BAR 38:02, Mar/Apr 2012
What Were They Used For? What Did They Do with Them?
Little figurines are ubiquitous in the ancient Near East, including in ancient Israel. Almost all of them are made of clay. A few are made of plaster and painted—like the one pictured here. Many more plaster figurines probably existed, but they have not been preserved. Plaster crumbles; clay is well-nigh indestructible, even if only small pieces endure for ages.
The plaster figurine, from the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa, was acquired from a local antiquities dealer in Israel, so it was probably manufactured locally. It dates to the Roman or Byzantine period.
Painted in red and black, the woman wears a floor-length tunic with a red neckband. The roundels on her shoulders are repeated near the bottom of her skirt. On the bottom edge of the tunic is a band with triangles, colored red like the neckband. The woman has large eyes with eyebrows and wears a red cap. Between her breasts she holds a large egg-shaped object. But what is it?