During excavations at the 2,700-year-old site of Cerro de San Vicente, researchers unearthed a fragment of an image showing the ancient Egyptian pharaonic goddess Hathor, daughter of Ra, the sun god. In a rare and strange archaeological find.
An Egyptian “inlay” was found at the Cerro de San Vicente archaeological site in Salamanca, Spain. It dates back to the ancient Egyptian heritage. About 2,700 years ago, an Iron Age community settled on Cerro de San Vicente, one of the three hills around which the present-day Spanish city of Salamanca was built.
An archaeological site for the ancient pharaohs and kings, so what’s the story!
For more than three decades the site was of great prehistoric importance, and now archaeologists have made a surprising new discovery there: a plethora of objects, ranging from amulets to painted ceramics featuring Egyptian motifs or other eastern Mediterranean origins.
Egyptian antiquities in Spain
The latest piece excavated this summer and analyzed under microscopes from the University of Salamanca is a fragment of an inlay – a piece of earthenware or glazed pottery, used by the ancient Egyptians as a kind of puzzle piece to depict the faces of their gods. Covered with gold leaf.
A picture of the goddess Hathor, the daughter of Ra, the sun god, and the mother of Horus, the god, with the head of a falcon.
It is possible that a Phoenician delegation brought these artifacts as gifts or trade goods to the inhabitants of what is now Salamanca, in western Spain. But the latest findings raise many unanswered questions.
What were these Semites doing up until now inside? Did the indigenous people of Salamanca adopt the rituals and iconography of the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean?
All of the discoveries made at the Cerro de San Vicente are mysterious and amazing. The settlement was a walled village of about 1.3 hectares in area, situated on a hill about 30 meters high, next to the Tormes River.
University of Salamanca and the curly-haired pharaonic goddess
Excavations at the site in 2021 uncovered a small blue amulet depicting the Egyptian goddess Hathor, but this summer archaeologists unearthed part of a stunning and much larger piece of gold leaf that they believe is a piece of an image of the goddess.
This is how the Egyptian pharaohs depicted the gods they believed in
To depict the faces of their gods, the Egyptians would draw an outline of the figure or animal they wanted to represent on a flat surface such as wood, ivory, or bone. Then they stitch parts of the drawing together until the figure is complete, much like putting together a puzzle.
The last discovery is a fragment of about five centimeters and reveals the lower part of the goddess’s hair, with curls evident. “Each piece is shaped to perfectly fit its base of support,” says Padilla.
Paste methods on ancient walls in the era of the ancient Egyptians and the Pharaohs
Then, using some kind of resin or adhesive, it was glued into place. We are currently analyzing the piece in our laboratory to see if there are any traces of this glue still on the inner surface, to determine what type of resin was used.”
A puzzle piece made of gold leaf
The gold leaf puzzle piece was found inside the site’s main rectangular building which is a massive building with three rooms connected in a line. The piece is deliberately set between blocks of mudbrick and mud walls, along with other objects such as shark’s teeth, faience necklace beads and a piece of terracotta amphora featuring floral motifs in Egyptian blue.
Alario says the team is still investigating a better understanding of the meaning of the idea. “It’s like the little surprises we keep finding while digging,” she says. “It may be related to some kind of ritual, but we need to dig deeper to get a better understanding.”
Fossilized shark tooth excavated at the San Vicente archaeological site
“It’s a really cool site,” says Makaro. Why did the people of the Iron Age settlement have Egyptian artifacts? Did they adopt their rituals? I can imagine the Phoenicians entering a hilltop settlement with these things, as they put on their brightly colored clothes. What are these two going to do with each other? It’s very exciting to think about.”
The Salamancan team of archaeologists believes the Phoenicians either arrived via present-day Portugal, following the valleys that lead to Salamanca, or traveled from the southern tip of the peninsula via the natural corridor, ancient trade and pilgrimage route known as the Via de la Plata (Silver Way).
“As is well known, these trading societies settled not only along the Mediterranean coasts of Iberia, but also along the Atlantic coast,” Alario explains. “From there, it was not very difficult to travel inland, and to connect with the groups living in what is now the province of Salamanca.”