Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Israeli dig finds rare Roman bust

Israeli archaeologists say they have unearthed a rare Roman-era marble statuette in Jerusalem.

The subject is "most likely an athlete, probably a boxer", the directors of the excavation said in a statement.

The finely carved bust, which is 5cm (two inches) high, depicts a man with short hair and a short curly beard.

The 1,800-year-old figurine was found by the Israel Antiquities Authority in a dig in occupied East Jerusalem, just outside the walls of the Old City.

Archaeologists believe the figurine was used as a weight for a set of scales.

Its style is "indicative of an obviously Greek influence", the statement by IAA archaeologists Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets said.

It can be dated to the Emperor Hadrian's rule in the second or third century, they added, "one of the periods when the art of Roman sculpture reached its zenith".

Nothing similar has been found before in the country, the statement said.

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