KEY POINTS

  • A six-year-old boy found a clay object that turned out to be a 3,500-year-old tablet
  • The tablet dated back to the 15th to 12th century B.C. and depicted the conflicts of the time
  • The youg boy received an award for surrendering the artifact to the Israel Antiquities Authority

A six-year-old boy discovered a 3,500-year-old artifact while he was out with his parents in Israel. The rare find symbolically depicted the power struggles in the region at the time.

It was last March, before the coronavirus lockdowns were enforced, when six-year-old Imri Elya's spotted something rather odd while he was with his parents at the Tell Jemmeh archaeological site. It was a 1.1 by 1.1 inch clay tablet that had two figures on it.

After submitting the object to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), they learned the mysterious item was, in fact, a tablet likely made by a Canaanite in the Late Bronze Age. And because Elya and his family surrendered the object to the IAA, the young boy received a certificate for "good citizenship."

"The delivery of the tablet to the Antiquities Authority indicates value education and good citizenship on the part of Imri and his parents. Well done!" a statement from the IAA said. 

According to the IAA statement, archaeologists Saar Ganor, Itamar Weissbein and Oren Shmueli noted the scene being depicted in the tablet is of a man leading a captive. A closer look at the tablet shows that one of the men is wearing a skirt while the other is a naked captive who has his hands tied behind his back. Both were likely Canaanites.

"It is evident that the artist sought to emphasize the captive's humiliation by showing him naked, or perhaps to describe the ethnic differences between the captor and the captive by presenting each figure's different facial features - the captor's hair is curly and his face is full, while the captive is thin and his face elongated," the statement says.

The tablet has been dated to the 15th to 12th century B.C., a time when the Egyptian empire ruled the region, including Canaan, which was also experiencing internal conflicts between its "city states."

According to the statement, the researchers believe the scene in the tablet symbolized the power struggles between Yurza (now Tell Jemmeh), a Canaanite city, and its neighbors.

In an interview with the Times of Israel, Ganor noted the object was likely used as a souvenir for victory and was either worn in a belt or displayed as furniture. According to Ganor, since the clay tablet was made from a mold, it is possible many were made and distributed. However, no other tablet with the same imprint has been found so far.

Child The hand of a young child touching sand. Photo: Markus Distelrath/Pixabay