Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums

Anthropoid coffin lid. Found at Beth Shean in Israel’s Jordan River Valley, this clay coffin lid dates to the time of Saul, the second half of the 11th century B.C. About 50 anthropoid coffins were found at Beth Shean. The majority are molded in a naturalistic style, with their faces clearly outlined. In contrast, on this lid and on four others, no facial outlines are delineated. The lid is the face—a fact that gives these lids, aptly called “grotesque,” a bizarre, caricature-like effect. The face on this lid is boldly stylized: it has a high-ridged nose and deep horizontal-groove mouth; the chin is barely indicated; the arms and hands are disproportionately small and stick-like.

The distinctive feature of this particular lid is the applique headdress which is remarkably similar to the headdresses of the Philistine warriors depicted in the Medinet Habu reliefs. Although other anthropoid coffins have been found in Canaan and in Egypt, none of those has this unique headgear—a clear indication that the bodies buried in these anthropoid coffins were Sea Peoples, probably Philistines.