(ORDO NEWS) — Berenice Troglodytic, also known as Baranis, was a nascent port city on the Red Sea in Ancient Egypt. The remains of seven “hunched” skeletons in the complex of tombs were discovered in Berenice Troglodytika by Polish archaeologists.
The seven people were buried in stone cists with the bones of the lower limbs lying on their chests, which archaeologists say is a highly unusual way of burial. The skeletons were located in several layers of different layers in the tomb complex, which has been dated to 1500 years ago.
Berenice the Troglodytic and her connections with trade routes to India
“This is not a natural posture. To achieve it, the deceased had to be tied up with ropes or cloth,” says Dr. Mariusz Gwiazda from the Center for Mediterranean Archeology at Warsaw University, who led the Berenice Troglodytica research team.
The rope had to be tied around the neck and legs, as a result of which the body folded on itself. “In one of the burials, the mother and child were almost folded into each other. Funeral items and artifacts found in these graves are clear evidence that were the elite members of this society.
Dr. Gwiazd’s main area of research is Berenice the Troglodytic along with Prof. Stephen Sidebotham from the University of Delaware in the USA.
Interestingly, after studying the stories of Agatarchides of Knidos, who was a Greek historian and philosopher in the 2nd century BC, Dr. Gviazda was able to contextualize this find.
Agatharchides described the burial customs of the tribes of the Eastern Desert, adding that ropes were tied around the neck and legs of the deceased so that the body assumed a crooked position. “Perhaps it was the same in this case,” Dr. Gvizda said.
The high social status of the deceased could be judged by the raw materials that came to Berenice from the territory of modern Pakistan, India and the islands of Indonesia.
These were onyx and carnelian beads of complex work, as well as ivory rings (from the Egyptian-Sudanese border), earrings and silver bracelets.
The dead were placed in four separate layers, one below the other, although it is too early to say whether these burials were made at the same time or at different time periods. Similar tombs from this era have been found in Upper Egypt and Nubia, including a similar style of architecture.
Berenice Troglodithica was inhabited by the Blemmians between the 4th and 6th centuries AD, who were a nomadic Nubian tribe of the Eastern Desert mountain region.
The Blemmii gained independence from other Mediterranean empires of the time, controlling territory east of the Nile (between present-day Ethiopia and Berenice Troglodytica).
Trade flourished during this time as the Nubians acted as intermediaries between the Byzantines and the communities of the Indian Ocean region (as evidenced by elite funerary objects). During this period, an atmosphere of prosperity and peace reigned in the region and along the Red Sea coast.
Unusual Funeral Practices of Non-Egyptian Peoples
“Until now, the burial customs of the Bereniki community were shrouded in mystery. We wanted to fill this gap,” said Dr. Gvyazda.
In favor of the study is the fact that the tomb was unplanned, which is a deviation from the ancient burial customs identified in Egypt so far. In fact, Egypt is famous for its carefully planned burials, especially in the case of the elite.
Berenice Troglodytica was originally founded in the 3rd century BC. Ptolemy II and was used mainly as a staging post for Roman imports of African elephants. Four centuries later, the Romans again took control of the Berenice trade center and made it part of the trade routes linking North Africa, West Asia and India.
During the same excavations, researchers obtained evidence of ancient burial rituals. At the excavation site, a platform was found with the remains of animals – the vertebrae of sacrificial goats or sheep.
On the platform were several bowls for offerings and several inverted amphorae, which were used during rituals. On the same platform, small water bottles were found that kept the temperature inside the bottle, which were used by the Arabs.
The biggest significance of these finds is that we will learn more about the other peoples of this region, instead of focusing only on the Greco-Roman and post-Roman elements of Berenice the Troglodytic.
Until now, almost nothing was known about the Blemmyes in Berenice, including their way of life and burial habits. But now we know more.
A few years ago, an amazing animal cemetery dating back 2,000 years was discovered in Berenice of Troglodyce. Apparently, the monkeys were brought from India, paraded as mascots, and then buried on the outskirts of the city. Dogs and cats were also buried in a similar way.
Excavations carried out in 1994 revealed that Berenice Troglodytica received shipments directly from the Malabar Coast of India, Sri Lanka and the Tamil Indian region, which were some of the earliest traders in Berenice.
More about the fascinating history of this nascent outpost will certainly be revealed as the Polish research project continues.
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