Researchers in Berenice, Egypt have discovered a 71 centimeter Buddha statue believed to date to the second century CE. An archaeological mission, led by American and Polish researchers, has found a stone statue of the Buddha in the main temple from the early Roman period dedicated to the goddess Isis. The discovery provides new evidence of the interaction between the ancient civilizations of India and Egypt.
Researchers believe the statue was made in Alexandria. The halo or nimbus around the Buddha's head, which represents his extraordinary nature, is unusual because it features both a circular background and rays, "which indicate his radiant spirit", according to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and of Antiquities. (Smithsonian Magazine)
The statue is missing part of its right side and right leg.
Scottish historian and art historian William Dalrymple, based in Delhi, India, reported that the statue was carved from "the finest Mediterranean marble in a style part Indo-Gandharian, part Roman-Egyptian. ". (Hyperallergic) Dalrymple noted the combination of the curls in the Buddha's hair and the rays of the sun beaming from behind his head
Mariusz Gwiazda, an archaeologist from the University of Warsaw and leader of the Polish team working on the project, suggested that the stone for the statue could have been quarried from an area near Istanbul, while the statue itself could have been sculpted at Berenice and dedicated to the temple of Isis by Indian merchants.
The Buddha statue has "significant indications of the presence of trade links between Egypt and India in Roman times", said the head of Egypt's supreme council of antiquities, Mostafa al-Waziri. (France 24)
Berenike in southern Egypt on the Red Sea coast was once a major seaport in Roman times, providing a landing site for Indian ships carrying spices, textiles, stones and ivory. The city remained a major trading hub for the Roman world, Egypt, sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, India and beyond until the XNUMXth century when it was abandoned. Another artifact from the excavation contains a Sanskrit inscription dated to the mid-XNUMXrd century CE, during the reign of Marcus Julius Philippus, known as Philip the Arab.
"We hear a lot about globalization these days," said historian Steve Sidebotham of the University of Delaware and director of the US team. “But there was a 'world economy' linking Europe, Africa and Asia during the first century of the Christian era, and the city of Berenice is a perfect example. » (Smithsonian Magazine)
Scholars debate the extent to which Indian and Egyptian, Greek and Roman thought might have influenced each other. Drawing on the similarities between Buddhist and Pyrrhonian thought – named after the Greek philosopher Pyrrho (360-270 BCE) – Georgios Halkias, professor of Buddhist studies at the University of Hong Kong, suggested that Pyrrhonism could be considered a Buddhist tradition.
However, due to a lack of material evidence and ongoing scientific debate, much of the extent of the interactions between these cultures remains unknown.
Of Berenike, Sidebotham said: “This is a huge and incredible site with excellent preservation due to the hyper-arid climate. We've probably only discovered about 2% of the ancient city, so there's still several lifetimes of work to be done. (University of Delaware)