Canaanite Idol

Canaan, Late Bronze Age, XIV-XIIIe century BCE

REF No.9807 Bronze with green patina
H 25 cm

This remarkable sitting statue, of an impressive size, would have most likely been placed on a separate chair or stool. The use of Tenon would have most likely have been used on the feet and on the gluteal area to keep it in place. She is wearing a long gown and her hair is styled in a high ribbed parted hairdo. It is possible that her large eyes were incrusted with other materials. She holds a peace sign gesture on her left hand, with the inferior part of her left arm folded at the elbow, stretching out towards the viewer, see similar statue in the MET Museum. Her bronze body would have most likely have been covered in gold, which would have protected the metal from severe weather conditions, and also served to add to its appearance and amplify its divine nature. The sitting position, the exaggerated features and the hairdo / hair-gear permits us to identify the figurine as a divinity. This small statue would have thus been used in rituals, most likely playing the role of a votive or cult figurine.
During the I – II BC millennials, in the Levant, Canaanite idols created used to incorporate elements of multiple cultures. If this figurine might seem banal today, back in the day this type of imagery used to evoke passion in a moment when the monotheist cult began to develop itself in the Levant. In reality, these images posed a challenge to the new religious ideas that classified them as pagan gods. The idols that were destroyed by the first Jewish patriarchs, who lived during the beginning of the Iron Age, date from the same period as the piece concerned.
Canaan designates a region in Ancient Middle East, situated along the oriental river of the Mediterranean Sea. The name “Phoenician” was later attributed to the northern part of the region by the Greeks, whilst the south part, occupied by the Hebrews, is known under the name of Palestine after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
The name “Palestine”, derived from the ancient name Philistins, references a geographical location that encompasses today’s Israel and Jordan region. The Oriental Institute of Chicago possesses a spectacular collection of Palestine objects coming from archeological sites in Megiddo, executed by the Institute before the Second World War. This large region situated to the West of the fertile Plain of Esdraelon contains the rests of Tel Megiddo (generally associated with the biblical Armageddon). The most famous objects from the museum are in the ivory collection from Megiddo dating from the XIII century BC. The collection also has an extraordinary variety of artifacts that witnessed the birth and the development of the city and its culture. The archeological excavations in the 60s under the command of Beth Yerah (Khirbet Kerak), in the South-West of the Sea of Galilee, and at Nahal Tabor in a valley in Jordan, expanded the collection of pieces dating from the beginning of the Bronze Age that were poorly represented in the collection coming from Megiddo.
In Canaan, as elsewhere in the region, the habitants developed an advanced society. They had a written language system, mathematics, a calendar, and they became skilled artisans, capable of creating magnificent artworks. The main cities in the Canaan region were Jericho, Ugarit, Tyre, Sidon, Ebla, Biblos, Lachish, Hazor, Megiddo, Jerusalem, and later on the Phoenician colony in Northern Africa, Carthage.

Missing the right hand
Provenance: private Swiss Collection of Monsieur G.C., Genève.

Literature: J. M. Golden, Ancient Canaan and Israel : New Perspectives, ABC-CLIO, 2004

Lester L. Grabbe, Andrew Mein, Claudia V. Camp, The Land of Canaan in
the Late Bronze Age, Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2017

Susan L. Cohen, Canaanites, Chronologies, and Connections :
The Relationship of Middle Bronze IIA Canaan to Middle Kingdom Egypt,
Eisenbrauns, 2001

Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, Princeton
University Press, 1993.

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