The Nabateans were a group of nomadic Arab traders who amassed great wealth by establishing trade routes throughout the region in the 3rd century BC.
Archaeologists in Italy recently discovered two marble altars off the coast of Naples that were once part of the Nabataean temple in the lost city of Puteoli.
Puteoli was founded by the ancient Greeks around 600 BC. C. and later became part of the Roman Empire, serving as a vital trading center for luxury goods and grains imported from Alexandria, Egypt. Seismic activity, however, sank parts of the once-thriving commercial center, and much of the city sank into the Gulf of Naples. Today, it is known as Pozzuoli.
According ancient originsthe newly discovered marble altars date back to a time when the Nabataeans, an ancient civilization with strong trade ties, lived freely in the Phlegrean region.
Around the 4th century B.C. C., the Nabataeans settled in present-day Jordan on the site of their future capital city, Petra. They established the Nabatean Kingdom, focusing heavily on trade and commerce.
In fact, throughout the region, the Nabataean kingdom established trade networks that allowed it to extend its control and influence to regions of the Arabian and Sinai peninsulas and even well into the eastern part of the Mediterranean, including neighboring islands and countries.
Eventually, Petra’s population grew to over 20,000 and it became one of the most central and vital commercial centers in the region. Likewise, the Nabataeans were formidable in battle, which greatly contributed to their ability to remain independent despite being surrounded by the Romans, Babylonians, and the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
Although the Nabataeans initially clashed with Rome, the two eventually formed an alliance around the 1st century BCE. C. The Nabataeans established a trading post at Puteoli, the largest trading center in the Roman Mediterranean at the time.
Here, the Nabataeans quickly established a strong trading presence, facilitating trade between the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean, and mainland Arabia. Importing luxuries from mainland Arabia and almost completely dominating the trade in aromatics such as frankincense and myrrh allowed the Nabataeans on the peninsula to amass a considerable amount of wealth.
Unfortunately, this strong commercial presence and its alliance with Rome paled in comparison to the might of the Roman Empire, and in 106 CE, the Roman Empire conquered Petra. After that, the culture of the Nabataeans was strongly influenced by the culture of Rome and they converted to Christianity.
Still, the discovery of marble altars from the Nabataean temple shows just how strong the Nabatean presence was in the Phlegrean region.
“Ancient Puteoli reveals another of its treasures that testifies to the richness and breadth of commercial, cultural and religious exchanges in the Mediterranean basin in the ancient world,” Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said in a statement. a press release.
The discovery is part of a joint archaeological research project that began in 2021. The team involved in the project was formed by a partnership between the University of Campania Vanvitelli and the Scuola Superiore Meridionale in Naples, as well as the Superintendence of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the Metropolitan Area of Naples.
For the past two years, underwater archaeologists have been scouring Puteoli’s underwater regions in search of ancient Roman and Nabatean artifacts.
Similar discoveries date back to the 18th century when archaeologists and historians exploring the submerged ruins of Puteoli found an altar and two cult bases with inscriptions identifying them as “Sacred to Dushara” sites. Around the same time, archaeologists discovered a large bust of the deity near Pozzuoli.
In the 1970s, aerial photographs of the region first revealed the presence of the Nabataean temple. Still, it had been difficult for archaeologists to pin down a precise location for the ancient building. The most recent discovery finally determined that location.
For more fascinating underwater discoveries, read about the 2,200-year-old Greek military ship found in the sunken city of Thônis-Heracleion, long lost in Egypt. Or, learn about the hundreds of Mayan artifacts found in two separate underwater locations.