Israeli archaeologists believe they may have uncovered an ancient sanctuary of the Greek god Pan in the north of the country, which would shed light on other important finds in the area, Live Sciencereported this week.
During excavations carried out by the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, the team discovered a monumental Roman gate in the ancient city of Hippos, which is believed to have led into a sanctuary dedicated to the worship of Pan, the god of flocks and shepherds who, in Greek mythology, is depicted as half man and half goat.
The height of the original gateway is estimated to have been about 20 feet, and part of a much taller structure located just outside the ancient city limits. According to a statement by the Zinman Institute, archaeologists dated the building to the time of the Roman emperor, Hadrian, who reigned from 117 CE to 138 CE.
The discovery of the sanctuary will now help shed light on other archaeological finds from the area, especially a bronze mask depicting Pan that was discovered last year and baffled researchers — since it was the only object of its kind found anywhere in the world.
According to Michael Eisenberg, head of the archeological team, the find is a major in its contribution to understanding the history of the ancient city.
“Now that the whole gate has been exposed, we not only have better information for dating the mask, but also a clue to its function,” he said in a statement. “Are we looking at a gate that led to the sanctuary of the god Pan or one of the rustic gods?”
“The mask, and now the gate in which it was embedded, are continuing to fire our imaginations. The worship of Pan sometimes included ceremonies involving drinking, sacrifices and ecstatic rituals, including nudity and sex,” Eisenberg said. “The worship usually took place outside the city walls, in caves and other natural settings.”
Hippos is located within the Sussita National Park and excavations of the ancient city have been taking place since 2000. Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the city was destroyed in 749 CE by an earthquake.