Open Menu


  • Tags: Lachish
IAA 1980-2~Female figurine, Jerusalem, Iron Age II, 8th century BCE#2.tif

Female figurines from Jerusalem and Bethlehem and figurine and fragments from Lachish

Female figurines with prominent breasts and a moulded or pinched head on a solid pillar type base are common at Judean sites. For this reason figurines of this type have become known as Judean Pillar Figurines. They are well attested in Jerusalem, Lachish, and other sites in Judah.The figurines shown here are from Jerusalem (Jewish Quarter), Bethlehem, and Lachish. The fragments from Lachish remind us that most figurines are often found in a fragmentary state, having been broken and thrown away with common refuse in antiquity.  The meaning and use of these figurines is unclear. The figurines are clearly female, leading to suggestions that they are linked with fertility and childbearing, representing a goddess such as Asherah or Ashtarte or perhaps the women who worship the female deity. They differ, however, from the much clearer Late Bronze Age plaque figurines of such goddesses, insofar as these figurines lack any clear indicators that they are, indeed, goddesses. Some scholars have suggested that they might have had an apotropaic (for warding off evil) use. The figurines are found quite commonly in domestic contexts, and occasionally in funerary ones. This indicates that, whatever their specific use, they formed part of the daily life and rituals of ancient Judah and Jerusalem. They should not be isolated from the rest of Judah's figurine repertoire—most notably the horses and riders, as well as couches. They all formed part of a miniature world in which social meanings were represented and manipulated.

Model chair IAA 1934-127.jpg

Chair model from Lachish

The miniature figural world of Judah included not only female figurines and horses (with or without rider), but also model furniture such as this chair and the couch from Beersheba. Little is known of the use and meaning of these figurines. However, the fact that they are found in both domestic and funerary contexts suggests that they must have formed part of daily life and its rituals. It should be remembered that furniture was probably owned only by those better off in society and was probably a status symbol. A chair, in particular, may be understood as a throne, and in this sense it may represent authority—the authority of a king or queen, or the authority of a male or female god. As the archaeological context does not shed any clearer light, however, these suggestions remain speculative.

BM 124908 (cult objects).jpg

Sennacherib's South West Palace at Nineveh, portraying the capture of Lachish

This panel is part of a series of wall reliefs excavated from the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s (ruled 705–681 BCE) palace at Nineveh. The panels records the Assyrian siege and eventual capture of the city of Lachish. The panel shown here depicts Assyrian soldiers carrying away cultic items from the city. Lachish was one of the most important cities in Judah, perhaps second only to Jerusalem, and it played an important role in the administration and military strength of the kingdom. Sennacherib’s army's siege of Lachish is reported in 2 Kings 18–19 (cf. Isaiah 36–37). On the upper left hand side of the relief the besieged city of Lachish is shown, with archers and siege engines (perhaps spiked battering rams) attacking the walls. On the upper level there are various trees, which probably represent the journey to Assyria on which the deportees in the bottom two registers are embarking. In the middle register Neo-Assyrian soldiers can be seen carrying away the spoils of war. These include a chariot and shields and, to the right of those pulling the chariot, two figures are shown carrying incense stands or burners. These are cultic (religious) items that have been looted from the city, either from its main shrine or from private homes. Cultic items were a prized spoil of war, because they symbolised the defeat of the god associated with them, and the power of the god of the attacking forces.  A similar practice may be seen on one of Tiglath-pileser III's wall reliefs. The Bible does not record the Assyrians plunder of cultic items during Sennacherib's invasion (perhaps because Hezekiah was supposed to have destroyed them, according 2 Kings 18:4), but it does report that the Babylonians took cultic items away from the Temple of Yhwh when they attacked Jerusalem in 597 BCE and when they destroyed it in 586 BCE (2 Kings 24:13; 25:13–17).