November 12, 2008

2,900-Year-Old Phoenician Remains Uncovered In Lebanon

Archaeologists have uncovered 2,900-year-old earthenware pottery that ancient Phoenicians used to store the bones of their dead after burning the corpses.

Lebanese and Spanish diggers said more than 100 jars were discovered at a Phoenician site in the southern coastal city of Tyre. Phoenicians are known to have thrived from 1500 B.C. to 300 B.C and they were also headquartered in the coastal area of present-day Syria.

Ali Badawi, the archaeologist in charge in Tire, said the big jars are like individual tombs and the smaller jars were left empty, but symbolically represent that a soul is stored in them.

The site was first discovered in 1997 but archaeologists have only been able to dig up azbout 50 square meters per year. Badawi and a Spanish team from the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona have been excavating at the Phoenician site for years.

"These discoveries help researchers who work on past Phoenician colonies in Spain, Italy and Tunisia, to pin down a large number of their habits and traditions," said Maria Eugenia Aubet, who leads the Spanish team.

Aubet said that the remains proved that the Phoenicians were a people who had a vision for life after death.

The site was last excavated in 2005, until a war the following year between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas concentrated in southern Lebanon and the tenuous political and security situation in 2007 halted work on the site until now.

The earliest Phoenician cities included Byblos, Tire and Sidon on Lebanon's coast. From Tire, the Phoenicians are thought to have expanded into other colonies on the Mediterranean coast.


Image Caption: The fantastic remains of the ancient Triumphal Arch in Tyre, Lebanon. Courtesy David Bjorgen - Wikipedia