A gold earring portraying the head of a horned animal was unearthed under the Givati Parking lot near Jerusalem’s City of David National Park. The earring belongs to the second or third century B.C.E.

“The jewelry was found inside a building that was unearthed during the excavation, dating to the early Hellenistic period—a fascinating era about which we know very little when it comes to Jerusalem,” explained dig directors Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Yiftah Shalev “During the course of over a century of archeological digs in the city, many small discoveries have been made from this period—mainly consisting of pottery fragments and a few coins—but hardly any remains of buildings that could be accurately dated to this period.”

The animal on the earring has large eyes, a mouth, and other facial features. It is hard to determine the horned animal, perhaps it is an antelope or a deer. Experts say the piece was created using a technique called filigree in which threads and metal beads are combined to create complex patterns. Similar earrings have been found across the Mediterranean but they are rare in Israel.

“We also learned from this excavation that the residents of this area were not peasants who settled in empty areas on the periphery of the central area, but rather the opposite—they were well-off people. The discovery of familiar Hellenistic pieces of jewelry can teach us about how Hellenistic influences reached Jerusalem during this time.”

The Hellenistic period sat between Jerusalem’s conquest by Alexander the Great and the Jewish revolt against pagan rule recounted in the biblical Books of the Maccabees.

Although the archaeologists can’t say for now whether the earring belonged to a man or woman or what the owner’s cultural or religious identity was, they can surmise that the owner was a member of the elite. The rare discovery also gives researchers a glimpse into Hellenistic-period Jerusalem.

Sources: Haaretz, Times of Israel.