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, between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, close to 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.
It is also noted that the coin shows the 10 signs of the zodiac. It has also been noted that it gives a unique insight into the religious practices of that time and place.
According to the explanation made by some researchers, the woman in the tomb is a priestess of Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty. It was stated that it was very difficult to prove that Aphrodite was a priestess, although there were silver earrings, rings, and other grave goods dedicated to the goddess in the tomb.
“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. The archaeologists who conducted the research and the Volnoe Delo Foundation, which sponsors the excavations, stated that the excavations continue underwater as approximately one third of the ancient city is under water.
According to the ancient Greek historian Hecataeus of Miletus, Phanagoria was founded in the 6th century BC by immigrants from Teos, a Greek city on the Anatolian coast, after it was sacked by the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 540 BC.
Phanagoria is located in the northeast of the Black Sea, near other Greek colonial cities, known to the ancient Greeks 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 embossed symbols corresponding to the symbols of the zodiac, including the lion, Taurus, and Scorpion. 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.