Limestone stela with a dedication to Baal
From Carthage, north Africa (modern Tunisia)
2nd-1st century BC
Dedicated by Gaius Julius Arish, son of Adon-Baal
This stela comes from a religious precinct known as the tophet at Carthage. In this enclosure such grave markers were set up over burial urns containing the cremated bodies of babies, small children and animals, which had been sacrificed to the goddess Tanit and her consort Baal Hammon. The Punic (Carthaginian) script is almost identical to that of Canaanite inscriptions from the Levant. Despite the classical influence seen in the caduceii (curled snakes), the symbolism is Canaanite, with two representations of the goddess Tanit. The upper one is composed of a sun disc, a crescent moon and triangle. Below is an anthropomorphized (human-shaped) version of the goddess.
The Canaanites of the Levant coast (known as Phoenicians) grew rich by supplying luxury materials to Mesopotamia, Egypt and Iran. Their natural harbours became major ports for handling international shipping. Commercial contacts were expanded across the Mediterranean and resulted in the establishment of colonies. According to tradition, Carthage was founded in 814 BC, but archaeological evidence suggests the earliest occupation was in about 730 BC. Carthage rapidly became the leading Phoenician colony. The city came into conflict first with the Greeks and then with the Romans. The Romans called the Carthaginians Poeni, from which the term Punic derives.
J.N. Tubb, Canaanites (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)