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3,500-year-old small clay 'tablet' featuring two human figures found near Tel Jemmeh

Six-year-old Imri Elya from Kibbutz Nirim, went on an outing last March with his parents to tour the Tel Jemmeh archaeological site located in the south of Israel. Suddenly, a small, 2.80 x 2.80 cm square clay object, caught his eye. The curious boy picked up the object, and to his surprise saw two figures engraved on it. Imri's parents contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority and handed over the mysterious find.

3,500-year-old small clay 'tablet' featuring two human figures found near Tel Jemmeh
3,500-year-old Canaanite clay piece found on Tel Jemmeh (the Canaanite city of Yarza)
[Credit: Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority]

After checking the item, archaeologists were surprised to realize that this was a unique and rare find that has not been discovered until today in archaeological excavations in Israel.

According to the archaeologists Saar Ganor, Itamar Weissbein and Oren Shmueli of the Israel Antiquities Authority, The tablet depicts the scene of a man leading a captive. The figure is wearing a skirt and is holding a completely naked captive with hands folded and tied behind his back. It is evident that the artist sought to emphasize the captive's humiliation by showing him naked, or perhaps to describe the ethnic differences between the captor and the captive by presenting each figure's different facial features - the captor's hair is curly and his face is full, while the captive is thin and his face elongated.

3,500-year-old small clay 'tablet' featuring two human figures found near Tel Jemmeh
Aerial view of Tel Jemmeh, the Canaanite city of Yarza
[Credit: Valdick Lipshitz/IAA]

Based on parallels to the Egyptian art world and local Canaanite art, the researchers estimate that the artifact should be dated to the Late Bronze Age (between the 12th and 15th centuries BCE).

The violence portrayed raises interesting questions about the historical background of the tablet. During this period, the Egyptian Empire ruled Canaan. The latter was divided into "city states" ruled by local kings. From letters sent by Canaan kings of that period to Egypt (known as the El Amarna letters), it is known that internal struggles and control conflicts existed between Canaanite cities.

Reaserchers believe that the scene depicted on the tablet symbolically describes the power struggles between the city of Yurza (now Tel Jemmeh) - one of the strongest Canaanite cities in the south of the country, and one of its neighbors; "the scene depicted on the tablet is taken from descriptions of victory parades; hence the tablet should be identified as a story depicting the ruler's power over his enemies. This opens a visual window to understanding the struggle for dominance in the south of the country during the Canaanite period."

The delivery of the tablet to the Antiquities Authority indicates value education and good citizenship on the part of Imri and his parents. Well done!"


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1 comment :

  1. What a clever young boy for his age. Maybe he will grow up to be an archaeologist. Well done young man.


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