Israeli archeologists have discovered two Stone Age figurines on a road connecting Jerusalem with Tel Aviv. The statuettes, which were found during a survey before a planned widening of the highway, are estimated to be between 9,000 and 9,500 years old.
The discovery of the 15 centimeter objects may help shape understanding about religion and society during the Stone Age. These objects would have been made during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period, when human societies began to make the transition to a sedentary life based on farming and grazing, compared to the nomadic model of hunting and gathering.
Mankind also began to inhabit permanent settlements and developed more complex living structures. Other excavations in the region have shown that that by the Neolithic period, inhabitants had developed the engineering capabilities to build two-story buildings.
The figurines were discovered near a large round building where the foundation was made of field stones and parts of the upper walls were made of mud bricks.
The first figurine is made of limestone and is crafted in the shape of a ram with twisted horns.
“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,” Anna Eirikh and Hamoudi Khalaily, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), said in a statement.
The second statue is an abstract design of a large animal with prominent horns that come from the middle of the head in way that resembles a wild bovine or buffalo. The horns separate the elongated body from the head.
The archeologists who unearthed the limestone and dolomite figurines believe they may have been good luck talismans for hunters or possibly representations of animal domestication. In their press release, they note the objects “may have been the focus of a traditional ceremony the hunters performed.”
Dr. Khalaily adds, “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 excavation, which was funded by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, was conducted at Tel Motza. The area has already been the source of several Stone Age artifacts associated with funeral rites and religious rituals.
“The figurines that were discovered in the current excavations at Tel Moza join other unique finds that were previously exposed at this site. We can conclude from these artifacts that the site at Tel Moza was most likely the largest of its kind in the mountainous region around Jerusalem,” the archaeologist said.