Hebrew Bible and ANE History Lists Commentary

News and Comments that relate to the Hebrew Bible and to my posts on various ANE and Hebrew Bible related mailing lists - Yitzhak Sapir

Friday, March 03, 2006

Phoenician Temple Discovered

Aerial view of excavation area
Photo source: Monsters and Critics Science News
Jim Davila at paleojudaica notes the discovery of a Phoenician Temple in Sicily. The Italian news agency report states:
The temple came to light last year after a portion of a lagoon surrounding the Phoenician city of Motya (present-day Mozia) was drained ...

Digs at the site, on the westernmost tip of Sicily near Marsala, have brought to light the ruins of a "monumental" temple including columns of a type used by the Phoenicians on Cyprus - as well as fragments of an obelisk .

"The similarity with the Temple of the Obelisks at Byblos, Lebanon, is clear," Nigro said .

Nigro believes the pool flanking the temple was used for water rituals and offerings to Baal, the Phoenician god of the sea and the underworld.

However, other Italian archaeologists do not agree with him.


Motya - whose name means "wool-spinning centre" - was founded in the 8th century BC, about a century after the foundation of the most famous Phoenician colony in the ancient world, Carthage in Tunisia .

Greeks also began to colonise Sicily at the same time as Motya's foundation and conflicts broke out between Greek and Phoenician settlements. The Greek tyrant ruler of Siracusa, Dionysius I, destroyed Motya in 397 BC.

There is no doubt that a Sea god was of importance to Phoenicians, who were known sailors. In Ugaritic mythology, Yam, not Baal, was the Sea and Underworld God. However, Ribichini writes that there may be several Phoenician dieties that could be associated as the "Lord of the Sea" and mentions Baal Malage as a possible Sea god. He also mentions dedications to the originally Tyrian Melqarth in Sicily. So it's not clear which Baal is refered to here.

Here is a slightly different shorter report (but perhaps that makes it more accurate). It also has an image gallery of the excavations that actually captions the photos. I couldn't tell from the Italian news agency article if the column photo was from the excavations, but thanks to the caption in the image gallery, it probably is.



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