9,000-Year-Old Animal Figurines
Two animal statuettes from the Stone Age have been unearthed by archeologists near Jerusalem. The one above is of a ram; the other is a more abstract depiction, maybe of a bull or buffalo.
They are estimated to be from the time when people were making the transition from hunting animals to domesticating them – around 6,000 years before what’s generally considered to be Biblical Israel. [readon]
Archeologists suggest that the figurines were either charms to bring good luck to hunters or were related to the new practice of domestication.
“It is known that hunting was the major activity in this period,” Hamoudi Khalaily, director of the dig, wrote in an e-mail. The figurines “may have been the focus of a traditional ceremony the hunters performed.”
The e-mail continues:
The figurines, which are 9,000-9,500 years old, were found near a large round building whose foundations were built of fieldstones and upper parts of the walls were apparently made of mud brick. The first figurine, in the shape of a ram with twisted horns, was fashioned from limestone and is c. 15 cm in size.
The sculpting is extraordinary and precisely depicts details of the animal’s image; the head and the horns protrude in front of the body and their proportions are extremely accurate. The body was made smooth and the legs of the figurine were incised in order to distinguish them from the rest of the body.
The second figurine, which was fashioned on hard smoothed dolomite, is an abstract design; yet it too seems to depict a large animal with prominent horns that separate the elongated body from the head. The horns emerge from the middle of the head sideward and resemble those of a wild bovine or buffalo.
The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (the eighth millennium BCE) is considered one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of mankind; many changes took place in it that shaped human society for thousands of years to come. During this period, the transition began from nomadism, based on hunting and gathering, to sedentary life, based on farming and grazing. It was at this time that mankind began to inhabit permanent settlements and started building settlements that extended across a large area. In several sites that were exposed in our region remains were discovered indicating preliminary architectural planning of those same settlements and complex engineering capabilities including the construction of two story houses. The process of animal and plant domestication was accelerated in this period.
The archaeological evidence from Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, particularly the artistic objects such as the figurines that were discovered at Tel Motza, teaches us about the religious life, the worship and the beliefs of Neolithic society. Other evidence on the subject has also been derived from the study of tombs and funerary customs of the same prehistoric society.
It is known that hunting was the major activity in this period. Presumably, the figurines served as good-luck statues for ensuring the success of the hunt and might have been the focus of a traditional ceremony the hunters performed before going out into the field to pursue their prey
The dig’s co-director, Anna Eirikh, suggested they might equally be linked to the domestication of animals .
The two sculptures were found during an excavation at Tel Moza, in preparation for the widening of a highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.