Marble Head of a Boxer (Maybe) Found in Israel

Rather amazing how much press coverage there is for this already. A small figurine, dating from the second or third century, depicting what is believed to be a boxer or at least an athlete, has been found during the course of a dig in the City of David.

Dixit Dr. Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets (on behalf of the IAA):
“To the best of our knowledge, to date no similar artifact made of marble (or any other kind of stone) bearing the same image that was just found has been discovered in excavations elsewhere in the country… It seems that what we have here is a unique find.”

“The high level of finish on the figurine is extraordinary, while meticulously adhering to the tiniest of details. Its short curly beard, as well as the position of its head which is slightly inclined to the right, are indicative of an obviously Greek influence and show that it should be dated to the time of the emperor Hadrian or shortly thereafter (second-third centuries CE). This is one of the periods when the art of Roman sculpture reached its zenith. The pale yellow shade of the marble alludes to the eastern origin of the raw material from which the image was carved, probably from Asia Minor, although this matter still needs to be checked”.

While they’re probably right that it’s an image of an athlete of some sort, when I first saw it, the ‘droopy’ eyelids and hairline reminded me of Philip the Arab, perhaps rather less-than-idealized. The object is a weight, however, designed to be used with hanging scales and, we are told, images of athlete-types were popular in this role.

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