A medallion depicting the Greek goddess Aphrodite was unearthed in a 2100-year-old tomb in the northeast of the Black Sea. The tomb is located in the eastern part of the Crimean Peninsula, near the coast of the Taman Peninsula.
The silver medallion, which was unearthed as a result of studies by Russian archaeologists, was found in the tomb of a young woman who was thought to be a nun. The coin is thought to be an intricately detailed silver locket of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.
The coin shows the 10 signs of the zodiac. It has also been noted to give a unique insight into the religious practices of that time and place.
The woman in the tomb is a priestess of Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty. Although there are silver earrings, rings and other grave goods dedicated to the goddess in the tomb, it cannot be proven that Aphrodite was a nun.
“I don’t call the woman in the grave a ‘priestess’, but it seems to be related to the culture of Aphrodite,” Nikolay Sudarev said.
Recent findings have confirmed that the area is the city of Phanagoria, an ancient Greek colony. It was stated that the excavations continued under water because about one third of the ancient city was under water.
How does she describe Aphrodite?
According to Hecataeus, the ancient Greek historian of Miletus, Phanagoria was sacked by the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 540 BC. It was founded in the 6th century BC by immigrants from Teos, a Greek city on the Anatolian coast.
Phanagoria is located northeast of the Black Sea, near other Greek colonial cities known as the Cimmerian Strait. The Cimmerian Strait got its name from a local people known as the Cimmerians and a word meaning “cattle passage”.
Sudarev said, “From the 6th to the 2nd century BC, mainly Greeks lived in these cities. Over time, the number of barbarians and a mixed population increased.”
A silver coin found in an early 1st century BC tomb depicts Aphrodite’s head, shoulders, and hands as described by archaeologists based on other contemporary iconographic depictions.
The portrait is surrounded by 10 relief symbols corresponding to the symbols of the zodiac. These include the signs of Taurus, Leo and Scorpio. However, the symbols of Aquarius and Libra are missing, and researchers do not know why.
The inclusion of the zodiac in the depiction indicates that the coin is a depiction of “Aphrodite Urania”—the celestial aspect as opposed to the earthly aspect of the goddess, “Aphrodite Pandemos”. It also points to belief in astrology, the idea that the positions of celestial bodies could influence events on Earth, common in the ancient world.
Sudarev said, “This is one of the oldest depictions of Zodiac signs in the Greek world. It may have been brought from Ptolemaic Egypt.”
Live Science. 27 October 2022.