Carved artwork depicting a currently unknown Roman god has been discovered in a medieval Christian monastery in Turkey.
The relief that was found embedded in a wall is dated to be from the first century and depicts a bearded man emerging from a plant or flower. The discovery took place within an ancient Christian monastery near the borders of Turkey and Syria.
The excavation site, near the Turkish town of Gaziantep, north of the city of Doliche, sits in an area that is considered to be the most continuously settled in human history, .
For the last 13 years, researchers and archaeologists have been excavating this location and in the process, have unearthed numerous bronze age relics, artifacts and a temple that was dedicated to the Roman god, Jupiter Dolichenus.
Jupiter Dolichenus, was a deity who possessed the characteristics of both the Roman god Jupiter and of several Baal gods. Although Baal worship has many negative stereotypes that have been linked to devil worship and infant sacrifice, not all Baal gods were of a malevolent nature; in fact there were very many Baal gods that could be worshiped, some could be considered more benign than others.
The reason for the combination of the separate deities was to mix the most powerful of the eastern gods; i.e Jupiter, who was the king of the gods, with the Baal idols, who themselves were each considered a king of the gods. The worship of these amalgamated polytheistic figures is considered to be quite common practice in Roman culture.
It is believed that after the temple dedicated to Jupiter was destroyed, wandering Christians re-discovered the location and used the remaining rubble to construct a foundation for the Mar Solomon Monastery.
The hand-carved figure of the unknown god was discovered by a team led by Michale Blomer. The team had uncovered the relief during an exploratory dig in the foundation of the monastery and after removing layers of plaster from the stone walls and supports, Blomer’s crew discovered the relief on a buttress; that was noted to stand as tall as a human.
The depiction is noted to contain many elements and influences from both Roman culture and of Mesopotamian culture. Not only is it odd to portray the god emerging from a plant or flower, but other puzzling symbols that are not akin to the common Roman idolatry surround the relief.
Two other symbols are represented on the same surface as the mysterious bearded face; that is seen escaping the floral motif. The symbols are of a rosette and of a crescent moon; these two symbols are believed to be representations of the Mesopotamian gods of Ishtar and Sin.