pan pan The astrological symbol Capricorn may come from Pan. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Have archaeologists discovered Pan's lair?

This newly uncovered gateway and a mysterious mask may offer clues about the ancient greek god.

Researchers at the University of Haifa just uncovered a Roman gateway in Israel's Sussita National Park near the Sea of Galilee. What's so special about this discovery? It's all about location. Last year, archaeologists found a 2,000-year-old bronze mask of Pan, a rustic Greek god, on the same site.

“Now that the whole gate has been exposed, we not only have better information for dating the mask, but also a clue to its function," said Dr. Michael Eisenberg, the head of the expedition. "Are we looking at a gate that led to the sanctuary of the god Pan or one of the rustic gods?”

panThe researchers think the mask used to be attached to a wall or alter. (Photo: Dr. Michael Eisenberg)

Even if you've never heard of Pan, you'd probably recognize him. He's a half-man, half-goat perennial favorite, and versions of him are everywhere; from Disney's "Hercules" to C.S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia." In ancient times, he was a god of fields, groves, wooded glens and wilderness. He was famous for playing his musical pipes and his sexual prowess (a group of nymphs would typically travel with him), and he'd bring PANdemonium wherever he went. The word "panic" comes from his name.

pan maskThe mask dates between the first century B.C. and the second century A.D. (Photo: Dr. Michael Eisenberg)

“The mask, and now the gate in which it was embedded, are continuing to fire our imaginations. The worship of Pan sometimes included ceremonies involving drinking, sacrifices, and ecstatic rituals," explained Eisenberg, a professor at Israel's University of Haifa.

"This worship usually took place outside the city walls, in caves and other natural settings. We are very familiar with the city of Paneas to the north of Hippos, which was the site of one of the best-known sanctuaries for the worship of Pan. But here we find a monumental gate and evidence of an extensive compound, so that the mystery only gets stranger. What kind of worship of Pan or his fellow Dionysus, the god of wine, took place here in Hippos? To answer that question, we will have to keep on digging."

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