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Our Favourite 4 Surprising Gibraltar Museum Virtual Tour Posts

Chris Gomez

4 Surprising Gibraltar Museum Virtual Tours: From ancient beaches that sat halfway up the Rock of Gibraltar to how the myth of the infamous Gorgon Medusa…

Due to the current total social lockdown in Gibraltar, and of course in order to protect the public from infection, the Gibraltar National Museum and the Gorham’s Cave Complex Observation platform have been closed off to the public.

So, the museum curators have decided to bring their tours, guides, and wealth of rich Gibraltarian history from their archives online. Some of these findings are jaw-dropping…

From ancient beaches that sat halfway up the Rock of Gibraltar to how the myth of the infamous Gorgon Medusa may be linked to Gorham’s Cave… here are 4 Gibraltar National Museum virtual tour posts that really surprised us!

The Iconic Museum’s logo is based on a 2,500+ year old glass “Amphoriskos”

The instantly recognisable blue and yellow cracked jar featured as the Gibraltar Museum’s logo is an illustration of a 2,500+ year old glass ‘Amphoriskos’ (meaning ‘small jar’ in Greek, typically with 2 handles) which originated from a Greek workshop in Rhodes. It is believed that this jar came from the East of the island.

The Amphoriskos, crafted to contained perfumed oil, was discovered within the World Heritage Site Gorham’s Cave Complex, which was once an important shrine for sailors due to its location as one of the Pillars of Hercules.

It would have formed one of the offerings which were deposited at the shrine.

You can learn more about this fascinating archaeological find and how it was made here.

Ancient Beaches found half way up the Rock

Evidence of ancient beaches have been found high above current sea levels – the photo below is one of these beaches at what is now called “Farringdon’s Battery”, which stands at 160m above sea levels. Fossils and wave-eroded boulders were evident.

Surprisingly, and bearing in mind that the highest peak of Gibraltar is at 426 metres; evidence of this has also been found 210 metres above sea level at Goat’s Hair Twin Caves, almost half the Rock’s height! … but how?

According to the Gibraltar Museum, the Rock’s current size and features are down to two factors: tectonic movements and sea level fluctuations.

“Starting around five million years ago, spanning the Pliocene and Pleistocene eras, the Rock has been gradually increasing in height. Geological studies show that from 200 thousand years ago to the present day, the average elevation of the Rock has been 0.05 ± 0.01mm per year and, with a previously higher yearly average of 0.33 ± 0.05mm.

This means that areas nowadays elevated high on the Rock were at sea level thousands of years ago, which explains the origin of those ancient beach levels which we now find in such unexpected areas of Gibraltar.”

The Myth of Medusa may be linked to the Gorham’s Cave Shrine

“Finding links between the world of myths and legends and reality can be a challenging task and even prove unsuccessful. However, on certain occasions, archaeological finds allow us to have a closer look into certain aspects relating to the original locations ascribed to these myths by ancient peoples.

This may be the case of the myth of one of the Gorgons. Today we present a find that suggests a close relationship between Medusa and the ancient shrine at Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar, where various ceramic fragments belonging to a representation of Medusa’s head were found.

Once again, we are reminded of the special location of this shrine at the base of one of the Pillars of Herakles at the very border between the known world and a strange world, where myths about monsters and legendary kingdoms were based.

The myth of Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa is described by classical writers with clear references to locations in the Strait of Gibraltar. Now, with this discovery, we have found a relationship between the myth and the actual place this was purported to have taken place. The find of a Gorgoneion in Gorham’s Cave is the only one to have been found in a cave, and one of the very rare examples outside the Hellenised areas of the central and eastern Mediterranean where these are typically located in temples with the purpose of affording protection or giving warning.

Its geographical origin is likely to have been in the very Hellenised areas of Magna Graecia in Sicily or Ancient Corinth. Its stylistic characteristics fit it within the 6th century BCE, and its Greek style strengthens the international character of this shrine.”

Mysterious Inscriptions Found on Ancient Ceramics at Gorham’s Cave

Fragments of two bowls with mysterious inscriptions discovered at the Phoenician shrine at Gorham’s Cave bring up many questions as to ancient linguistic traditions.

“The first item is a common ceramic bowl fragment from the archaic phase of the shrine, with three clearly visible graphemes which have been inscribed with a sharp tool. These graphemes have been identified as Phoenician. Reading from right to left, as such is the direction of Phoenician writing we can see that:

The first grapheme is clearly ‘ayin’

The second is ‘nun’

The third is more complex and could be ‘shin’ or ‘kaph’

The empty spaces on both sides of the three graphemes indicate that the inscription is complete. This type of inscription tends to correspond to personal names or abbreviation, possibly of the owner of the ceramic object. In this case, such a name is not known but it could well possibly correspond to a Phoenician name that we do not know yet. Another possibility would be that the inscription had a ritualistic purpose which is also currently unknown.

The second item is also a common ceramic bowl, originating from the Mediterranean coast of what is now Andalusia, possibly even from the Bay of Gibraltar and is dated between the 4th and 2nd century BCE.

Multiple preserved fragments can be grouped into four larger pieces. The inscription, made post-firing, presents a series of graphemes that resemble Greek lettering of the Ionian kind, with this type of writing being classified as a ‘Greco-Iberian alphabet’ – in other words, written in the Iberian language, but using the Greek writing system.

These types of inscriptions are very rare, and they are also all located on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, this being the first time it has been recorded outside of that geographical area. The inscription reads IRBE OGAREI[ … ] EBAN (‘[ … ]’ meaning that part of the text is missing).

Deciphering the meaning of this inscription is a complex matter. It is currently under study by specialists, but given that it was found within a shrine, it is likely related to some ritual meaning.”

We will be posting a further list of our favourite, most surprising Gibraltar National Museum facts and findings next week in REACH, so make sure that you are following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, you can see all the Museum’s fascinating posts and virtual tours here.

4 Surprising Gibraltar Museum Virtual Tours: From ancient beaches that sat halfway up the Rock of Gibraltar to how the myth of the infamous Gorgon Medusa…

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