A 7-year-old Israeli boy was hiking with friends in northern Israel when he stumbled upon a naked woman — a 3,400 year-old figurine.
Ori Greenhut (spelled Uri Grinhot by Israeli media) was visiting an archaeological site called Tel Rehov in the Beit She’an Valley the day he found the figurine, NBC News reported.
He was climbing a mound and accidentally kicked something laying on the ground — a clay figurine of a naked woman, The Times of Israel added. Ori brushed off the dirt to find the little statue — about the size of two fingers — had a narrow waist and fancy hairdo, Haaretz noted.
The boy took it home to show his family, who live in a communal settlement nearby called Tel Te’omim; his mother, Moriah, called the 3,400-year-old figurine impressive.
“We explained to him that it was an antique and that the Antiquities Authority looks after such findings for the general public.”
And so the Greenhut family turned over Ori’s discovery to the proper authorities, something that spokeswoman Yardenna Alexandre said doesn’t happen very often. She praised the Greenhut family for turning over the 3,400-year-old figurine.
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“It doesn’t happen a lot but but there is increasing awareness of people calling up and informing the authority that they found an artifact.”
The little statue was then examined by local academics, who estimated its age and noticed that it was pretty typical of the Canaanite culture of the 15th to 13th centuries B.C., said Hebrew University professor Amihai Mazar. The 3,400-year-old figurine is made out of soft clay, and took its shape by being pressed into a mold.
“Some researchers think the figure depicted here is that of a real flesh and blood woman, and others view her as the fertility goddess Astarte, known from Canaanite sources and from the Bible … There is a high probability that when the term ‘idol’ is mentioned in the Bible, it in fact refers to figurines such as this.”
The 3,400-year-old figurine doesn’t have any of the typical goddess features — she has no crown and looks rather natural, “which is why she could be either one, a goddess or a picture of a real woman,” Alexandre said. This region is rife with such female figurines — some out of stone and others etched in bronze. Some are obviously goddess idols, while others are clearly portraits of real people.
The lady’s slimness is also a clue. In earlier eras, such figurines were of “beefier” women. In the late Bronze age, when this figurine was made, skinny was in. Alexandre noted that the Antiquities Authority isn’t concerned that the 3,400-year-old is a fake, even though it was found in open ground and not within a discernible archaeological level, since it’s so typical of the era.
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Archaeologists believe that the 3,400-year-old figurine belonged to someone who lived in the city of Rehov. The city, located in the Jordan Valley, was occupied for centuries during the Bronze and Iron Ages and was destroyed twice in its history. At one point, it was ruled by Egyptian pharaohs.
Tel Rehov, as an archaeological site, has yielded many artifacts that have revealed the nature of Canaanite religious practices. Researchers have found beehives and ovens and other facilities used in ritual feasting and buildings dating to the 10th and 9th centuries — the times of Kings David and Solomon.
As for Ori, his honesty about the discovery of the 3,400-year-old figurine has been reward by a certificate for good citizenship. Officials visited him in school during a Torah class to talk about the statue he’d found.
The lesson that day was pretty appropriate — the students had just heard the story of the Biblical matriarch Rachel stole idols from her father.
[Photo Via Israel Antiquities Authority]