Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Statue in Egypt; Links to India.

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  • Researchers have found a 71-centimeter stone statue of the Buddha.
  • Mariusz Gwiazda thinks that the stone for the statue could have been extracted from a region near Istanbul.
  • The statue is important evidence of the presence of trade ties between Egypt and India during the Roman era.

Researchers have found a 71-centimeter stone statue of the Buddha.

An archaeological mission, led by American and Polish researchers found a stone statue of the Buddha in the main early Roman period temple dedicated to the goddess Isis. These researchers in Berenike discovered a 71-centimeter statue that is believed to date to the second century CE. Their discovery proves that there was an interaction between the ancient civilizations of India and Egypt.

The researchers believe that the statue was made in Alexandria. There is a halo or nimbus around the Buddha’s head which according to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, represents his extraordinary mind, it is uncommon as it features both a circular background and rays, “which indicates his radiant mind.” Although the statue is missing part of its right side and its right leg.

According to what Scottish historian and art historian William Dalrymple, based in Delhi, India, reported, the statue was carved from “the finest Mediterranean marble in part Indian-Gandharan, part Romano-Egyptian style.” Dalrymple noted the combination of the curls in the Buddha’s hair and the beaming sun rays behind his head.

Mariusz Gwiazda thinks that the stone for the statue could have been extracted from a region near Istanbul.

An archeologist from the University of Warsaw and the leader of the Polish team working on the project, Mariusz Gwiazda thinks that the stone for the statue could have been extracted from a region near Istanbul. In contrast, the statue itself may have been carved in Berenike and dedicated to the Isis temple by Indian merchants.

The head of Egypt’s supreme antiquities council, Mostafa al-Waziri, said that the Buddha statue has “important indications over the presence of trade ties between Egypt and India during the Roman era.”

The statue is important evidence of the presence of trade ties between Egypt and India during the Roman era. 

Berenike, in southern Egypt on the coast of the Red Sea, was once a major seaport during the Roman era, providing a landing site for ships from India carrying spices, textiles, stones, and ivory. The city remained a major trade hub for the Roman world, Egypt, sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian peninsula, India, and beyond until the sixth century, when it was abandoned. Another artifact at the excavation contains an inscription in Sanskrit that has been dated to the middle of the third century CE, during the reign of Marcus Julius Philippus, known as Philip the Arab.

“You hear a lot about globalization today,” said historian Steve Sidebotham from the University of Delaware and director of the American team. “But there was a ‘global economy’ linking Europe, Africa, and Asia during the first century of the Christian era, and the city of Berenike is a perfect example of that.” (Smithsonian Magazine)

Scholars debate the extent to which Indian and Egyptian, Greek, and Roman thought might have influenced one another. Drawing on the similarities between Buddhist and Pyrrhonian thought—named for the Greek philosopher Pyrrho (360–270 BCE)—Georgios Halkias, professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong has suggested that Pyrrhonism could be considered a Buddhist tradition.

However, due to a lack of material evidence and ongoing scholarly debate, much of the extent of the interactions between these cultures remains unknown.

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