An 11-year-old boy made a rare and exciting discovery while on family vacation – a 2,500 year old amulet of a fertility goddess.
Last month, Zvi Ben-David was visiting Israel’s Negev desert when he found a ceramic figure from the sixth century BC when the region was controlled by Persia.
The idol, about two and a half inches tall, is a female figure with her head and neck covered, but her breasts bared and her hands tucked under her cleavage.
According to experts, the relic is so rare that only one similar relic has ever been found. However, such figurines were common during this period and were likely used as a fertility amulet or as protection for a child.
A seven-centimeter figure of a woman with exposed breasts was discovered by a child on vacation in Israel’s Negev desert last month. Experts date the amulet to the 5th or 6th century when the region was ruled by the Persians
In February, Zvi Ben-David was with his family on a trip to Nahal Besor, a path in the Negev desert that follows a 50-mile creek that flows into the Mediterranean Sea.
The 11-year-old from Beer Sheba “saw an unusual object,” according to a report by the Israel Antiquities Authority: a female ceramic figure about seven centimeters tall and six centimeters wide.
It shows the outline of a woman with basic features and a head and neck covered by a scarf.
However, the woman’s breasts are bare and her hands are folded underneath, which makes her breasts more prominent.
Zvi Ben-David, 11, received a Certificate of Appreciation for the discovery of the ceramic fertility amulet, one of only two ever discovered
Ben-David shared his discovery with his mother, professional tour guide Miriam Ben-David, who saw its importance and approached the IAA.
Researchers believe that it was during the Iron Age, some time in the fifth or sixth century BC. BC, was made from a mold.
That would have been at the end of the late First Temple period, when Israel was ruled by the Achaemenid Empire from Persia.
“Ceramic figurines of women with bare breasts are known from different eras in Israel, including the First Temple period,” said archaeologist Oren Shmueli and IAA curator Debbie Ben Ami.
Ceramic figurines of women with bare breasts were common in the ancient Middle East and were often used to conjure up wealth or good fortune. Experts believe that this amulet made from mold was used for protection during pregnancy or for a child.
“They were common at home and in everyday life, like the hamsa [Hand of Fatima] Symbol today, and they apparently served as amulets to ensure protection, happiness and prosperity. ‘
However, this particular type of figure is rare – in fact, only one similar one has ever been found, including in the northern Negev.
The ancient Israelites were forbidden to worship idols, but fertility amulets were very common among neighboring tribes who may have shared their traditions.
“We have to remember that medical understanding was rudimentary in ancient times. Infant mortality was very high and about a third of those born did not survive, ”said the researchers.
“There was little understanding of hygiene, and of course there was no fertility treatment. In the absence of advanced medicine, amulets offered hope and an important way to seek help. ‘
The figure is currently under investigation by the IAA and will appear in the National Treasures collection along with the other amulet.
The IAA issued Ben-David a certificate of appreciation for the discovery of the amulet.
“The exemplary citizenship of young Zvi Ben-David will enable us to improve our understanding of cultic practices in biblical times and of man’s inherent need for material human personifications,” the agency said.
Nahal Besor is usually dry, but in the rainy season it flows into the largest stream in the northern Negev
According to the Old Testament book of Samuel, Besor was in southwestern Judah, where 200 of King David’s men sought refuge because they were too exhausted to pursue their enemies, the Amalekites.