Israeli archaeologists have discovered two animal figurines dating back to the New Stone Age, at an excavation site in the Tel Moza site located in the Judean hills outside of Jerusalem, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The statues, which are approximately 9,500 years old, were found last month during excavations being carried out in the region by IAA archaeologists. The excavations were being conducted prior to the widening of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, called Highway 1. "The figurines, which are 9,000-9,500 years old, were found near a large round building whose foundations were built of fieldstones and upper parts of the walls were apparently made of mud brick," Anna Eirikh and Dr Hamoudi Khalaily, IAA directors of the excavation at the site, said in a statement. The archaeologists noted that the statues - one of a ram representing the symbol of the Zodiac sign Aries and the other a wild buffalo - may have been used for good luck. The ram statue is 15cm in size and made of limestone, while that of the buffalo is of dolomite. Both figurines are finely carved to resemble the animals. "The sculpting is extraordinary and precisely depicts details of the animal's image," the archaeologists added. Khalaily said the figurines likely belonged to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (the eighth millennium BCE), when mankind witnessed a transition from nomadic to sedentary life. It was during this period that human society started taking its present shape. Human beings began farming practices, building settlements, planning architecture and construction and domesticating cattle. However, hunting was still the major activity, which is why archaeologists believe the animal statues may point to belief in lucky charms. "It is known that hunting was the major activity in this period. Presumably, the figurines served as good-luck statues for ensuring the success of the hunt and might have been the focus of a traditional ceremony the hunters performed before going out into the field to pursue their prey," Khalaily said. "The archaeological evidence from Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, particularly the artistic objects such as the figurines that were discovered at Tel Moza, teaches us about the religious life, the worship and the beliefs of Neolithic society," he concluded.
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