Levant, Nahal Mishmar
Ivory (hippopotamus); L. 21 1/4 in. (54 cm)
Lent by Israel Antiquities Authority (L.1994.74.14)
This is one of five mysterious objects found in the Nahal Mishmar hoard. It is formed from the tusk of a hippopotamus that has been sliced lengthwise. Carefully perforated with three rows of round holes, there is a hole with a raised border close to the middle. The object presumably had a symbolic value that has been lost to us. During the fourth millennium B.C., the hippopotamus was native to the coastal waters of the eastern Mediterranean, where it might have been hunted, but it is also possible that the ivory was imported from further afield, perhaps the Nile River.