A small carved sculpture discovered in the ancient city of Abel Beth Maacah in northern Israel, and dating back over 2,800 years, could be a depiction of a biblical king, according to archaeologists.
Robert Mullins, a professor at Azusa Pacific University's Department of Biblical and Religious Studies, who is co-director of excavations in the ancient city, said last week that the sculpture was found last summer in a large building at the highest point of the city.
The figure, only 2 by 2.2 inches in size and carved in a type of glazed ceramic, depicts a man with long black hair and a beard, wearing a yellow and black headband.
The head was originally attached to a figurine that would have stood 8-10 inches in height.
"Despite the head's small and innocuous appearance, it provides us with a unique opportunity to gaze into the eyes of a famous person from the past; a past enshrined in the Book of Ages," said Mullins.
"Given that the head was found in a city that sat on the border of three different ancient kingdoms, we do not know whether it depicts the likes of King Ahab of Israel, King Hazael of Aram-Damascus, or King Ethbaal of Tyre, rulers known from the Bible and other sources. The head represents a royal enigma."
All three of the figures mentioned by Mullins are found in the Bible.
King Ahab is said to have been the husband of the infamous Jezebel, who worshiped the pagan god Baal, with 1 Kings 16:30 explaining that he "did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him."
King Hazael is mentioned in 1 Kings 19:15, with God telling the prophet Elijah to anoint Hazael king over Aram Damascus.
King Ethbaal is found in 1 Kings 16:31, where he is referred to as the father of Jezebel.
Azusa Pacific University, which is an evangelical Christian university, pointed out that Abel Beth Maacah is itself mentioned on several occasions in the Hebrew Bible, and has been the site of a number of notable discoveries.
Mullins and his research team have been excavating the remains of what could be an ancient citadel dating back to the time of the Israelite kings, with the rooms containing evidence of metallurgical activity, as well as Phoenician storage vessels.
Separately, technological innovations have been aiding archaeologists in their study of evidence dating back to various biblical kings.
In June 2017, high-tech imaging allowed Tel Aviv University researchers to read for the first time the inscription on the back of an ancient pottery shard that was discovered back in 1965, but had been unreadable until then.
The shard has been dated back to 600 B.C., before the destruction of Judah's Kingdom by the biblical King Nebuchadnezzar, one of the most important characters in the Book of Daniel.