The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of two zoomorphic Neolithic figurines at Tel Motza. The stone figurines, depicting a ram and an abstract bovine, are over 9,000 years old. They date to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), a period marked by developments in crop domestication, animal husbandry and larger-scale settlements.
The two figurines are very different in style; the limestone ram features detailed spiraling horns emerging from a proportional head attached to a smoothed body. The second figurine, made of smoothed dolomite, is depicted in the abstract, with small horns separating a head from an elongated and curved body. Archaeologists associated with the excavation have presented multiple theories for the usage of the figurines. Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily suggests that the Neolithic figurines may have been ceremonial or good-luck charms related to hunting, whereas archaeologist Anna Eirikh suggests that the figurines may be associated with the domestication of these animals at the site.
Stone Neolithic figurines provide a unique insight into the artistry of some of the world’s early settled and increasingly agricultural communities. While some larger sites such as Jericho were well established in the preceding Pre-Pottery Neolithic A period, PPNB settlements were marked by a more complex town structure, with denser clusters of buildings, more rooms per structure and multi-level building spaces, as can be seen at Tel Motza. Some PPNB settlements show evidence of the early creation of pottery, and the largest settlements, including ‘Ain Ghazal, Basta and Abu Hureyra, are estimated to have had thousands of inhabitants. Tel Motza is one of the largest Neolithic sites near Jerusalem, and the discovery of Neolithic figures will certainly attract greater attention to the site.
**December 2012 update: Excavations at Tel Motza have uncovered a First Temple period ritual structure and cultic items. Read more here.
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