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You would imagine that the Iron Age figurines from Kenyon’s excavation in Jerusalem (1961-67) have been systematically published, with a complete catalogue. Considering the importance of Kenyon’s expedition, and the generally fascination with figurines, it’s quite a legitimate expectation. But you would be wrong.

In fairness, let me put my affirmation in context. Six volumes of reports have been published, and the figurines make a showing in the object lists for the volumes on Area L (Tushingham 1985) and Area A (Steiner 2001), and appear, piecemeal, in the stratigraphic studies (e.g. Steiner 1990). Yet, the only figurines from the expedition to get a complete catalogue are the ones from Cave I, published by Holland in Levant (1977). It doesn’t help that the figurines – as was common practice at the time – were distributed between a number of institutions all round the world, and are now in the UK, USA, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, with only a few remaining with the Department of Antiquities and now are in Amman and Jerusalem. Not to mention the many fragments that were recorded and subsequently discarded.

Plenty of information is out there. Tom Holland included all the figurines from the expedition in his DPhil (Holland 1975) on the subject, which remained unpublished, but is now available online. Unfortunately, he did not include registration numbers, or context details, which essentially takes all the figurines out of context: good enough if you’re looking at Jerusalem as a whole, but not if you want to focus in greater detail. Holland’s thesis remains the foundation for subsequent studies. Raz Kletter (1996) uses it in preparing his catalogue for the monograph, supplementing it with direct study of a number of figurines. Kletter’s catalogue, however, includes only the pillar figurines and other anthropomorphic types. His catalogue of horse and rider figurines that was part of his PhD thesis (Kletter 1995) hasn’t been published. Erin Darby (2014) uses both Holland and Kletter as her source for Kenyon’s figurines, supplemented by information published in the reports. The late P.R.S. Moorey (2001) published the figurines from Jerusalem that were acquired by the Ashmolean as part of his catalogue of Ancient Near Eastern terracottas in that museum.

One source, however, has been hidden in plain sight: the excavation registers, part of the Kenyon excavation archive in Manchester (photo) [1]. Neither Kletter nor Darby make use of them. Perhaps understandably: since registration numbers are missing in Holland, it is hard to connect publications and registers, and at times I have wondered whether it is worth the effort. For my own PhD on the Figurines of the Iron Age, I used the data that the register could offer, and included a concordance of Holland’s figurines with the expeditions registration numbers, increasing the known contextual information for Holland’s figurines from 115 (of which 83 from Cave I) to 483, but stopped short of producing a catalogue, which was beyond the scope of my thesis work per se.

Now that the effects of PhD submission and viva have started to wear off, I am finally picking my project up again, and developing it into a monograph. Develop it is an important way of looking at it: there’s something about the PhD genre that doesn’t make the most readable, and requires a good rethink of how to present the material in a new shape and form. It also provides a great opportunity to change, to add (and cut off), material to the monograph.

Here is where the full catalogue of Kenyon’s figurines come in. They remain one of the largest corpora of figurines, and the prospect of making a full catalogue available for further research seems too important for me to let it pass. And this despite the investment of time and energy required to collate the information in the finds registers with that in Holland (1975, 1977), Kletter (1996), Moorey (2001) and Darby (2014), as well as the contextual information in the excavation reports. Thankfully, a lot of spadework had already been done as part of PhD research. Now it is a question of supplementing it, and see how best to bring it all together and produce a systematic catalogue, and finally fill this lacuna.


[1] Many thanks to Dr Kay Prag, curator of the Kenyon archive in Manchester. She was very helpful when I needed access to the archive in the course of my PhD research, and remains an important point of reference now that I return to the material.


  • Darby, E., 2014. Interpreting Judean Pillar Figurines. Gender and Empire in Judean Apotropaic Ritual. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Seibeck
  • Holland, T.A., 1975. A Typological and Archaeological Study of Human and Animal Representations in the Plastic Art of Palestine. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Oxford University. [online on ORA]
  • Holland, T.A. ,1977. “A Study of Palestinian Iron Age Baked Clay Figurines, with Special Reference to Jerusalem: Cave 1.” Levant 9, 121-155.
  • Kletter, R., 1995. Selected Material Remains of Judah at the end of the Iron Age in Relation to its Political Borders. Unpublished PhD thesis [Hebrew], Tel Aviv University.
  • Kletter, R., 1996. The Judean Pillar-Figurines and the Archaeology of Asherah. Oxford: Tempus Reparatum. BAR International Series 636.
  • Moorey, P.R.S., 2001. Ancient Near Eastern Terracottas with a catalogue of the collection in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
  • Steiner, M.L., 1990. “Chapter 2. Stratigraphic Analysis, Architecture and Objects of the Phases.” pp. 3-60 in Franken, H.J. and Steiner, M.L. Excavations by K.M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961-1967. Volume II: The Iron Age Extramural Quarter on the South-East Hill. Oxford: Oxford University Press (for the British Academy and British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem).
  • Steiner, M.L., 2001. Excavations by Kathleen M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961-1967. Volume III: The Settlement in the Bronze and Iron Ages. London & New York: Sheffield Academic Press.
  • Tushingham, A.D. (ed.), 1985. Excavations in Jerusalem, 1961-1967. Volume I. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum.