The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of a headless statue of Hercules at a site 3 miles (4 km) northwest of Afula in the Jezreel Valley. From the press release:

A rare statue of Hercules was exposed at Horvat Tarbenet in the Jezreel Valley in excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority, within the framework of the Jezreel Valley Railway project, directed by the Israel National Roads Company
A marble statue of Hercules from the second century CE was uncovered in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting at Horvat Tarbenet, within the framework of the Jezreel Valley Railway project, directed by the Israel National Roads Company.
According to Dr. Walid Atrash of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is a rare discovery. The statue, which probably stood in a niche, was part of the decoration of a bathhouse pool that was exposed during the course of the excavations. It is c. 0.5 m tall, is made of smoothed white marble and is of exceptional artistic quality. Hercules is depicted in three dimension, as a naked figure standing on a base. His bulging muscles stand out prominently, he is leaning on a club to his left, on the upper part of which hangs the skin of the Nemean lion, which according to Greek mythology Hercules slew as the first of his twelve labors”.

The press release continues here. Three (similar) photos of the statue are available in a zip file.


Hercules statue discovered at Horvat Tarbenet. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

UPDATE (8/16): The story is reported in the Jerusalem Post.


The construction of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo has authorities seeking to bring back the most impressive items that have left the country. Yesterday’s story in the Boston Globe reveals some of the inner workings in the case of the bust of Prince Ankhhaf now in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. It’s an interesting read, particularly if you are concerned with the movement to repatriate antiquities. Unlike some other cases, no one disputes the legality of Boston’s ownership.

In a smoky office a short drive from the Pyramids of Giza, Mohamed Saleh, once the director of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum and now the man in charge of the collections for a planned $550 million Grand Egyptian Museum, is asked how much he knows about the bust of Prince Ankhhaf. The precious 4,500-year-old statue, 20 inches tall, left Egypt decades ago and is now on prominent display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
Saleh nods, smiles, and opens his laptop. Just a few clicks, and the stoic ancient face pops onto his screen. Four words are all Saleh needs.
“It is a dream,’’ he says.
The dream is the idea of the Ankhhaf bust returning from Boston, where it has rested since 1927. The Egyptian government is demanding the statue’s return, and the MFA has refused.
But this conflict – one of many the MFA has faced over works in its permanent collection – has been further complicated by the recent tumult in the Egyptian government. And while some claims for ownership of works can be made on legal grounds, this one treads on murkier terrain. The bust of Ankhhaf was given to the MFA by a previous Egyptian government, so the current government has no legal case. Any appeal must be made on moral grounds: that the piece is part of Egypt’s patrimony, and belongs at home.

The story continues here, but you must go to the museum’s website for photos.

HT: Jack Sasson