An Israeli Boy Thought He Found a Pebble. Turns Out, It’s an 11,000-year-old Fertility Figurine

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Itamar Barnea and the fertility figurine that he found.
Itamar Barnea and the fertility figurine that he found.Credit: Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority

An 8-year-old boy on a hike in the north of Israel had found what he thought was a pebble, but it turned out that it was a rare prehistoric figurine thought to be more than 11,000 years old. The find, in the form of a pregnant woman, is only the third of its kind ever found in Israel.

The boy, Itamar Barnea of Kibbutz Malkiya near the Lebanese border, is now 10. He had found the prehistoric statue near the Dishon stream in the Upper Galilee and put it into a box at home, giving it no further thought. About a month ago, his mother found it while straightening up the house and showed it to an archaeologist, Renate Rosenthal-Heginbottom, who sent to the Israel Antiquities Authority for further examination.

Ianir Milevski, who heads the prehistoric division of the Antiquities Authority, recognized that the find was a ritual fertility figurine dating back 11,500 years ago to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period.

The Neolithic era fertility figurine. Credit: Clara Amit/Israel Antiquities Authority

"The figurine, which at first glance is hard to see as having been shaped by human hands, is made from a pebble and is 37 by 23 by 25 millimeters," or roughly measuring an inch to an inch and a half on each side. "It depicts the figure of a pregnant woman and was made by rubbing and etching the surface of the pebble. The rounded head is set off from the body by etching and the legs were also etched in." Two similar figurines, which are not exactly identical, were found at sites along the Oren stream in the Carmel region and in the Jordan Valley.

"These figurines were a symbol of human fertility and there are researchers who view them as the 'mother goddess.' It's possible that the figurine served as an amulet," Milevski explained, referring to an object that was thought to protect its wearer from evil or harm. "This was a period during which humans in the Near East and southern Levant shifted to living in fixed locations, engaging in agriculture and beginning to domesticate animals. During the period, the issue of fertility in human society was very important."

Itamar Barnea, the boy from Kibbutz Malkiya, received a certificate of good citizenship from the Israel Antiquities Authority for handing over the statuette to the archaeologists.

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