January 28, 2009

Ancient Figurine Found In Jerusalem

The Israeli Antiquities Authority said that an 1,800-year-old figurine believe to have originated from the eastern stretches of the Roman Empire has been discovered by archaeologists outside the walls of the old city.

The authority said that the 2-inch marble bust depicts the head of a man with a short curly beard and almond-shaped eyes who may portray a boxer.

"The high level of finish on the figurine is extraordinary, while meticulously adhering to the tiniest of details," Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, directors of the excavation, said in a joint statement released Monday. Nothing similar has ever been uncovered in Israel, they said, calling it a "unique find."

Archeologists think the figurine was most likely carried to Jerusalem by a merchant. 

The figurine was carved from pale yellow marble, and archeologist believe the figurine was used as a weight for a hanging scale of a type common in the Roman period.  The small holes drilled in its neck were likely used to attach it to the scale, and remnants of metal remain.

The artifact was found in the ruins of a building that was destroyed by an earthquake in the fourth or fifth century.  Recently, the same dig outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City found a well-preserved gold earring inlaid with pearls and a trove of more than 250 gold coins.

The dig is in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, in east Jerusalem, in what use to be a parking lot.  This is part of a bigger archaeological excavation at the site, known to Israeli scholars as the City of David.


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