Tiny statue from the third century CE

This is believed to be a Roman boxer from 1,800 years ago. Well, a teeny marble bust of a boxer anyway. Archaeologists found the statue, just six centimeters tall, in Jerusalem's City of David. From CNN:
 Cnn 2009 Tech Science 01 26 Israel.Ancient.Find Art.Figurine.Iaa The archaeologists (from the Israel Antiquities Authority) believe a merchant family from the eastern part of the Roman Empire most likely passed down the "precious object" through the generations until the fourth or fifth century, when an unfortunate family member had it with him at a public building, perhaps a hostel -- and an earthquake struck...

Two tiny holes in the figurine suggest it was used as a suspended weight together with a balance scale, the archaeologists said.
1,800-year-old marble head unearthed in Israel


  1. Perhaps this, being a calibrated weight, is how much a slave (perhaps, as well, there are more, such as a set) is in gold or other precious material. Just putting that out there. My guess is as good as theirs.

  2. This would make a nice companion piece for the equally small Mayan terra cotta raven head I bought from a drug dealer in Cancun who assured me it was authentic.

  3. Hey, I don’t want to sound toooooo cynical, but does anyone remember when Russia invaded Afghanistan and all of a sudden when the world press was upset about their military aggression Russian scientists found a baby mammoth in 1977 and claimed they might be able to extract it’s DNA and clone it?

    I suspect this is what stage magicians refer to as “misdirection”. Personally, I think a baby mammoth is waaaaaaay cooler than a statue of a boxer.

    Nice try – but I saw what you did there.

  4. Alright, I am still confused as to why the scientists believe it to be a boxer.. it was a merchant family according to them. (which I am sure has much more basis in truth than the boxer assumption)… oh and he was speaking of the Israel Palistine “conflict”.

  5. Whoah, hold on a minute!

    The “third century CE”? Now I think of myself as a reasonably well-informed sort, but it took a full 40 seconds of Googling to confirm that CE is a synonym for AD.

    But what is wrong with Anno Domini? Is it seen as an undesirably value-laden term, commemorating as it does the ultimate Dead White Male? [well, He looks white in most of the pictures I’ve seen…]

  6. CE, Common Era, is slightly, though not much, more religiously neutral than Anno Domini, the year of our Lord. The first merely accepts that much of the world had been using the Christian calendar, while the latter presupposes the existence of a “lord.”

    Here’s another gasket for you to blow: BC is now BCE.

    Most scholarly historical and archeological publishing has used CE/BCE for at least the last decade, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the USA were slower at adopting this.

  7. “CE” sidesteps a number of problematic cultural issues because you can interpret it as “Christian Era” or “Common Era”. “BCE” obviously ditto.

    If you are a non-Christian descendant of a people whose culture was destroyed and population slaughtered in the name of Christ, you might not be comfortable with “Anno Domini”.


    “Anno Domini” does not literally have to be translated as “in the year of our Lord” although that is certainly a reasonable translation. It can also literally mean “kingdom year” or “year of the one who dominates”. Thus, a reasonable interpretation is “year since Christ was born to bloodily destroy all resistance to the Kingdom of God”. (That’s not a non-Christian interpretation, either, it’s essentially what the Christian mainstream believed in the time of the Crusades, and an attitude still popular with some fundamentalist types.)

    Christians can say “Common Era” in proud realization that their dating system has become the mainstream global standard. Non-Christians can say “Christian Era” in sour recognition that militant religious bigotry long ago displaced more precise reckonings. Those who are itching to share the blessings of Christ through fire, slaughter and rape should definitely stick with AD, though.

    Bet I poked somebody’s sore spot with that one! Use whatever you want. I use “CE”, personally.


  8. Artnik @10:

    If it wasn’t for the fact that there are archaeological discoveries coming out of Israel on a pretty regular basis, you might have been on to something.

    This isn’t the controversy you’re looking for, move along.

  9. @12: Google Greek or Roman statues of boxers. Many of them use similar facial traits, and the boxer is an established classic “type.” Of course, it’s not definitive, but it’s quite an educated guess and not just a punch in the dark. The same family might have well owned statues of wrestlers, discus throwers, or dying Gauls.

  10. RoadTransport

    A point of interest from the wiki page you linked:

    “Jews do not generally use the words “A.D.” and “B.C.” to refer to the years on the Gregorian calendar. “A.D.” means “the year of our L-rd,” [sic] and [they] do not believe Jesus is the L-rd [sic]. Instead, [they] use the abbreviations C.E. (Common or Christian Era) and B.C.E. (Before the Common Era).”

    “Indeed, Common Era notation has also been in use for Hebrew lessons for ‘more than a century’.”

    Makes sense. And frankly, as a non-Christian, I like it better too! :)

  11. Buddy, I’ve been thnking about that Secular Christain thing, ever since you mentioned it in the other thread. It’s funny and true and silly at the same time. It’s great! :)

  12. Thanks, Arky,

    It started as a goof, but it suddenly made sense as a perfect description of my situation. I was sincere when I said it was going to take some getting used to.

    Of course I appreciate the laughs it gets.

  13. Laughs or no, it’s an incredibly powerful device when viewed beside (accepted) secular Jewishness, and taken in the context you originally described it in.

    It elegantly speaks to the notion (discussed on BB before) about secular people still having some ‘right of use’ over the symbols they’ve grown up with all their lives, including the characters of Jesus and God (as part of a shared culture), that sometimes riles Christians, who think they own the symbols exclusively.

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