Located off the coast of Sicily on the Phoenician Island city of Motya, an artificial lake was found to be one of the largest sacred pools in the ancient Mediterranean 2,500 years ago.
The lake was thought to be a military harbor that was involved in military trade.
However, its true purpose was recently revealed. New research proved it to be the center of a sacred religious sanctuary that also aligns with the stars.
Known today as San Pantaleo, an idyllic spot for tourists, Motya was a very active port during the first millennium B.C.
Motya was destroyed in an attack by Carthage and rebuilt in 550 B.C. along with the sacred pool. Carthage was a nearby Phoenician city along the North African coast and was Rome’s main rival.
When researchers discovered this pool in the 1920s, they decided that it must be an artificial harbor like Kothon in Carthage.
However, this basin was as large as an Olympic swimming pool and was surprisingly not connected to the sea. Instead, it was supplied by three natural springs, something deemed as divine favor in ancient times.
The Phoenicians used this sacred religious complex to connect to the traditional beliefs of their homelands.
The basin also allowed the Phoenicians to study the changing positions of the stars and planets, which were crucial to their prominent ships’ navigation.
AUB professor of archeology, Helene Sader, noted that sacred pools were a key part of many temples in the Phoenician homelands, which correspond with our modern-day Lebanon.
The influence of the Phoenician civilization was immense.
Their numerous inventions helped spread their influence greatly across the Mediterranean and beyond; from pioneering navigation by the stars to introducing innovations like the alphabet, the glass, olive oil and wine, the vivid “royal purple” dye, ships building skills, and temples engineering skills, among others.