A Unique Biblical-Era Head Could Depict an Ancient King

For several years, archaeologists have been exploring an ancient site in northern Israel they have identified as Abel-beth-maacah, a city mentioned in the biblical books of Samuel and Kings. Among their finds is an exquisitely sculpted miniature head, made from a material known as faience and likely dating to the 9th century BCE. Naama Yahalom-Mack describes the object’s significance:

The head measures 5.5 by 5 centimeters and has carefully executed features, including glossy black tresses combed back from a headband painted in yellow and black and a manicured beard of similar style and color as the hairdo. The tint of the skin is light green. The almond-shaped eyes and the pupils are lined with black and the pursed lips lend the figure a look that is part pensive, part stern. The tip of the nose and the beard are broken, and it is difficult to say whether the head was broken off at the neck. This is an important question, as it would indicate whether the head was part of a larger figure. . . .

To date, the object remains one of a kind. There are no exact parallels. Other bearded male heads are known in the Iron Age, but these are usually made of clay and are very crude. None are naturalistic like [this] figure. Several contemporary bearded male heads made of faience were found in the north of Israel, in sites such as Tel Dan and Tel Yokn’am. However, these are of different styles and none resembles [this] head in style or quality.

Its naturalistic depiction raises the possibility that a specific individual is being portrayed, but the figure could also very well be a general depiction of how the Egyptians viewed Asiatics, including Canaanites and Israelites—bearded and wearing a striped head band—particularly during the Ramesside period. . . . But unless the head was an heirloom from Ramesside Egypt, [making it] some 300 years earlier than the archaeological context in which it was found, its origin should be sought closer at hand. . . .

Whatever the origin, the question remains of why it was produced. The tidy hairdo with the concealed ears and . . . the high craftsmanship and uniqueness of the object indicate that the head was specially made for something or for someone. Was this the head of a royal figure or a dignitary? And if so, could we be staring at the face of a historical figure from the 9th century BCE?

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Read more at Ancient Near East Today

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians