In March 2004, during an underwater rescue survey carried out at the submerged Neolithic site at Newe Yam (Permit No. A-4076; map ref. 193597/731287), an anthropomorphic figurine was found. The survey, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Haifa University, was directed by E. Galili (drafting and photography), with the assistance of volunteer divers. The figurine was studied by L.K. Horwitz (archaeozoology) and B. Rosen (iconography); it was drawn by L. Zeiger.
One of the animal bones recovered from the site was revealed while cleaning to be an anthropomorphic figurine (length 21.5 cm, minimal shaft width 3.5 cm, minimal shaft circumference 11.7 cm; Figs. 2, 3). The figurine was made on a left shaft of a cattle femur. Part of the distal epiphysis was intentionally removed, and the resulting edge of the shaft was smoothed and polished, creating the base of the figurine. The proximal epiphysis and proximal end of the femur shaft were broken in antiquity, leaving a stepped fracture and a longitudinal crack. Judging by the size of the bone and its texture, it derives from an adult animal.
The bone bears an incised anthropomorphic figure intermingled with decorative motifs that cover most of the surface of one of its aspects. No additional working is evident on the other aspect of the shaft. The features of the incised figure are schematically drawn. On the proximal end of the shaft, two eyes are engraved. Each eye is outlined by incised, oval-shaped double lines. These paired lines join at the left and right inner extremities of the eyes like a pair of spectacles. The pupil is clearly depicted at the center of each eye as a large, round and shallow depression. Both above each eye and below them is a multitude of short, incised vertical lines that are placed close together, as if forming a fringe, that depicts the eyelashes. At a distance of 1 cm above the ‘lashes’ of the left eye (the upper right portion of the bone is missing) is a single incised line, topped again with multiple short, vertical lines, probably depicting the eyebrow. Above it are two additional lines, perhaps indicating a hairline or a head-dress. Below the eyes there is no depiction of a nose, a mouth or breasts. Instead, there is an incised pattern comprising three upright triangles filled with cross-hatching alternating with four single upright plant motifs, representing palm fronds or stalks of wheat. Below this decorative motif are two sets of three horizontal, parallel lines that delineate the entire worked area of the bone. These lines do not encircle the entire bone and are absent on the unworked aspect. The sets of lines are spaced 2.5–3.0 cm apart, and the space between them is filled with cross hatching, perhaps representing clothing and belts. Below the last set of lines is an inverted triangle that probably depicts a female pubis. It is filled with short vertical lines arraigned in a row. No engraving is found below or adjacent to the pubis outline.
The Newe Yam figurine closely resembles in raw material (a mammal bone), in shape and in its curved motifs ‘eye-idol’ figurines from Spain (Gimbutas 1989:54; Maicas Ramos 2009). In the southern Levant, the figurine resembles the incised, but much smaller, bone figurines from Ha-Gosherim (Getzov 2011: Fig. 10:43) and Kabri (Yizraeli-Noy 1999: Fig. 110). As discussed at length in Galili et al. (in press), these figurines represents the artistic and symbolic life of southern Levantine communities in the eighth millennium BP.
Galili E., Eshed V., Rosen B., Kislev M., Simchoni O., Hershkovitz I. and Gopher A. 2010. Evidence for a Separate Burial Ground at the Submerged Pottery Neolithic Site of Neve-Yam, Israel. Paléorient 35:31–46.
Galili E., Rosen B., Orrelle E., Yaroshevich A. and Horwitz L.K. In press. Figurative Representations from Neve-Yam Submerged Village and Contemporary Inland Sites in Israel: Symbolic Markers of the Wadi Rabah Culture. IEJ.
Galili E., Sharvit Y. and Nagar A. 1998. Nevé Yam – Underwater Survey. ESI 18:35–36.
Getzov N. 2011. Seals and Figurines from the Beginning of the Early Chalcolithic Period at the Site of Ha-Gosherim. ‘Atiqot 67:1–26 (Hebrew; English summary, pp. 81*–83*).
Gimbutas M. 1989. The Language of the Goddess: Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization. San Francisco.
Maicas Ramos R. 2009. Los ojos que todo lo ven: oculados del Sureste. In J.A. Martos Ojos que nunca se cierran (Catalogue, Museo Arqueológico Nacional). Madrid. Pp. 115–136.
Yizraeli-Noy 1999. The Human Image in the Prehistoric Art of the Land of Israel (Catalogue, The Israel Museum). Jerusalem (Hebrew).