A cave containing the grave of a prostitute was discovered in the Via Hebron area of Jerusalem.
The cremated remains of a young woman, thought to be a prostitute from the late 4th to early 3rd century BC were discovered during recent digs, according to a news release from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). She was buried with a well preserved folding box mirror from the same time period.
The woman was probably a prostitute or companion known as a hetaira who accompanied senior military personnel or a Hellenistic government official during Alexander the Great‘s campaigns or, more likely, during the Wars of the Diadochi (Wars of Alexander’s Successors), according to the researchers, who claim that the discovery is the earliest proof of a cremation burial in Israel from the Hellenistic period.
Liat Oz, who oversaw the excavations, commented on the box mirror and said: “This is the second mirror of this type discovered in Israel, and in total, only 63 example mirrors are known from around the Hellenistic world.”
Similar folding box mirrors, frequently discovered engraved with engravings or reliefs of female figures and goddess figures, especially those of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, have been found in Hellenistic tombs and temples.
According to the press release: “Bronze mirrors like the one recently discovered were considered an expensive luxury item, and they could come into the possession of Greek women in two ways; as part of their dowry ahead of a wedding, or as a gift given by men to their hetairai. As such, the mirrors symbolized, among other things, the connection – as well as the intimate relations between the clients and the hetairai.”
The Ancient Greek hetairai, who in some ways resembled Japanese geishas, were an important part of society. In addition to providing sexual services, they also provided companionship and social assistance.
Some hetairai married royalty, including Greco-Hellenistic rulers, eminent military figures, and well known thinkers. The hetairai served as the inspiration for some of the most famous sculptures and paintings, some of which may be seen on exhibit in Greek temples.