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2,500-Year-Old Pottery Fragment May Depict Jokester Deity

Monday, March 25, 2019

Jerusalem Bes vesselJERUSALEM, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Times of Israel, a Persian-period fragment of a pottery vessel bearing the image of a deity named Bes has been discovered in a refuse pit in City of David National Park. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority explained that Bes, a character from Egyptian mythology, was often depicted as a fat, bearded dwarf with googly eyes and a protruding tongue. The god was also sometimes portrayed as a slim jester wearing a feathered hat. Bes was thought to drive away evil spirits with laughter, and was considered the protector of households, children, mothers, and women giving birth. Similar Bes vessels have been found in Persian-period settlements along the Mediterranean coast, and are thought to have been carried there by Egyptian traders. This fragment, the first depiction of Bes discovered in Jerusalem, shows two wide-open eyes, a nose, one ear, and a corner of a mouth. To read about Bes' presence in tattoos, go to “Ancient Tattoos: Faience Figurine and Bowl.”

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