Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed a Persian-era clay jar in Jerusalem’s City of David which was a representation of an ancient and “grotesque” deity which the faithful once used to scare away evil entities.
As Fox News reports, the small fragment which was discovered has been dated and was found to have been in use between the 4th and 5th centuries B.C.
The clay figure was found during excavations that were being performed by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority, with the ancient deity recovered from a very large pit containing other Persian artifacts which have been found to date back to the time when Persia controlled the Kingdom of Judah. These clay jars which were used to frighten away evil spirits were called “Bes-vessels,” as they represented the Egyptian god known as Bes.
In a statement which was issued regarding the recovery of this clay jar, the Israel Antiquities Authority stated, “In Egyptian mythology, Bes is the protector deity of households, especially mothers, women in childbirth, and children.”
As Persian culture slowly assimilated Egyptian traditions, Bes eventually became a faithful deity that Persians also eventually used in connection with keeping evil spirits away from their families and homes.
Besides artifacts like Bes-vessels, the Persians who lived in Israel during this period also frequently wore amulets with the ‘grotesque’ deity upon them and adorned the insides of their homes with this figure also.
Describing the deity of Bes, the Israel Antiquities Authority noted that despite his menacing appearance, this deity was actually intended to bring joy and happiness into the lives of those who revered him, keeping them safe from all evil spirits and harm.
“Bes usually appears as a kind of bearded dwarf with a large face, protruding eyes and tongue sticking out when he is wearing a feather hat. This grotesque figure is apparently intended to evoke joy and laughter and drive away the evil spirits.”
The discovery of the clay deity marks the first time that archaeologists have run across a depiction of Bes like this in Jerusalem.
As Professor Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University noted, “Pottery from this period was exposed in the past in the City of David, but this is the first time that such a vessel has been found in archaeological excavations in Jerusalem or anywhere in the Judean highlands.”
Archaeologists have, however, recovered many different artifacts of Bes in such ancient Persian cities as Persepolis and Shushan, and the Israel Antiquities Authority first announced the discovery of the clay jar deity last week so that it would coincide with the Jewish holiday known as Purim.