A Buddha statue was found by archaeologists in the ancient Egyptian port city Berenike, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced in a statement last week.
Not only does the statue—made from Mediterranean marble—shed greater light on trade between ancient Rome and India, it also is the first Buddha found west of Afghanistan, according to the New York Review of Books.
A joint Polish-American archaeological team, lead by historian Steven Sidebotham of the University of Delaware and archaeologist Mariusz Gwiazda of the University of Warsaw, uncovered the statue during excavation work in the city’s ancient temple.
At 28 inches or a little over two feet tall, the statue depicts Buddha standing and holding part of his robes in his left hand. There is a halo with sun rays around his head and a lotus flower at his side. Researchers believe it was made in Alexandria around the second century.
The team also uncovered a Sanskrit inscription dating to the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Julius Philippus, who hailed from present-day Syria and was known as Phillip the Arab (244–49 CE), along with two coins from the middle Indian Kingdom of Satavahana dating to the second century CE.
These finds indicate greater connection than previously known between Ancient Rome, Egypt, and India. Due to its central location along Roman trade routes, Egypt served as a gateway between the Roman Empire and its ancient counterparts.
Berenike, which was founded in the third century BCE, became one of the largest ports in Egypt under Roman rule until it was abandoned in the sixth century CE. In its heyday, the city served as a hub for the trade of such goods as ivory, textiles, and semi-precious metals.