Wednesday, 10 March 2021 | A few weeks ago, 11-year-old Zvi Ben-David from Beersheva was on a family trip to Nahal HaBesor when he caught sight of an unusual object. On picking it up, he saw it was a pottery figurine of a woman. His mother, Miriam Ben-David—a professional tour guide—realized that it was an important ancient find and contacted Oren Shmueli, district archaeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority [IAA] in the western Negev.
In compliance with current Covid-19 restrictions, Shmueli met Zvi and his family in their garden where they handed him the figurine, which will now be researched and kept in the National Treasures collection. Zvi was awarded a certificate of appreciation for good citizenship by the IAA.
According to Shmueli and Debbie Ben Ami, curator of the Iron Age and Persian periods in the IAA, “The figurine that Zvi discovered is rare and only one such example exists in the National Treasures collection. It was probably used in the sixth to fifth centuries BC, at the end of the Iron Age or in the Persian period (the late First Temple period, or the return to Zion). The figurine, 7 centimeters [2.7 in.] high and 6 centimeters [2.3 in.] wide, was made in a mold. It shows a woman with a scarf covering her head and neck, schematic facial features and a prominent nose.”
Shmueli and Ben-Ami explain, “Pottery figurines of women are known from various periods in Israel, including the First Temple era. They were common in the home and in everyday life, like the hamsa today, and apparently served as amulets to ensure protection, good luck and prosperity. We must bear in mind that in antiquity, medical understanding was rudimentary. Infant mortality was very high and about a third of those born did not survive…In the absence of advanced medicine, amulets provided hope and an important way of appealing for aid.”
The figurine was delivered to the National Treasures collection and is currently being studied by Shmueli and Ben-Ami in collaboration with Raz Kletter from the University of Helsinki in Finland.
The archaeologists say, “The exemplary citizenship of young Zvi Ben-David will enable us to improve our understanding of cultic practices in biblical times, and man’s inherent need for material human personifications.”
Posted on March 10, 2021
Source: (Excerpt of a press release originally published by the Israel Antiquities Authority on March 9, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)
Photo Credit: Oren Shmueli/IAA
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