Smashed 4,300-Year-Old Statue Head Depicts An Unknown Ruler


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

Who is this sculpture of? Archaeologists believe they are closer to finding out. Gaby Laron/Hebrew University/Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in memory of Yigael Yadin

This battered yet beautiful 4,300-year-old statue head was found among the ruins of Hazor in present-day Israel. Since its discovery in the 1990s by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, archaeologists have been mystified by its identity.

Now, as discussed in the new book Hazor VII: The 1990-2012 Excavations, the Bronze Age by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Israel Exploration Society, archaeologists believe they are getting closer to revealing who the statue portrays. Excitingly, their analysis suggests the head belongs to a statue of an Egyptian pharaoh.


“The person depicted wears a short, close-fitting, curled cap wig, topped by a uraeus, the solar cobra that rises above the forehead of [a] Pharaoh in ancient Egyptian iconography, thus identifying our character as a king of Egypt beyond any doubt,” the researchers wrote.

Previous Hazor excavations, headed by the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, have found other artifacts at the site that trace back to Egypt. Take, for example, the large fragment of an Egyptian sculpture they found last year.

The rock that the sculpture is made from is also a big giveaway. It's a kind of sandstone called graywacke, a metamorphic rock only quarried in the ancient Near East, in an ancient Egyptian town called Wadi Hammamat.

Although the style and features of the statue's face are characteristic of the Fifth Dynasty, the researchers were unable to pin down exactly which king it depicts.


Other questions still remain. Only the head of the statue was found at the site and it’s believed to have been purposely smashed. So, what happened? Who smashed it? Rather strangely, archaeologists haven't been able to recover the rest of the statue.

The Book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible, aka the Old Testament, described the town of Hazor as “the head of all those kingdoms” and depicts how the army of Joshua invaded the city. While the Bible isn’t necessarily the most reliable historical source, there’s archaeological evidence to suggest the settlement was destroyed around 1,200 BCE. Perhaps then, the statue was intentionally vandalized during this invasion.

[H/T: Live Science]


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