A small, extraordinary jug from the Middle Bronze Age was revealed with the help of high school students who take Archaeology classes, in a recent Israel Antiquities Authority excavation in the town of Yehud just outside Tel Aviv. In ancient-treasure laden Israel, such excavation are routinely launched ahead of construction projects.
According to Gilad Itach, excavation director on behalf of the IAA, “It literally happened on the last day of the excavation, when right in front of our eyes and the of the thrilled students, an unusual ceramic vessel c. 18 cm high was exposed, bearing the image of a person. It appears that the jug, which is typical of the period, was prepared first, and afterwards the unique sculpture – the likes of which has never before been discovered – was added.”
“The level of precision and attention to detail in creating this almost 4,000 year old sculpture is truly impressive,” Itach noted, adding that “the neck of the jug served as a base for forming the upper portion of the figure, after which the arms, legs and a face were added to the sculpture. One can see that the face of the figure seems to be resting on its hand as if in a state of reflection. It is unclear if the figure was made by the potter who prepared the jug or by another craftsman.”
Efrat Zilber, coordinating supervisor of the Land of Israel and Archaeology matriculation stream in the Ministry of Education, emphasized that “the archaeological excavations provide an opportunity for an intensive and direct experience that connects the pupils with our country’s past. An experiential learning experience involving research methods employed in archaeology takes place while revealing the artifacts. The students meet experts in a variety of fields who share their knowledge with them, enriching them and their world”.
In addition to the unique pottery vessel, other vessels and metal items were found in the site, such as daggers, arrowheads, an axe head, sheep bones and what are very likely the bones of a donkey. According to Itach, “It appears that these objects are funerary offerings that were buried in honor of an important member of this ancient community. It was common in antiquity to believe that the objects that were interred alongside the individual continued with him into the next world. To the best of my knowledge, such a rich funerary assemblage that also includes such a unique pottery vessel has never before been discovered in our country.”
In addition, a variety of evidence regarding the kind of life that existed in the area 6,000 years ago was exposed – among other things, pits and shafts were revealed containing thousands of fragments of pottery vessels, hundreds of flint and basalt implements, animal bones, and a churn – a unique vessel that was widely used in the Chalcolithic period for making butter.
The students of the Land of Israel and Archaeology matriculation stream participate in excavations as part of the new training course offered by the IAA and the Ministry of Education, which seeks to connect them with the past and help prepare the archaeologists of the future. Students who choose this course as part of their alternative evaluation for high school matriculation take part in a week of excavation. They experience the variety of jobs involved in the excavation, discuss questions regarding research and archaeological considerations and document the excavations in a field diary as part of their research work.
“Suddenly I saw many archaeologists and important people arriving who were examining and admiring something that was uncovered in the ground” recalls Ronnie Krisher, a student at the Ha’Roeh religious girls’ high school in Ramat Gan. “They immediately called all of us to look at the amazing statuette and explained that this is an extremely rare discovery, one that’s not encountered every day. It is exciting to be part of an excavation whose artifacts will be displayed in a museum.”