Israel and Nature Parks Authority says crusader era fortress likely contains two other undiscovered lion reliefs.
Portions of a 700-year-old stone relief in the shape of a lion was uncovered at Nimrod Fortress National Park, the second such discovery in 15 years, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority reported on Sunday.
The lion relief – a type of stone artwork in which the desired image appears to be raised from a surrounding surface plane – was discovered last week after a park employee noticed a lion’s tail in the stone, the INPA said.
The lion was the royal symbol of the Mamluk Sultan of Baybars (of Egypt and Syria), who ruled the region from the years 1260 to 1277. Located on the Golan Heights on the slopes of Mount Hermon above the Banias Spring, the Nimrod Fortress dates back to 1228, when it was built by Al- Maliq al-Aziz Othman to block the passage of Friedrich II’s army from Acre to Damascus, the INPA said.
The new relief discovery is approximately 1.1 meters long, 0.7 m. high and 0.6 m. wide, with some parts of the lion still intact and visible, though lacking its head, mane and front legs.
Projecting from the bottom of the relief are the lion’s testicles, a sculpture indicative of manhood, the INPA explained. Meanwhile, the left hind leg is pulled strongly backwards and bears a large bracelet indicating the animal’s affiliation with the Muslim rulers. A prominent belly in the form of a rising and falling wave appears to hold the root of a now broken off right hind leg, the INPA added.
This is the second such lion relief to be discovered at Nimrod, with the first – a completely intact lion sculpture – found by Dr. Moshe Hartal for the Antiquities Authority 15 years ago.
Although many of the pieces are missing from the latest find, the INPA estimated that the second lion was about 25 percent larger than the previous one. In addition, the fortress likely contains at least two other lion reliefs that have not yet been discovered, according to INPA predictions.
“The discovery of a lion relief of this size is extremely rare, so this is an important find that sheds light on the Nimrod Fortress and of the history of the region during the reign of the Crusaders and of the Mamluks,” said Dr. Zvika Tsuk, chief archeologist of the INPA.