The sculpture, which dates back nearly 3,000 years, has also set off a modern-day mystery as experts try to determine whose face it depicts.
Sculpture Discovered In Ancient City Mentioned In The Bible
The sculpture was discovered by an engineering student from Jerusalem in 2017 in a large building at the highest point of Abel Beth Maacah, an ancient city in northern Israel mentioned several times in the Hebrew Bible. The site was home to a village known as Abil al-Qamh.
A similarly named city mentioned in the Book of Kings was one of the cities attacked by the Aramean King Ben Hadad in a campaign against the kingdom of Israel.
Face Of A King
The 2-inch object depicts a man with long, black hair, dark, almond-shaped eyes, a beard, and a serious expression on the face.
According to experts, a crucial clue to indicate that the object depicts a monarch is its hairdo. The hair is pulled back in thin locks that cover the ears and held in place by a striped diadem of gold.
Experts said that the sculpture is an extremely rare example of figurative art from the Holy Land during the 9th century BCE, a period linked with Biblical kings. Nothing like this has been found before.
A Royal Enigma
Although scholars are certain that the figure represents royalty, they are not as certain which king it depicts and which kingdom he may have ruled. During the 9th century BCE, the borders of three different kingdoms namely Tyre, Aram-Damascus, and Israel were near Abel Beth Maacah.
The borders also often changed, which means Abel Beth Maacah was controlled by different kingdoms at different times. Experts said that the object may have depicted King Hazael of Aram-Damascus, King Ahab of Israel, or King Ethbaal of Tyre, although there are also other candidates.
"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," said Robert Mullins, from Azusa Pacific's Department of Biblical and Religious Studies. "The head represents a royal enigma."
Details about the ancient figure will be published in the June issue of Near Eastern Archaeology journal. The artifact is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.