First discovered more than one hundred years ago, Judean pillar figurines continue to be poorly understood in scholarship today. Judean pillar figurines—abbreviated JPFs—were prevalent in Judah during the First Temple period (ca. 800–586 B.C.E.). These household objects, of which thousands have been found, are not present in Judah following the Babylonian conquest in 586 B.C.E.
Two major types of Judean pillar figurines have been found. One type has a face that’s pinched to make two eyes (Left, Photo: Israel Museum, Jerusalem). The second type has a mold-made head with defined facial features and rows of curly hair (Right, Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art).
In “JPFs: More Questions than Answers” in the September/October 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Robert Deutsch provides an overview of these puzzling pillar figurines.
To begin, the name “Judean pillar figurine”—as these objects are universally called—is somewhat of a misnomer. The land in which these pillar figurines were found was called Judah, not Judea. The name Judea emerged when the southern Levant came under Roman rule beginning in the first century B.C.E. The adjective Judahite—to describe the people and material culture of Judah—is a recent designation. Deutsch believes these Iron Age pillar figurines in question are more accurately represented by the name “Judahite pillar figurines.” They are also called JPFs for simplicity.
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