Russian archaeologists discovered a detailed ancient Greek silver medallion showing the Greek goddess Aphrodite (Roman Venus) in the 2,100-year-old grave of a priestess on the northeastern coast of the Black Sea.
The unique medallion depicts ten rather than the known twelve signs of the zodiac and provides insight into religious practices of the time of its creation.
Researchers have their own thoughts on the discovery and say it is suggestive of the possibility that the buried woman was a priestess of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love. These conclusions came about as a result of the rings, silver earrings, and other grave goods that were dedicated to the goddess.
Nikolay Sudarev, an archaeologist with the Russian Academy of Sciences who helped make the discovery said, “I do not call the woman buried with this medallion a ‘priestess,'” according to a report by Live Science. However, the manner of burial and the goods appear to be “connected with the cult of Aphrodite.”
Findings confirm site was the ancient Greek city of Phanagoria
The grave is one of many incredible discoveries unearthed just this past summer at a site near the shore of the Taman Peninsula east of the Crimean Peninsula between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Researchers also came across the tomb of a warrior that was buried between the fourth and sixth centuries A.D.—about five hundred years after the earlier grave—near a massive iron sword that indicated Persian influence, according to Live Science‘s report.
A spokesperson of the Volnoe Delo Foundation, a non-profit founded by Russian billionaire and industrialist Oleg Deripaska that has invested in research at the location since 2004, said that the latest findings confirm the site was the ancient Greek colony city of Phanagoria. According to the foundation, it also portrays how the city developed in later centuries.
Archaeologists at the site are conducting further underwater excavations since approximately a third of the ancient city has been flooded, according to Ruben Bunyatyan, a spokesperson for the foundation.
An ancient Greek colony city
Greek historian, Hecataeus of Miletus, said that Phanagoria was founded in the sixth century B.C. by refugees from Teos, a Greek city on the coast of Anatolia now part of modern-day Turkey.
Phanagoria was located in the northeastern region of the Black Sea near other Greek colony cities. These were known to ancient Greeks as the Cimmerian Bosporus. The name stemmed from the locals, called the Cimmerians, who had a word for “cattle passage.” It was also common in other places with Greek names, such as the Bosporus Strait near Istanbul.
Sudarev stated, “Mainly Greeks lived in these cities from the 6th to the 2nd centuries B.C.” and added that “over time, the number of barbarians and a mixed population increased.”