A team of archaeologists conducting excavations at a temple in the Egyptian port of Berenice Troglodytica have found stone heads imitating sculptures from the interior parts of Africa and Gandhāra, an ancient region in the Peshawar basin in the far north-west of the ancient Indian subcontinent, corresponding to present-day north-west Pakistan and north-east Afghanistan.
Berenice, also known as Baranis, is an ancient seaport of Egypt on the west coast of the Red Sea, situated about 825 km south of Suez, 260 km east of Aswan in Upper Egypt and 140 km south of Marsa Alam.
The port city served as a trading centre with the East Coast of Africa, India, and Arabia, mainly for the transportation of war Elephants.
Trade from Berenice is described in the 1st century AD travelogue Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, written by a Greek merchant based in Alexandria. The Periplus indicates that “on the right-hand coast next below Berenice is the country of the Berbers”.
A multi-national team of archaeologists from the Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of the University of Warsaw, and the University of Delaware has been excavating a temple dedicated to Isis (the sister and wife of Osiris who was worshiped as the goddess of the moon, motherhood, marital devotion, healing the sick, and the working of magical spells and charms) and the cult of Serapis (a Graeco-Egyptian deity).
Archaeologists found various images of Serapis, architectural fragments of stone, marble and pieces of sculptures, with the most notable find being heads imitating sculptures from Asian Gandhara – a historical region that covered parts of present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Inside the temple ruins, they also uncovered a locally sculptured statue of the Nubian deity Sebiumeker, referred to as Lord of Musawwarat (supreme god of procreation and fertility) in Meroe, Kush, in present-day Sudan.
His statues have often been found near doorways at the Nubian sites Tabo (Nubia) and Musawwarat es-Sufra, giving rise to the interpretation that he was a guardian god.