11-year-old boy found Iron Age fertility totem pole, second of its kind ever identified, during family hike in Israel
A few weeks ago a young boy was taking a family hike along HaBesor Creek
in southern Israel when he came across an oblong stone that looked different from the ones around him.
Turns out it was. The child, Zvi Ben-David, 11, had discovered an ancient figurine that predates Jesus’ birth.
Only seven centimeters high, the object represents a topless woman with her hands wrapped around her waist. Archaeologists estimate the object to be 2,500 years old, dating back to the late Iron Age. Only one other object like this has ever been found in Israel.
Ben-David’s mother, a professional tour guide with an archaeologist’s eye, quickly brought the figurine to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Experts have identified the artifact as an ancient symbol of fertility.
“Ceramic figurines of topless women are known from various periods in Israel, including the First Temple era,” said archaeologist Oren Shmueli and Debbie Ben Ami, IAA curator of the Age of the iron and Persian periods declaration. “They were common in the home and in everyday life, as the symbol of the hamsa today, and they apparently served as amulets for protection, luck and prosperity.”
The researchers explained that because infant mortality was common during this time and medical knowledge was rudimentary, people turned to spiritualism for support. “In the absence of advanced medicine, the amulets offered hope and an important means of calling for help,” they added.
The figurine has since been moved to the country’s national treasures collection where it is the subject of further analysis. (The same collection houses the other ancient amulet.)
Meanwhile, young Zvi received a certificate for his detective work. “The exemplary citizenship of young Zvi Ben-David will allow us to improve our understanding of religious practices in biblical times and of man’s inherent need for material human personifications,” said Shmueli and Debbie Ben Ami.
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