A team of researchers has discovered a large sacred pool over 2,500 years old on the historic island-city of Motia, on what is now known as Saint Pantaleon Island, west of Sicily.
According to research published in the scientific journal Antiquity, the pool was used by the ancient Phoenicians for religious purposes and to study the movements of the stars. The study rules out that this large structure was a kind of military port, as had been originally thought.
Thus, according to the archaeologist Lorenzo Nigro, it is a “sacred pool in the center of a monumental sanctuary that could also have an astronomical function.” The pool is lined with temples with a statue of the deity Ba’al, who was worshiped by various cultures including the Babylonians, Carthaginians, Philistines and Phoenicians. He was the god of rain, thunder, and fertility and began to be worshiped in the third millennium BC.
Archaeologists believe that the ritual pool was incorporated into the city of Motia around 550 BC, after the town was rebuilt after an attack by Carthage, Rome’s ancient rival. According to the researchers, it was aligned with the stars as the centerpiece of an imposing religious sanctuary.
This structure was discovered in 1920, however, at that time it was thought that it was an artificial port that could have a military purpose, especially since similar structures had been discovered before in Carthage, called Cothon.
“For a century it was thought that the Cothon de Motia was a port, but new excavations have drastically changed its interpretation: it was a sacred pool in the center of a huge religious complex,” explained Professor Lorenzo Nigro, from the Sapienza University of Rome.
Thus, this new research ensures that the sacred structure is 2,500 years old, being one of the largest and oldest found in the Mediterranean.