The First Bes Discovered in Jerusalem
On October 9, the day after Sukkot, a mysterious, tiny, chalky item fell out of a wall that was carefully being dismantled. The artifact, only about an inch tall, is a necklace pendant depicting the ancient Egyptian idol named Bes.
According to Dr. Eilat Mazar, the white pendant is made out of faience, and was originally green. She said that it was a miracle that the artifact survived after being buried in between dirt and stone. It is also the first Bes idol ever to be found in Jerusalem.
Bes was believed to be ancient Egypt’s god of fertility who helped with childbirth and was a protector and entertainer of children. He was often portrayed with a large head, feathered crown, protruding tongue and bowlegs.
New information regarding Bes has been revealed recently in drawings on a pithos discovered at the Kuntillet ‘Ajrud excavation in the Sinai desert. The drawings on the pithos, though first discovered in the 1970s, have since faded to reveal a change in the figures depicted.
Biblical Archaeology Review wrote in their November/December 2012 issue, “According to Pirhiya Beck, who interpreted the drawings for a 1982 article (she has since died), the two main figures [in the pithos drawing] … are both male. All agree that they are depictions of the Egyptian deity Bes with typical wide-legged stance, arms akimbo, grotesque facial features, feathered headdresses, and only a lion skin for a garment.”
After several years, however, the soot on the pithos faded to reveal that the second figure might actually be female. The pictures of the drawings on record were updated accordingly in 2012, and some say the update could “change the interpretation of the whole scene” (ibid.).
Whether or not the ancient pagan god Bes is proven to be exclusively male or that he is sometimes depicted as a male and female couple, it is interesting that this latest revelation and subsequent debate coincides with our discovery of the first Bes idol in Jerusalem.