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  • Camille Basso

An underwater Nabataean temple discovered in the Bay of Naples

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

The Campania region, in the Pozzuoli Gulf, has just revealed one of its many treasures. Two marble altars from a Nabataean temple have been discovered in the Bay, dating back to the first half of the first century AD.

A scuba diver discovers a Nabataean altar underwater, in the Bay of Naples
A Nabataean temple discovered in the Bay of Naples (Source : Italien Ministry of Culture)

"The two marble altars [...] are inserted in the great Nabataean temple, now submerged," explained the Italian Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano. "This is an incredible result and the outcome of a peripheral collaboration between the Ministry of Culture, the academic and scientific organisations of the region and the Carabinieri of Naples. Ancient Pozzuoli reveals other treasures, whose exact location was unknown until now, which testify to the richness and extent of its cultural, commercial and religious exchanges with the ancient Mediterranean basin."

"This discovery sheds light on the port of Pozzuoli," the minister added, "and reveals that the Nabataean sacred places were located near warehouses and commercial buildings, which contained goods destined to be shipped to the rest of Campania or to Rome." Since the 18th century, only five Nabataean altars have been found in the region. The first three are on display in the National and Archaeological Museum of Naples and in the Archaeological Park of Campi Flegrei. They are two altar bases and a slab. These two new altars will be examined by researchers in order to be precisely dated and identified.

The Nabataeans were an ancient Arab trading people whose origins date back to the 1st millennium BC and whose culture eventually dissolved in 106 AD, following their annexation to the Roman Empire by Emperor Trajan. For almost a millennium, the Nabataeans lived in southern Canaan and Jordan and in northern Arabia. Having a certain commercial monopoly in the region, they mainly sold goods to Syria, the Roman Empire and countries east of the Euphrates. Their goods usually came from southern Arabia, where many trade routes passed through.


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