Thanks to the dedication and skills of archaeologists, new sources of historical artefacts are being found on a regular basis, adding to the knowledge of ancient times and sometimes allowing historians to dismiss previous presumptions. At other times, archaeological finds come up with objects of which the original purpose is unclear. That has happened in the case of the discovery of figurines in Israel, believed to be around 9,000 years old, which makes them even older than Moses, estimated to be alive around 1500-1400 BC.
The discovery was made by archaeologists who were excavating the site, known as the Tel Mosa dig, of an extension to Highway 1, connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Two figurines, one in the shape of a ram and the other in the shape of a bovine creature were found “near a large round building that had a foundation built from fieldstones, and an upper wall section apparently made of mud brick.” According to NBC News, the ram is sculpted from limestone and is about 6 inches long, while the bovine creature, which seems much more roughly hewn, is shaped from dolomite.
The ram is particularly intricately sculpted with the horns and legs carefully highlighted. The bovine animal, however, is far less obvious, but could be a buffalo or something similar. The figurines, architectural remains and other artefacts found at the site are believed to shed some light on the religious and social beliefs and practices of the people of the time. The building foundations, for example, suggest that the people were capable of more complex engineering than originally thought.
One of the directors of the dig believes that the figurines were good luck charms. The area in which they were found was known to be a major hunting site around the time that the figurines would have been made and could have been part of a ceremony in which the hunters participated before going out on a hunting session.
However, another director of the dig believes that they could be a symbol of the efforts at the time to domesticate animals such as goats and sheep. This suggestion is based on the knowledge that the period in which the figurines were sculpted, known as Pre Pottery Neolithic B, covered an important time period when a society primarily dominated by crop growing and hunting was turning into one dominated by animal husbandry and crop growing.
Further excavations could uncover more clues to pinpoint the use of the figurines, but in the meantime, the fact that such ancient artefacts have been uncovered has to be a cause for celebration, no matter what the original intention.