Whose head is this?
This two-inch figure’s golden crown shows he was royalty. But which king was he? What kingdom did he rule?
Archaeologists unearthed the tiny figurine in 2017 at a site called Abel Beth Maacah. That’s south of Israel’s border with the country of Lebanon. Bible-readers recognized the name Abel Beth Maacah from a list of cities in the Bible. (1 Kings 15:20)
A volunteer discovered the treasure. It comes from the 9th century B.C. during a historical period called the Iron Age. Art of human figures is extremely rare from that time in history. When it is discovered, it is normally of low quality. But except for a missing bit of beard, this king is in great shape. He’s made of faience, a glass-like material. People in Egypt and the Middle East used faience to form small human and animal figurines.
Hebrew University archaeologist Naama Yahalom-Mack says the figure’s hairdo shows he was a king. His hair is pulled back. Thick locks cover his ears. A striped crown of gold holds the hair place. The hairstyle looks similar to the way Egyptians depicted their Middle Eastern neighbors in art.
The books of 1 and 2 Kings tell the histories of the kings who ruled God’s people, the Israelites. But many kings ruled in this region during the 9th century. Archaeologists make guesses. Is this stern-looking person King Ben Hadad or Hazael of Damascus? Is he the wicked King Ahab of Israel? Or Ithobaal of Tyre? “It's like a hello from the past,” says Ms. Yahalom-Mack. “But we don't know anything else about it.”
Was the head a stand-alone piece? Or did it belong to a larger statue? While scholars debate, archaeologists grab their shovels. It’s time to start digging in the same place. Maybe they’ll find more treasure. Maybe they’ll find clues about the king’s identity. And maybe they’ll find the rest of the statue’s body!