Biblical Archaeology Review 35:4, July/August September/October 2009

Queries & Comments

Whose Figurines?

I found the article about Nehemiah’s wall well written and fascinating (Eilat Mazar, “The Wall That Nehemiah Built,BAR 35:02). I do have one question about the broken clay figurines found from the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem: Are the figurines associated with the Israelites? Didn’t the Israelites avoid making human images? Are these figurines a product of the Babylonians? Or were the Israelites worshiping idols?

Jim McCullough Land O’Lakes, Florida

Eilat Mazar responds:

The figurines in the excavations include mainly four-legged animal figurines (possibly horses) and females—most likely the goddess Ashtoret. The figurines are all covered with a white wash typical of cult objects from the end of the First Temple period. And all the figurines are broken. The breaks usually occurred at the weakest joints of the figurines (the neck, the arms and legs, and at the bosom). Unbroken figurines like these are rare. It’s difficult to decide whether they were deliberately or accidentally broken.

From the hundreds of these locally made figurines found in Israelite houses at the end of the First Temple period—both in the City of David and at other sites in Israel—it is clear that they were very popular.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.