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The "Beersheba Venus"


The "Beersheba Venus"

Hippopotamus ivory

H: 12 cm

Israel Antiquities Authority


Archaeology/Chalcolithic & Canaanite Periods

A group of objects made of hippopotamus tusks was discovered in Beersheba. In a workshop found in a subterranean dwelling, a complete canine tooth was revealed, together with a stone worktable, cutters' tools and ivory splinters. This evidence of a local ivory industry, in addition to the large number and variety of ivory objects that were found, suggests the existence of a prolific and creative school of highly skilled artisans.

Carved from a single piece of tusk, this mysterious figurine - beautifully preserved though headless and missing part of the right arm - is a nude female, apparently in an advanced state of pregnancy, with a large circular aperture in the place of her navel. Her hands rest on her hips, and her legs are slightly flexed as if moving; her pubic hairs are marked by drill holes, which were probably originally filled with bitumen or another material. The figurine, which is curiously lifelike, has a smooth, highly-polished surface. It somewhat resembles Egyptian Predynastic ivories.

From the Israel Museum publications:

Treasures of the Holy Land, Ancient Art from the Israel Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1986

Zalmona, Yigal, ed., The Israel Museum at 40: Masterworks of Beauty and Sanctity, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2005

The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005

Beauty and Sanctity: the Israel Museum at 40. A Series of Exhibitions Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Zalmona, Yigal, 2006


The Beauty of Sanctity: Masterworks from Every Age, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 29/03/2005 - 12/11/2005

A Brief History of Humankind, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 01/05/2015 - 02/01/2016

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by:
The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir