Courtesy Nahman Avigad

The only animal figure discovered in the excavations, this open-mouthed fish decorates a fragment of a stone table from Jerusalem’s Upper City. In first-century B.C. Jerusalem, Jews for the most part observed a strict interpretation of the second commandment, reading it to forbid the making of all graven images.

Flowers and geometric patterns like those on either side of the fish were common decorative motifs, but the fish is an anomaly.