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Ancient Sanctuary of Greek God Uncovered in Israel

Jun 29, 2016 07:42 AM EDT

Scientists unearthed an ancient gateway to a sanctuary sacred to the Greek god Pan in the city of Hippos.

The archaeologists from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa have uncovered the monumental Roman gateway, which may have led to a compound dedicated to the worship of the half-man, half-goat Pan, who was also the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks in ancient Greek mythology.

According to scientists, the discovery of the compound might be able to explain previous discoveries in the ancient city.

Last year, archaeologists have discovered in the same site a bronze mask of Pan, which they found was unusually bigger than the other bronze masks of the Greek god that date from the same period.

"Now that the whole gate has been exposed, we not only have better information for dating the mask, but also a clue to its function," Michael Eisenberg, head of the research team, said in a press release.

"Are we looking at a gate that led to the sanctuary of the god Pan or one of the rustic gods?"

The mask was discovered among the remains of a large stone building, and the archaeologists hope that uncovering the rest of the supposed ancient sanctuary could provide more details about the mask's origin.

According to the researchers, the original gateway could have been 20-feet tall, and the entire building could even be taller. They also dated the building to the time of the Roman emperor Hadrian who reigned from 117 AD to 138 AD.

The mask was believed to have been fixed on a wall or an altar at the compound as evidenced by the remnants of lead discovered on the mask's rear side.

"The mask, and now the gate in which it was embedded, are continuing to fire our imaginations," Eisenberg said.

"The worship of Pan sometimes included ceremonies involving drinking, sacrifices and ecstatic rituals, including nudity and sex. This worship usually took place outside the city walls, in caves and other natural settings," he added.

Hippos is located within Sussita National Park, which is being managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The next excavation will happen in July 2016, which will be participated by dozens of researchers and volunteers from Israel and around the world.

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