Buddha statue unearthed in Egypt illuminates ancient trade route

Buddha statue unearthed in Egypt illuminates ancient trade route.
Buddha statue unearthed in Egypt. Photo: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
In the ancient Egyptian port city of Berenike, archaeologists have discovered Buddha statue. The recent discovery illuminates Rome and India’s rich trade relationship.

The Egyptian Buddha statue is the first Buddha found west of Afghanistan. Made of Mediterranean marble, it offers new evidence of trade between ancient Rome and India.

Researchers believe it was created in Alexandria somewhere in the second century C.E. based on stylistic features. The sun’s rays form a halo around the Buddha statue ‘s head, “which indicates his radiant mind,” according to a statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Berenike, which was established in the third century B.C.E., eventually grew to be one of the major ports in Roman controlled Egypt. For many years, the city was a hub for the trade of semi-precious metals, textiles, and ivory before it was finally abandoned around the sixth century C.E.

Other objects found during recent Berenike excavations also seem to indicate a similar blending of cultures. Among them is an inscription in Sanskrit dating to the reign of the emperor Marcus Julius Philippus, known as Phillip the Arab. He was emperor of the Roman Empire from 244 to 249 CE. He was born in what is now Syria.

These discoveries are a part of a growing body of information demonstrating the close ties between the Roman Empire and its prehistoric Indian counterpart. The finds also help to illuminate the special function of Egypt on the trade route that connected the Roman Empire to many parts of the ancient world.

The Berenike excavations are a joint effort between American and Polish researchers. The American team is led by Steven Sidebotham, a historian at the University of Delaware, while the Polish team is led by Mariusz Gwiazda, an archaeologist at the University of Warsaw.

Sidebotham began working at the site when excavations commenced in 1994 and is utterly committed to the project. Since then, he and his team have persisted in researching the past of the now-forgotten port on the Red Sea despite shifting pressures such as political turmoil and financial constraints. We hope that all the artifacts will remain in Egypt and be exhibited in their homeland.

Ann Manser of the University of Delaware Research magazine reported in 2011 that archaeologists discovered a jar containing 17 pounds of black peppercorns imbedded in the courtyard floor of a Berenike temple in 1999. They dated in the first century and were exclusively grown in southwestern India at the period.

“You hear a lot about globalization today, but there was a ‘global economy’ linking Europe, Africa and Asia during the first century of the Christian era, and the city of Berenike is a perfect example of that.” Sidebotham told the publication.

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