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Fertility Figure Found Volume 54 Number 5, September/October 2001
by Sydney Schwartz

A construction crew digging a trench under the Trans-Israel highway near Tel Aviv has unearthed a 6,000-year-old burial chamber containing the first Chalcolithic period (ca. 4000 B.C.) fertility figurine to be discovered in the region.

"There is no parallel in the country for this figurine," says Ianir Milevski, a research archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the leader of the excavation. Milevski notes that while Chalcolithic figurines have been found in the northern Negev, they are different in style, probably reflecting a strong Egyptian influence.

Three pieces of the eight-inch-tall figurine were found in an ossuary: the head and the upper part of the torso, the lower part of the torso and legs, and the left arm. The missing right arm and hand may have covered the penis, as on similar figurines found in Egypt, Greece, and parts of Eastern Europe.

The tomb contained more than 30 ossuaries and several burial jars, as well as bowls, an oval goblet with an elongated pointed base, and other small objects, some of which were damaged by past use of the cave. Human bones were found in both the ossuaries and burial jars and were scattered throughout the cave.

The figurine, restored by the IAA, will be displayed at the Israel Museum. Tests are currently being done to see if it originated from outside the region.

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© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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