Length: 3.500 cm
Width: 2.060 cm
Room 57-59: Ancient Levant
Gold pendant from the Tell el-cAjjul hoard: a fertility goddess, probably Astarte
Canaanite, about 1750-1550
From Tell el-cAjjul, Israel
Part of the largest group of gold from southern Canaan
This pendant is a stylized representation of a fertility goddess, probably the Canaanite deity Astarte. It comes from an important hoard of jewellery, the largest group of such gold objects from southern Canaan. The hoard as a whole well illustrates the expertise of the Canaanite jewellers, and a range of techniques is used. This pendant is amongst the simplest pieces: it is made using the repousée technique, where sheet gold is hammered into relief, either into a mould or over a shape known as a former. It also has incised and pierced decoration. The gold is likely to have come from Egypt, and the piece is generally Egyptian in style.
From around 2000 BC there was a gradual movement of Canaanites into the Egyptian Delta. It would appear that they eventually seized political control and established a dynasty known as the 'Hyksos' (from the Greek, meaning 'rulers of foreign lands'). They ruled until their defeat by a rival native dynasty from Thebes.
Tell el-cAjjul may be the site of Sharuhen, the last stronghold of the Hyksos armies. The city was defended by a rampart and a deep ditch. A large palace occupied one area. The gold hoard suggests that the city was wealthy and that the inhabitants had time to hide their valuables under the house floors and in the brick walls before abandoning the site, which may have been destroyed by Egyptian forces in about 1550 BC.
A. Kempinski, 'The Middle Bronze Age' in The archaeology of ancient Isr (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1992)
J.N. Tubb, Canaanites (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)