Ancient Dolphin Statue Unearthed in the Negev Desert

2,000-year-old marble sculpture depicts dolphin catching a fish

mazarin-venus

This second-century C.E. marble statue of Venus (the Roman equivalent of Aphrodite) features the goddess alongside a dolphin, which offers both physical support and alludes to Venus’s birth from the sea. The dolphin statue recently found in the Negev could have once supported a statue of the goddess of love just like this one, known as the Mazarin Venus. Photo: Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

magen-dolphin

Archaeologists discovered an ancient dolphin statue in Israel’s Negev desert. Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists excavating this past February–March near Kibbutz Magen in Israel uncovered an ancient dolphin statue dating back about 2,000 years. The discovery of the statue, which depicts a dolphin diving downward with a fish in its mouth, was recently announced in a press release issued by the IAA in Hebrew.

Kibbutz Magen is located in the northwestern Negev desert, close to the border of the Gaza Strip. The IAA archaeologists discovered the marble statue within the ruins of a late Byzantine–early Umayyad period (fourth–seventh centuries C.E.) settlement. Alexander Fraiberg, who led the excavation, believes the marble statue dates to the Roman period—and thus pre-dates the building in which it was found.

The archaeologists think that the ancient dolphin statue—the remains of which measure just under a foot and a half—could have been part of a life-size sculpture depicting a god or goddess associated with dolphins.

“It is possible that the statue was of the [Greek] goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, who was born from seafoam,” said IAA archaeologist Rina Avner, according to the Times of Israel. “It is also possible that the statue was of Poseidon, god of the sea.”

The dolphin was a common motif in ancient Mediterranean art across millennia, from Minoan wall paintings to Greek vase paintings to Roman statuary.

Read more in the Times of Israel.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and ancient practices—from dining to makeup—throughout the Mediterranean world.

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Byzantine Monastery with Vibrant Mosaics Discovered in the Northern Negev

Ancient Wine of Gaza: 1,500-Year-Old Grape Seeds Found in the Negev

Hercules’ Labors Found in the Baths
 


 

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  • Kurt says

    Idolatry and God’s Covenant People. As Jehovah had indicated to Abraham, his descendants, the Israelites, became alien residents in a land not theirs, namely Egypt, and suffered affliction there. (Ge 15:13) In Egypt they came in contact with rank idolatry, for image making ran riot in that country. Many of the deities worshiped there were represented by animal heads, among them being the cat-headed Bast, the cow-headed Hathor, the falcon-headed Horus, the jackal-headed Anubis,and the ibis-headed Thoth, to name but a few. Creatures of sea, air, and land were venerated, and at death “sacred” animals were mummified.
    Viewpoint Toward Idolatry. Faithful servants of Jehovah have always regarded idols with abhorrence. In Scripture, false gods and idols are repeatedly referred to in contemptible terms, as being valueless (1Ch 16:26; Ps 96:5; 97:7), horrible (1Ki 15:13; 2Ch 15:16), shameful (Jer 11:13; Ho 9:10), detestable (Eze 16:36, 37), and disgusting (Eze 37:23). Often mention is made of “dungy idols,” this expression being a rendering of the Hebrew word gil·lu·limʹ, which is related to a word meaning “dung.” (1Ki 14:10; Zep 1:17) This term of contempt, first appearing at Leviticus 26:30, is found nearly 40 times in the book of Ezekiel alone, beginning with chapter 6, verse 4.
    Servants of Jehovah must guard themselves from idols (1Jo 5:21), even today. It was foretold that great pressures would be brought to bear against all the inhabitants of the earth to worship the symbolic “wild beast” and its “image.” None who persist in such idolatrous worship will receive God’s gift of life everlasting. “Here is where it means endurance for the holy ones.”—Re 13:15-17; 14:9-12; see DISGUSTING THING, LOATHSOME THING.
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200272442


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