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10 July 2011
Excavations in Lebanon yield 5,000-year-old antiquities

Excavations at the Frères' archaeological site in the old city of Sidon (Lebanon), led by Claude Doumit Serhal from the British Museum, are now in their 13th year. Recently scientists unearthed antiquities from 5,000 years ago - including a sacred musical instrument from the Iron Age, the head of a Phoenician figurine, a ring from the Roman age, and a large storage room for wheat built around 3,000 BCE. A 48-meter-long six room temple dating from the Middle Bronze Age where religious feasts were held was also discovered along with a huge burial site with a number of burial jars, pieces of pottery, and the remains of animal bones.
     One of the new discoveries is the first bronze musical instrument discovered at Frères, dating back to the Phoenician age (1,000 BCE), which depicts the face of the Egyptian goddess Hathor with cow horns. The instrument, called a sistrum, was used in dances, religious rituals and ceremonies in the worship of Hathor - the goddess of music, love and giving, according to Serhal. "This musical instrument is further proof of the continuity of feasting activities at the Frères' site over thousands of years," Serhal said, adding that a similar piece was discovered in Egypt and is displayed in the British Museum.
     More storage rooms for wheat and barley attached to temples were discovered and this year's excavation revealed for the first time a large important storage room built from stones rather than the more common mud brick, Serhal said. This storage room contained Emmer wheat, one of the oldest domesticated varieties which was found in Syria as early as the Neolithic period. The wheat and 160kg of barley that were also found were completely burnt, a sign of the fire that destroyed the building around 2,500-2,400 BCE, Serhal said.
     116 burial sites dating back to the first half of the second millennium BCE have been excavated so far - particularly noteworthy this year was the discovery of a grave containing the remains of at least eight individuals. The grave also contained a large quantity of pottery, a cylinder seal, faience beads, and animal deposits. Serhal said he expected the discovery of more antiquities at the Frères' site with the continuation of excavation.

Edited from The Daily Star (7 July 2011)

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