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Bird Sacrifices to the Goddess Isis in the Ancient Roman Empire Supported by Evidence


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An archaeologist and biologist have found evidence of bird sacrifice to the goddess Isis in the ruins of the Temple of Isis in Pompeii. In their study, it was reported in International Journal of Archeology, Chiara Assunta Corbino and Beatrice Demarchi studied frescoes at the ancient site to reveal the role birds played in ritual banquets.

People worshiped the goddess Isis for the first time in ancient Egypt. Legends from the time suggest that she raised her murdered husband and brother, and was thus known as the goddess who helped the dead enter the afterlife. The cult of Isis spread to ancient Greece, where the name meant “great mother,” and eventually spread to Italy and the rest of the Roman Empire.

During this latter period, belief in Isis became a cult-like obsession as she was worshiped as part of ritual ceremonies. Corbino and Demarchi suggest that such rituals were likely to have been performed by priests. They believe they have found evidence of such rituals in the frescoes on the walls of the Temple of Isis at Pompeii.

Previous research has determined that the Temple of Isis was mostly destroyed during an earthquake sometime around AD 62. Pictures in the murals indicate that they were added after the earthquake as part of renovations. The researchers found images of rituals involving birds. So far, they’ve found evidence of geese, pigeons, chickens, and birds, along with pigs and various sea creatures. The researchers suggest that this new discovery adds more evidence to theories that birds were used in ritual worship of Isis elsewhere.

The researchers noted that the discovery is significant because such rituals were often performed in private; Thus, very little evidence of it was found. The Isis frescoes are the first to have been found in Italy. The researchers also noted that the birds were charred, suggesting that people performing this ritual ate them – likely as part of a banquet similar to some that appear in the frescoes.

more information:
Chiara Assunta Corbino et al., Birds to Isis: Evidence from Pompeii, International Journal of Archeology (2023). DOI: 10.1002/oa.3224

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the quote: Evidence of Bird Sacrifices to the Goddess Isis in the Ancient Roman Empire (2023, May 19) Retrieved May 19, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-evidence-bird-sacrifices-goddess-isis.html

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