27 January 2009
Ongoing archeological excavations at the Givati car park in the City of David in the Walls around Jerusalem National Park, have unearthed many treasures, including this week's finding – an 1800 year old marble figurine (bust) depicting the head of a bearded man. The figurine was used as a suspended weight together with a balance scale. This is probably the only find of its kind from excavations in the country.
Last month, one of the largest and most impressive coin hoards ever found in Jerusalem was discovered at this site. It consists of 264 gold coins and was found at about the same time as a gold earring, inlaid with expensive pearls and remarkably well preserved, was also uncovered at the site.
According to Dr. Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, directors of the excavation at the site on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The high level of finish on the figurine is extraordinary, while meticulously adhering to the tiniest of details. Its short curly beard, as well as the position of its head which is slightly inclined to the right, are indicative of an obviously Greek influence and show that it should be dated to the time of the emperor Hadrian or shortly thereafter (second-third centuries CE). This is one of the periods when the art of Roman sculpture reached its zenith. The pale yellow shade of the marble alludes to the eastern origin of the raw material from which the image was carved, probably from Asia Minor, although this matter still needs to be checked”.
The stylistic motifs that are manifested in the image, such as its short hair style, the prominent lobes and curves of the ears, as well as the almond-shaped eyes suggest that the object most likely portrays an athlete, probably a boxer. Boxing was one of the most popular fields of heavy athletics in Roman culture and more than once Roman authors mention the demand by the Roman public in general, and the elite in particular, for boxing matches.
Dr. Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets elucidate, “To the best of our knowledge, to date no similar artifact made of marble (or any other kind of stone) bearing the same image that was just found has been discovered in excavations elsewhere in the country; it seems that what we have here is a unique find. A few similar artifacts that were made of cast bronze were discovered at different sites in the country and they have been found in large numbers in different places throughout the Roman Empire where the overwhelming majority of them date to the third century CE (the Roman period). The bronze portrayal of a boxer that is currently on display in the Berlin State Museum (“The Boxer”) is a nearly perfect parallel of the image from the City of David”.
The City of David is the original hilltop upon which King David dedicated ancient Jerusalem as his capital 3,000 years ago. Deep underground, the City of David is revealing some of the most exciting archeological finds of the ancient world, while above ground, the site is a vibrant center of activity, complete with visitor's center, 3D exhibition and guided tours through the excavations that include Warren's Shaft, ancient water systems such as Hezekiah's Tunnel and the Second Temple Shiloah pool. www.cityofdavid.org.il (English, Spanish, French, Russian and Hebrew).