An inscribed ancient Egyptian scarab and five clay tablets with carvings of naked women have been found in Rehob, a 3,500-year-old city in Israel.
The carvings likely depict ancient fertility goddesses, such as Asherah or Ashtarte, Amihai Mazar, an archaeology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told Live Science. "[They] were used at home, as part of popular domestic religious practice in the domestic sphere, mainly related to fertility of women," Mazar said in an email, noting that similar carvings have been found at other archaeological sites in the region.
The excavation showed that Rehob (known today as Tel Rehov) was founded about 3,500 years ago, and the city flourished at a time when Egypt controlled much of the region. Rehob was constructed near Beth Shean, a town protected by an Egyptian garrison, Mazar and Davidovich wrote in the journal article. [The 25 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]
Mazar and Uri Davidovich, a lecturer at the same institution, detailed their findings in a paper published recently in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.