Just in time for Purim: Persian jar decorated with mask found in Jerusalem’s Old City

March 21, 2019 by TPS
Read on for article

A fragment of a clay jar decorated with a human face dating back to the Persian period was discovered in the Givati parking lot excavation in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, the first time such a vessel was found in archaeological excavations in Jerusalem or any site in the Judean Hills.

Photo by Eliyahu Yanai

The face on the jar has two wide open eyes, a nose, one ear and a small section of the corner of the mouth and depicts the deity Bes. The shard is dated to the Persian period, the 4th – 5th century BCE.

This intriguing finding was found in the Givati Parking Lot excavation in the City of David in a large refuse pit that contained numerous other pottery fragments that dated to the Persian period.

Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority noted that “pottery from this period was exposed in the past in the City of David, but this is the first time that such a vessel has been found in archaeological excavations in Jerusalem or anywhere in the Judean highlands.”

These types of jars are called “Bes-Vessels” and they were very common during the Persian period.

In Egyptian mythology, Bes is the protector deity of households, especially mothers, women in childbirth, and children. Over time, he was regarded as the defender of everything good. He was also associated with music and dancing. His figure adorned the walls of houses and various vessels or worn as an amulet around the neck.

Bes is usually depicted as a kind of bearded dwarf with a large face, protruding eyes and tongue sticking out while he is wearing a feather hat.

The grotesque figure is intended to evoke joy and laughter and drive away the evil spirits.

Bes was apparently adopted by the Phoenicians, and many such amulets and Bes vessels have been found in numerous Persian Period settlements along Israel’s coast. Such vessels and amulets were also found in Persia itself, in Shushan, Persepolis and other cities, arriving there by Egyptian craftsmen who traveled there as part of the international trade economy of the period.


Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

Got something to say about this?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.