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2,000-year-old Cupid found in Jerusalem

Semi-precious stone bearing image of Greek Mythology’s Eros discovered in Givati parking lot excavation, apparently came from piece of jewelry

The 11th Annual City of David Archaeology Conference took place last week at the City of David. Finds from the past year of excavations were presented at the conference, including the massive fortification next to the Gihon Spring, a very large building dating to Roman times in the Givati Parking Lot Excavation, and a 2,000 year old semi-precious cameo bearing the image of Cupid (Eros in Greek Mythology), which apparently came from a piece of jewelry.

The cameo, which is 1 cm in length and 0.7 mm in width was discovered in the Givati parking lot excavation which is part of the Jerusalem Walls National Park.

The excavation is being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority under the direction of Dr. Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and funded by the Ir David Foundation.

Semi-precious stone bearing image of Cupid (Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

According to Dr. Doron Ben Ami of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who presented the recent discoveries from the Givati Excavation under his supervision, “The cameo is made from two layers of semi-precious onyx stone. The upper layer, into which the image of cupid is engraved is a striking blue color which contrasts with the dark brown background color of the lower layer. The brown layer is the side of the cameo which would have been inserted into the round metal setting of a piece of jewelry, apparently an earring. The cupid’s left hand is resting on an upside-down torch which symbolizes the cessation of life. The feathers of his wings are hinted at by a number of grooves, his face is full and round, and his hair is curly.”

According to Dr. Ben Ami, “This discovery, together with other important finds that we uncovered from this unusual large Roman structure at the City of David, contribute significantly to our understanding of the nature of Jerusalem’s Roman Period.”

This inlaid stone is of the “Eros in mourning” type, and is one of a group of visual motifs

connected with the imagery of mourning practices. Jewelry bearing such motifs – earrings and rings, were not necessarily worn only in mourning rites, rather, they also served as “memento mori,” reminders of the fleeting nature of life.

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