Sculpted head of mystery biblical king found in Israel

An enigmatic sculpture of a king’s head dating back nearly 3,000 years has set off a modern-day mystery caper as scholars try to figure out whose face it depicts.

The 5-centimeter (2-inch) sculpture is an exceedingly rare example of figurative art from the Holy Land during the 9th century B.C. — a period associated with biblical kings. Exquisitely preserved but for a bit of missing beard, nothing quite like it has been found before.

While scholars are certain the stern bearded figure wearing a golden crown represents royalty, they are less sure which king it symbolizes, or which kingdom he may have ruled…

Nineteenth-century archaeologists identified the site, then home to a village called Abil al-Qamh, with the similarly named city mentioned in the Book of Kings.

During the 9th century B.C., the ancient town was situated in a liminal zone between three regional powers: the Aramean kingdom based in Damascus to the east, the Phoenician city of Tyre to the west, and the Israelite kingdom, with its capital in Samaria to the south.

Kings 1 15:20 mentions Abel Beth Maacah in a list of cities attacked by the Aramean King Ben Hadad in a campaign against the Israelite kingdom…

Because Carbon-14 dating cannot give a more exact date for the statue’s creation other than sometime in the 9th century, the field of potential candidates is large. Yahalom-Mack posited it could be kings Ben Hadad or Hazael of Damascus, Ahab or Jehu of Israel, or Ithobaal of Tyre, all characters appearing in the biblical narrative.

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