Jerusalem Highway Work Yields Stone Age Discovery
Archeologists have discovered Stone Age figurines in excavations carried out prior to work to widen the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway.
Two figurines, which experts claim are 9,500 years old, were found in the Tel Motza area less than five miles south of Jerusalem. They are images of a ram and a wild bovine and point to the existence of a cultic belief in the region in the New Stone Age, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“The figurines 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," said directors of the excavation Anna Eirikh and Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily.
The first figurine, in the shape of a ram with twisted horns, was fashioned from limestone and is approximately 15 cm (6 inches) in size. The sculpting precisely depicts details of the animal’s image, and the head and the horns protrude in front of the body, and their proportions are extremely accurate, the archaeologists said.
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 but appears 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.
During the New Stone Age period, “Transition began from nomadism, based on hunting and gathering, to sedentary life, based on farming and grazing,” Dr. Khalaily said. “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,” he added.
He said the discovery reveals the religious life and beliefs of Neolithic society.
“It is known that hunting was the major activity in this period,” he said. “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.”
Another theory presented by archaeologist Eirikh links the figurines from Motza to the process of animal domestication, such as the wild bovine and different species of wild goat.