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The Question of Identity: Ethnicity, Language, Religion, and Gender

Before Islam:  Overview

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Canaanite Fertility Figurine

Canaanite Fertility Figurine

This figure, dating to the time of the Old Testament, is probably a fertility goddess, with her hands in the traditional position for such figures, supporting her breasts. She appears in the clothing and hairstyle of Iron Age Israel.

Some scholars believe that figurines such as this one represent the Canaanite goddess Astarte, Queen of Heaven. The prophet Jeremiah went to lengths to condemn the worship of figurines—despite the emergence of monotheistic Israelite religion, the cult of fertility practiced within the home continued as before.

Compare this figure to the Mesopotamian Fertility Figurine (image 5)—do the differences in facial features and hairstyle show ethnic differences? In fact, it is difficult to say with certainty, but the comparison shows something of the difficulty archaeologists face in identifying ancient ethnicity.

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