Archaeology news: Boy, 11, discovers priceless figurine straight out of ‘biblical times’

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Archaeologists have dated the figurine to the end of the First Temple period, about 2,500 years ago. Only one other figurine of this kind has been found in Israel to date, making its discovery all the more astounding. Zvi Ben-David, 11, from Beer Sheba stumbled upon the object a few weeks ago while on a family trip to the Nahal Besor stream or wadi in southern Israel.

The boy’s attention was piqued when he noticed an unusual object, which upon closer inspection turned out to be a ceramic figurine of a woman.

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced in a Facebook post: “The figurine that Zvi discovered is so rare that only one such example exists in the National Treasures collection.

“It was probably created in the sixth to fifth centuries BCE, at the end of the late First Temple period (Iron Age) or in the Achaemenid Persian period.”

The figurine only measures seven by six centimetres and most of its features have been weathered away by the sands of time.

But the woman still appears to be wearing a scarf covering her neck and head and has a fairly prominent nose.

She also appears to be bare-chested and has her arms crossed under her chest.

Similar figurines like these were quite popular during the First Temple period – named after King Solomon’s Temple (957 to 587 BC) – and served as protective amulets.

Archaeologist Oren Shmueli and Debbie Ben Ami, IAA curator of the Iron Age and Persian periods, said: “They were common in the home and in everyday life, like the hamsa symbol today, and they 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.”

With very poor knowledge of hygiene and advanced medicine, people turned to superstitions and amulets like this.

The figuring was delivered to the National Treasures collection where it is presently being studied.

Luckily for the archaeologists, Zvi’s mother is a professional tour guide and she instantly recognised the importance of her son’s find.

And for his hand in the discovery, Zvi was awarded a certificate and recognition.

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The archaeologists said: “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.”

Nahal Besor, which is the largest stream in the northern Negev Desert, is a site of many archaeological wonders and Biblical events.

According to the Book of Samuel, 200 of the fabled King David’s men rested at Besor while another host chased down the Amalekites.

The Bible reads: “So David set out, he and the six hundred men who were with him.

“They came to the Wadi Besor, where those stayed who were left behind.

“But David went on with the pursuit, he and four hundred men; two hundred stayed behind, too exhausted to cross the Wadi Besor.”

Nahal Besor has been explored and excavated by archaeologists since the 1930s.

One of its most important sites is the Bronze Age settlement of Tel Gamma or Tell Jemmeh.

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