While foraging for mushrooms after heavy rains, an archaeologist working with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and her two young daughters stumbled upon two extremely rare Iron Age horse figurines in Israel which date back over 2,000 years.
As the Times of Israel reports, Ayelet Goldberg-Keidar and her family were busy scouting for mushrooms near Kfar Ruppin when her two daughters spied a horse figurine that was made out of clay, which later turned out to be 2,800-years-old after it had been dated.
Goldberg-Keidar knew immediately that the horse figurines her daughters had discovered were unique and special and surmised that they had come from the time of the ancient Kingdom of Israel.
“We were very excited. It’s a fascinating find and spectacularly beautiful. I immediately recognized it was an ancient figurine from the Iron Age – the period of the Kingdom of Israel.”
Interestingly, these clay horse figurines must have been in high demand during the Iron Age as a hiker also discovered a similar one fairly recently close to Tel Akko, although this one was reported to have “only” been 2,200 years of age. When dated, this statuette was found to have been fashioned sometime during the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC, during the Hellenistic Period.
The IAA has explained that discovering ancient artifacts, such as the two horse figurines that were recently found, is fairly common after such heavy rains. Nir Distelfeld, an inspector with the IAA Theft Prevention Unit, also noted that burrowing animals frequently bring artifacts of this kind to the surface also.
— Amanda Borschel-Dan (@AmandaBDan) January 22, 2019
After University of Haifa archaeologist and art historian Dr. Adi Erlich examined the two horse statuettes that had been found, she stated in a press release that figurines of this kind were owned by many people during the Iron Age in Israel and that these were even sometimes created with riders.
In fact, one of the statuettes that Goldberg-Keidar found would have had a rider carved into it as well, as the remains of the left hand of this rider were still visible on the horse. However, Erlich was quick to point out that at the time that these horse figurines were carved, they would have only had male riders as women were cast into more conventional gender roles during the Iron Age to reflect the society in which they lived.
“It should be noted that in our region, almost only men were depicted in figurines as riding horses, while women were carved in the context of fertility, motherhood, and sexuality, which attests to gender roles in society during the Iron Age.”
With the stunning finds of these two over 2,000-year-old horse figurines in Israel, there are almost certainly many more ancient artifacts just waiting to be discovered, which perhaps the recent rains may reveal to other lucky hikers.