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A child finds a 2,500-year-old fertility amulet during a family walk

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

An Israeli boy found a two-and-a-half-century-old fertility amulet, and archaeologists point out that the figurine dates back to a time when infant mortality was high and lack of fertility was an unresolved problem, and argue that it was sure to give hope to its owners.

The 11-year-old boy discovered a rare figure during a family walk in southern Israel, and his mother, a tour guide, quickly realized the importance of the discovery and notified the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The figure depicts a stylized woman with a bare chest and a scarf, her hands folded under her chest and a prominent nose, and experts concluded that it is an amulet, probably used at that time to protect the babies and increase fertility.

Oren Shumueli, an archaeologist from the Negev district, a region where the figurine’s discoverer, Zvi Ben David lives with his family, and where they walked, said in a statement, along with the conservative of the Iron Age and Persian periods of the IAA, Debbie Ben Ami, that the figure, just a few centimetres, was made from a mold.

“The figurine that Zvi discovered is rare and only one other specimen of them exists in the collection of National Treasures,” the statement said. “It was probably used in the sixth and fifth centuries BC, at the end of the Iron Age or in the Persian period [which is the late period of the first Temple or the return to Zion].”

Fertility, always worrying

“The figurines of women are known from different periods in Israel, including the First Temple period. They were common in homes and in everyday life, and apparently served as amulets to ensure protection, good luck, and prosperity,” Shmueli and Ben Ami said.

The researchers pointed out that, given the poor medical understanding of high infant mortality rates and no fertility treatments, which in every ancient society marked the success or failure of the community, the normal thing was to turn to the gods in search of protection and help.

“Infant mortality was very high and about a third of those born did not survive. There was little understanding of hygiene and, naturally, fertility treatment did not exist,” they noted.

In the absence of assurances, the amulets offered hope “and also represented an important way to ask for help,” the experts stressed.

Incentives for good citizenship

The ceramic amulet, about seven centimeters high and six centimeters wide, found by Zvi a few weeks ago, is now under study: “The exemplary citizenship of young Zvi Ben-David will allow us to improve our understanding of worship practices in biblical times and man’s inherent need for material human personifications,” Shmueli and Ben-Ami said.

Zvi received a certificate of appreciation for good citizenship from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, a ceremonious gesture with which the state rewards citizens who report their archaeological findings and which often also helps to build the national narrative. Many people are known to accumulate or deal with archaeological treasures in their homes, knowing that it is a punishable act, and Israel tries to avoid such behavior in various ways.

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