Researchers from the University of Seville may have managed to locate the long-sought ruins of the temple of the Phoenician god Melkart, whom locals call Hercules Gaditano.
It is a monumental structure in the Gulf of Cadiz off the southwest coast of the Iberian Peninsula, which served as a place of worship in ancient times and was later lost for centuries. The discovery was made thanks to a system of laser rangefinders – leaders – and digital modeling of the area, writes the Spanish newspaper El País.
Melkart is one of the most revered gods in Phoenician mythology as the patron saint of navigation and the city of Tire and the kingdom of Tire. From the ancient Greeks he was identified with Heracles. It is believed that Heracles of Tire, as Herodotus called him, was buried in Spain, and the temple in his honor was built by King Hiram. In other chronicles one can find references to the visit to this temple by Julius Caesar, who wept bitterly at the image of Alexander the Great, and by the Carthaginian conqueror Hannibal, who came to celebrate the success of his military campaign. Ricardo Belison of the University of Seville believes that the ruins of this monumental structure should be sought at the mouth of the shallow Sancti Petri Canal, located between the cities of Chiclana de la Frontera and San Fernando in Andalusia. A small island now rises above the swampy canal, and for more than two centuries divers have made important archeological finds that can now be seen in the Cadiz Museum, such as marble and bronze sculptures of Roman emperors and various Phoenician statuettes. The temple was to be sought somewhere nearby. Thanks to free software that allows digital modeling of the area, Belison was able to identify the exact rectangular area measuring 300 x 150 m, where he believes the ruins of the temple itself should be located.
This rectangular structure, as well as the island on which it once stood, correspond to ancient descriptions, but now they are 3-5 meters underwater. According to the chronicles, this complex could be reached by passing two columns, the frontispiece of the building itself depicted the exploits of Hercules, and inside burned eternal fire. The temple area was separated from the current Cape Boqueron by a small canal, and there was also an inland port and dock south of the temple, which were also identified by modeling the ancient coast of Cadiz. The new hypothesis about the location of the temple is in line with various findings and assumptions made in the twentieth century, but there are several alternative hypotheses indicating other possible locations. In the course of the forthcoming archeological researches and underwater researches it is envisaged that these conclusions will be confirmed or refuted.