An Archaeological Mystery: Why Ancient Hebrews Made Figurines of Naked Women

In First Temple-period Judah, statuettes of women holding up their breasts were apparently a must-have item, but were they images of Yahweh’s wife, fertility figurines, or something else?

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Female figurines found in Israel from the First Temple period
Figurines from ancient Judah, some with molded heads and some with ‘pinched’ headsCredit: Chamberi
Ariel David
Ariel David
Ariel David
Ariel David

Their name couldn’t possibly sound less exciting: Judean Pillar Figurines. But behind this dry technical nomenclature lies a headscratcher that has stumped experts for more than a century. Ever since archaeologists began digging up the remains of Jerusalem and the surrounding Kingdom of Judah from the First Temple period, one find has consistently cropped up: thousands of clay statuettes of an apparently naked woman using her hands to hold up her breasts.

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