Head of king

PICTURE: Gaby Laron/The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

A small glazed ceramic head unearthed in an archaeological dig in northern Israel may be that of a Biblical king, according to the lead archaeologist involved in the excavation.

The head - which recently went on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem - was found during a joint  Azusa Pacific University/Hebrew University of Jerusalem dig at Tel Abel Beth Maacah. The small head, which measures just five by 5.5 centimetres and may have topped a figurine of 20 to 25 centimetres high, has been dated to the 9th century BC. It depicts a man with black hair held back with a yellow and black headband and a manicured beard.

Robert Mullins, lead archaeologist at Abel Beth Maacah and chair and professor in Azusa Pacific’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies, said the elegant style indicates the man was a distinguished person and probably a king.

“Despite the head’s small and innocuous appearance, it provides us with a unique opportunity to gaze into the eyes of a famous person from the past; a past enshrined in the Book of Ages,” said Mullins.

“Given that the head was found in a city that sat on the border of three different ancient kingdoms, we do not know whether it depicts the likes of King Ahab of Israel, King Hazael of Aram-Damascus, or King Ethbaal of Tyre, rulers known from the Bible and other sources. The head represents a royal enigma.”

The ancient city of Abel Beth Maacah is mentioned several times in the Bible - in I and II Kings and II Samuel.