Religious sites, Cybele figurines discovered in Bergama
In the excavations carried out in and around the ancient city of Bergama, eight new religious sites and many figurines, which date back 2,200 years and are believed to have been used to worship the Anatolian goddess Cybele, have been unearthed.
The excavations, carried out by the Culture and Tourism Ministry and the German Archaeological Institute in the Bergama, provide new information about the ancient world with new finds every year.
Five religious sites were found inside the city walls, which were used by the people of Pergamon 2,200 years ago, and three were found outside. Many statuettes of Cybele, known as “fertility goddess” or “mother goddess,” were unearthed in the area, too.
The fact that Cybele figurines are seen more frequently in the ancient city of Bergama and its surroundings also sheds light on the faith of the local people.
Archaeologists believe that these findings show that the people of the city, where there are ostentatious religious buildings dedicated to Greek gods, such as the Temple of Athena, held religious rites in natural areas and made offerings in the name of the Anatolian goddess, Cybele.
Professor Felix Pirson, the director of the German Archaeological Institute, told the state-run Anadolu Agency that the Bergama excavation was a joint Turkish and German project and that more than 100 scientists were working within for the project.
“We have been working on sanctuaries in the area for several years. We have found sacred areas in the city. This was also a surprise because we usually found the Cybele figurines outside the city and in the surrounding areas. After we found the figurines, we deepened the excavations in those areas. The newly found figurines give us a lot of information about the religious belief of the period. At that time, gods such as Zeus and Athena were official cults, but the figurines unearthed in natural sanctuaries tell us about the belief of the people. There was a wide spectrum of religions in Bergama 2,200 years ago, and people believed in different gods. Cybele statuettes in tombs, natural areas and sanctuaries found in the city center reveal that the people generally preferred the Anatolian fertility goddess.”
Worship in caves is common
On the other hand, Güler Ateş, associate professor at the Celal Bayar University’s Archaeology Department, stated that they had found the statuettes of the goddess Cybele in Bergama before, but their numbers increased recently.
Ateş said that the new figurines found in large numbers once again prove the importance of Cybele for the public.
“We found Cybele figurines in and around a city that claimed to be a Hellenic city, on its mountains, on its hills, in water sources, in caves and in many sacred areas. It was the most important faith for the common people,” he said.
Ateş said that when there were magnificent altars, people went to the caves to worship, adding, “Cybele figurines were found in sacred places, untouched natural areas, rocks, springs and caves. These are small votive items for public purchases made in workshops. There are expensive ones and cheap ones. Those who bought these votive items went to natural areas during religious holidays. Sacrifices were offered and prayers were held. After praying and making offerings for a few days, they left the Cybele figurines and returned.”
Ateş said that especially women from Bergama made offerings to Cybele to have children.
Stating that the articles they prepared on the Cybele finds in the region drew great attention in the international archaeology world, Ateş said, “Even though official beliefs have changed, the cult of mother goddess, fertility and mother earth continued to live in people’s hearts. The existence of women and their symbolizing nature were very strong in Anatolia.”