The British Museum’s fourteenth season excavating at Sidon, Lebanon, continues to reveal astounding artifacts at the Biblical city. Sidon has been inhabited for six millennia, and the excavations have exposed strata from the Early Bronze Age (beginning around 3000 B.C.E.) through the Iron Age (ending in 539 B.C.E.). The season’s finds include unique types of Phoenician architecture, painted pottery, representational figurines, and a large number of graves. The Daily Star* reports that “among the discoveries in Sidon was a coin depicting the legend of Europa, a Phoenician woman who was abducted by Zeus disguised as a white bull and taken to Crete, increasing speculation that Europa may have been a Sidonian.”
Sidon’s importance was known across the ancient world. Egyptian, Greek and Mesopotamian authors frequently mentioned the Phoenician coastal city, and the dozens of Biblical references to Sidon begin in Genesis and carry on through the New Testament. Supposedly named for the “first-born” of Canaan (Genesis 10:15), Joshua describes it as “Great Sidon” (Joshua 11:8). Solomon brought idolatry to Israel by following “Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians.” Several passages in the Hebrew Bible refer to Sidon as a central place for arts, commerce and manufacturing, and its influence lasted for centuries, as Jesus visited there (Matthew 15:21) and Paul sailed from Sidon’s port.
The British Museum excavations provide an archaeological supplement to our written evidence of Sidon. This season’s excavations shed additional light on burial practices and architecture and anticipate the construction of a museum nearby the site. Jonathan Tubb, the director of the Middle Eastern branch at the British Museum, told the Daily Star that “[These discoveries] increase understanding of the complicated stages of Sidon’s history and make them clearer,” Tubb said. “We are very interested in knowing the complete story of Sidon, its history and the history of its civilizations, which no one has achieved so far.”
*Excavations reveal the forgotten cultural treasures of Sidon’s past in The Daily Star