A local farmer has unearthed a 4,500-year-old limestone statue in Gaza, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities run by the Islamist group Hamas announced on Tuesday (April 26).
The statue, believed to depict the head of the Canaanite goddess Anat, measures 8.7 inches (22 centimeters) tall and is estimated to date to approximately 2500 B.C.
"Anat was the goddess of love, beauty and war in the Canaanite mythology," Jamal Abu Rida, the ministry's director-general of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, said at Tuesday's press conference (opens in new tab). The statue was found on a former trade route running through what is now the Gaza Strip that was important during several different periods, including the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic eras, he added.
Evidence of the Canaanites is found in texts dating to the 15th century B.C., and the civilization existed in parts of what is now Israel, Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, Live Science previously reported. The Canaanite people worshiped several gods, of which Anat, who sat on the divine council of deities, was one of the most prominent, according to The Met (opens in new tab). Often depicted as a beautiful young girl, Anat was commonly referred to as "the Virgin" and was a fertility goddess who was famous for her aggression in battle. The newly discovered statue depicts the goddess wearing a crown styled out of a serpent.
Speaking to the BBC (opens in new tab), Nidal Abu Eid, the farmer who unearthed the statue, said: "We found it by chance. It was muddy and we washed it with water. We realized that it was a precious thing, but we didn't know it was of such great archaeological value." Abu Eid had been farming in his field in Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip when he made the discovery.
The statue of Anat is now on display to visitors at Qasr al-Basha museum in the Old City of Gaza.
Originally published on Live Science.