The 2,800-year-old sculpture could shed light on the appearance of key figures from the Hebrew Bible.
The tiny sculpture of a head has a neatly manicured beard and glossy black hair, held back by a yellow and black painted headband. The archaeologists who discovered it believe the little head may give us an unprecedented glimpse at the face of a biblical king from the 9th century B.C.
The carved figurine was found by archaeologists from Azusa Pacific University and Hebrew University of Jerusalem at the site of ancient city of Abel Beth Maacah in northern Israel. Abel Beth Maacah is mentioned several times in the Hebrew Bible.
According to the site’s lead archaeologist, Robert Mullins, it is difficult to determine which biblical king the head depicts, as the city sat at the crossroads of three kingdoms, Israel, Aram and Phoenicia.
“Given that the head was found in a city that sat on the border of three different ancient kingdoms, we do not know whether it depicts the likes of King Ahab of Israel, King Hazael of Aram-Damascus, or King Ethbaal of Tyre, rulers known from the Bible and other sources. The head represents a royal enigma,” Mullins said, in a press release.
Archaeologists were excavating the remains of what is believed to be an ancient citadel from the time of the Israelite kings when Mario Tobia, an engineering student from Jerusalem, picked up a 2-inch wide dirt clod that concealed the tiny head.
The sculpture is now on exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.