Ancient Buddha Statue Unearthed in Egyptian Port City of Berenike

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Archaeologists have discovered a 1,900-year-old statue of Buddha in the ancient Egyptian port city of Berenike, offering substantial evidence of the trade and cultural exchange that occurred between ancient Rome and India.
The statue, the earliest known representation of Buddha found to the west of Afghanistan, is carved from Mediterranean marble and measures 28 inches in height.
Berenike played a significant role as one of the largest ports under Roman rule in Egypt, allowing for the exchange of goods such as ivory, textiles, and semi-precious metals.
An inscription discovered at Berenike suggests the presence of an established Indian merchant community residing in the city, as opposed to merely passing traders.
The ongoing excavations in Berenike, which commenced in 1994, are a collaborative effort between American and Polish research teams and have resulted in significant findings that emphasize the existence of a global economy that interconnected Europe, Africa, and Asia during the first century of the Christian era.

 

Remarkable Discovery Sheds Light on Cultural Exchange between Ancient Rome and India

A team of archaeologists has made a fascinating discovery in the form of a 1,900-year-old statue of Buddha in the ancient Egyptian port city of Berenike, located along the Red Sea coast. 

This statue, which is the earliest known representation of Buddha found to the west of Afghanistan, offers substantial evidence of the trade and cultural exchange that occurred between ancient Rome and India.

The statue measures 28 inches (71 centimeters) in height and portrays Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. The depiction shows him standing while holding parts of his robes with his left hand.

A halo surrounds Buddha’s head, from which sunlight radiates downwards, signifying his enlightened mind.

The statue, carved from Mediterranean marble, is believed to have been created in Alexandria around the second century C.E.

The Importance of Berenike in Ancient Trade Networks

Established in the third century B.C.E., Berenike played a significant role as one of the largest ports under Roman rule in Egypt.

The city’s strategic position on the trade route connected the Roman Empire to various parts of the ancient world, allowing for the exchange of goods such as ivory, textiles, and semi-precious metals.

Berenike was ultimately abandoned around the sixth century C.E.

The statue measures 28 inches (71 centimeters) in height and portrays Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. The depiction shows him standing while holding parts of his robes with his left hand.

The Presence of an Established Indian Merchant Community

An intriguing separate Sanskrit inscription discovered at Berenike dates back to the rule of Roman Emperor Marcus Julius Philippus, more commonly known as “Philip the Arab.”

This finding suggests the presence of an established Indian merchant community residing in the city, as opposed to merely passing traders.

This information aligns with ancient historical records that indicate Indians, some of whom were Buddhists, lived in Alexandria.

The Ongoing Excavations at Berenike

The excavations in Berenike, which commenced in 1994, are a collaborative effort between American and Polish research teams.

The American team is led by Steven Sidebotham, a historian at the University of Delaware, while the Polish team is headed by Mariusz Gwiazda, an archaeologist at the University of Warsaw.

In spite of political turmoil and financial constraints, both teams have persisted in their efforts to uncover the history of the now-deserted port.

A significant find occurred in 1999 when a jar filled with 17 pounds of black peppercorns was discovered in a Berenike temple.

These peppercorns, dating back to the first century, were exclusively grown in southwestern India during that period.

This discovery, among others, emphasizes the existence of a global economy that interconnected Europe, Africa, and Asia during the first century of the Christian era, with Berenike exemplifying this intricate network.

Craig Miller

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