David Harris

ON THE COVER: This crude clay figurine of a squatting women recently emerged from excavations at Tel Rehov, in the Jordan Valley. Perhaps representing the Canaanite goddess Asherah or Astarte, the 5.5-inch-tall nude has an elaborate coiffure, beaded choker and crescent-shaped earrings. The incision on her chest may represent a breastplate—perhaps in the shape of a snake. The figurine, which was made form a mold (the breastplate and legs were added), stands stiffly, with arms held closely to her sides—as is typical of goddess statues. The most unusual feature is her squatting stance. This posture—never before seen in a figurine from ancient Israel—may represent a birthing position. This is one of a handful of female figurines that may be dated firmly to the tenth century B.C., based on the stratigraphy, pottery and carbon 14 dating of associated finds.

The well-dated finds from Rehov are shedding light on this critical period, when, according to the Bible, Solomon and David ruled over Israel. Although the historicity of the Biblical account of the early kingdom has come under heavy fire in recent years, Amihai Mazar and John Camp ask, “Will Tel Rehov Save the United Monarchy?”