Nude female figure

Iron Age II
ca. 8th–7th century B.C.
Levant, Lachish (modern Tell ed-Duweir)
H. 7 1/8 x W. 3 3/8 in. (18.1 x 8.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Harris D. and H. Dunscombe Colt, 1934
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 406
This type of pillar figurine is typical of those produced in great numbers in the kingdom of Judah at this time. Tell el-Duweir is ancient Lachish, the major fortified center in Judah that was destroyed by the Assyrian army under Sennacherib (701 B.C.). The city's fate is chronicled in the Bible and represented in wall reliefs from the Assyrian palace at Nineveh. This buxom goddess figurine with pillar base is nude and supports her breasts in her hands. The head is simply rendered with a short, tightly curled caplike hairdo articulated in ridges, and the facial features are mold-made and clearly articulated. This imagery and that on clay plaques with nude female figures probably represents fertility or mother goddesses. The figurines are found in domestic contexts and point to popular cults that coexisted with monotheistic Judaism. Outside influences are evident in the religion of ancient Israel and Judah at this time, and Syrian cults focusing on the worship of Asherah may have been an influence. Asherah was the wife of El, head of the Canaanite pantheon, and probably the mother of the gods in Canaanite and later Jewish tradition. Some literary evidence in ancient Israel even speaks of Asherah as the consort of Yahweh himself.
1932-33, excavated by James Leslie Starkey on behalf of The Wellcome-Marston Archaeological Research Expedition to the Near East; 1933, ceded to H. Dunscombe Colt in the division of finds as a result of his financial contribution to the expedition; acquired by the Museum in 1934, gift of Harris D. and H. Dunscombe Colt.
Bull, Ludlow and Maurice S. Dimand. 1935. "Antiquities from Palestine." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 30 (2), p. 44.

Crawford, Vaughn E. et al. 1966. Guide to the Ancient Near East Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 15, fig. 22.

Patai, Raphael. 1975. The Hebrew Goddess. New York: Avon Books, pl. [1].

Kletter, Raz. 1996. The Judean Pillar-Figurines and the Archaelogy of Asherah. BAR International Series 636. Oxford: Tempus Reparatum, p. 183, no. 74.

Magrill, Pamela. 2006. A Researcher's Guide to the Lachish Collection in the British Museum. The British Museum Research Publication 161. London: The British Museum, p. ix.

Rakic, Yelena ed. 2010. Discovering the Art of the Ancient Near East: Archaeological Excavations Supported by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1931–2010. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 68 (1), Summer 2010, p. 41.

Mazar, Amihai. 2014. “The Lands of the Bible.” In Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age, exh. cat. edited by Joan Aruz, Sarah B. Graff, and Yelena Rakic. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, fig. 3.59, p.173.