Hebrew Union College/Gezer Expedition

THE TIPOFF. This terra-cotta phallus was uncovered in 1969 in Stratum XI at Tel Gezer, an important settlement halfway between Jerusalem and modern Tel Aviv. An inch long, the phallus is clearly circumcised. This would not normally pose a problem since many peoples in the ancient Near East practiced circumcision. The people who had inhabited Stratum XI, which dates to the late 12th to the mid-11th century B.C.E., however, had been thought to have been Philistines—a people frequently described by the Bible as uncircumcised. Philip J. King, an area supervisor at Stratum XI when the discovery was made, explains in the accompanying article that this phallus helped excavators identify that stratum as Canaanite—a people that did practice circumcision—rather than Philistine. King also traces the origins and extent of this ancient practice.