According to them, Melqart was buried somewhere in the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula.

In Greek mythology, Melqart became Hercules: on the walls of the temple, according to the testimony of ancient authors, there were bronze plates with the 12 feats of Hercules (originally Melqart) depicted on them.

There is evidence from ancient sources (in some cases unverifiable) that the temple was visited by Caesar, Hannibal and Scipio Africanus. Caesar saw there an image of a man whom he associated with Alexander the Great, but it is not entirely clear why.

And Hannibal made sacrifices in the sanctuary, thus thanks to the gods for his victories in Italy (this statement raises doubts – the great commander did not have much extra time to sail to the south of the Iberian Peninsula to perform the ceremony).

But the exact location of the pilgrimage site has long remained a mystery. Researchers now claim that they have discovered the ruins of this legendary temple, which is called “one of the holy grails of archeology.”

Lidar guided archaeologists to the trail of the lost temple of Hercules 2

Archaeologists from the University of Seville and the Andalusian Institute for Historical Heritage (Spain) have applied the technology of measuring the distance to an object using a laser (lidar).

They studied the underwater landscape of the Bay of Cadiz and created a digital model of the area. As a result, the researchers discovered a structure almost 300 meters long and about 150 meters wide, which is visible only at low tide.

The area around Cadiz (founded by the Phoenicians around the 12th century BC and called Gader) is subject to sea level fluctuations. As scientists assume, the temple once stood on the island and occupied it completely. The ebb and flow may have played a role in the mysteries.

Note that this area was under water relatively recently – about two centuries ago, when the water level began to rise. As a result, if the archaeologists are right, now the ruins of the temple are located between the reclaimed islet and a small sand spit.

Lidar guided archaeologists to the trail of the lost temple of Hercules 3

For over two centuries, important archaeological finds have been made in the area, which are now on display in the Museum of Cadiz: for example, large marble and bronze sculptures of Roman emperors and various figurines from the Phoenician period.

All of them helped to determine the approximate location of the temple of Hercules Gaditanus (from the Phoenician name of Cadiz).

However, before the lidar survey, scientists believed that, most likely, the structure was not on an island, but on the coast, and on a high hill – this is more in line with Phoenician building traditions.

We know the description of the Temple of Melqart in the ancient Phoenician city of Tire, and it was on it that the authors of this hypothesis relied. However, it has no archaeological confirmation yet.

Of course, digital modeling of the lidar data alone cannot be considered reliable evidence either. Additional research is needed to be carried out by specialists from the Andalusian Center for Underwater Archeology.

Ricardo Belizón from the University of Seville claims that during low tides at the bottom of the bay, next to the supposed place of worship of Hercules, he and his colleagues have already found fragments of ceramics, parts of masonry, fragments of marble (presumably columns). But it is not yet possible to relate them with confidence to the temple.

And that’s why. Modeling the ancient coastline of Cadiz allowed finding not only a possible temple of Melqart, but also an inner harbor or dock south of the temple, as well as a settlement along the coast with various buildings, mainly from the Roman period, which also have to be carefully studied.

In general, the underwater city occupies a large area: in terms of area it bypasses the Phoenician part of Cadiz, which remained on land, and the entire excavated area of ​​the Roman city of Baelo Claudia in Tarifa (a large Roman settlement on the territory of modern Andalusia).

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