The pool that aligned with the stars had a unique appearance, with its silvery surface reflecting the night sky above. It was a mesmerizing sight, as if the pool was part of the cosmos, a surreal merging of the two distinct worlds.
It is in Sicily, southern Italy, on the island of Pantaleo. It was both a ceremonial center and an astronomical observatory. It was thought that the site corresponded to an ancient Phoenician port. But archaeologists from the Sapienza University in Rome discovered something. There was something sacred: the pool aligned with the stars.
In front of the stars
It was assumed to be a port for Phoenician warships. But in reality it was the centerpiece of an ancient religious complex. It was at least 2,500 years old. Most likely, this basin was part of an entire complex, Heritage Daily reports. “A huge religious shrine.” Scientists were surprised: it is one of the largest artificial basins in the entire Mediterranean.
Archaeologist Lorenzo Nigro says this completely changes the interpretation of the space on San Pantaleo island: “For a century it was thought that the ‘kothon’ of motya was a port. but it is another reality: it was a sacred pond at the center of a huge religious complex.” The study was published in mid-March 2022 in the journal Antiquity. The archaeologists were interested in investigating what the function of the sacred pool recently found in Sicily was. They soon realized that the rectangle of the basin aligns perfectly with the stars.
Archaeologists surmise that it was built in honor of Ba’al, a divinity shared by the Phoenicians with other peoples. “The pool is guarded by a statue of ba’al. It served as a surface for observing and mapping the movement of the stars. This is emphasized by the alignment of structures and elements placed around the sacred precinct.”
The star-aligned pool had a dual function. As well as a space of repose and worship for the island’s inhabitants, it appears to have been a map of the sky as well. The water was originally thought to be salty,. But it turns out that “it was fed by natural springs,” Nigro explained.
This negates any possibility that it had been used for war purposes. It appears that the structure of the entire complex is aligned to specific constellations, CNN reports. What’s more, that depending on the time of year, it reflected different celestial formations. This reinforces the deep connection the Phoenicians had with their ancestors and divinities, Roman archaeologists conclude.