Jerusalem: Archaeologists have found a cache of three figurines of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, dating back about 1,500 years, in the southern Golan Heights site of Susita, in Israel.
According to a report in the online edition of the Haaretz newspaper, the figurines, made of clay and about 30 centimetres tall, depict the nude Goddess standing, with her right hand covering her private parts - a type of statue scholars call modest Venus.
The figurines at Susita were unearthed in the excavations of the University of Haifas Zinman Institute of Archaeology, now in its 10th season, headed by Professor Arthur Segal and Dr Michael Eisenberg.
Many statues and figurines of Aphrodite have been uncovered over the years.
One, from marble, which became known as the Venus of Beit Shean, was uncovered in 1993 in the baths of that ancient city.
Greek mythology recounts that Aphrodite was born of the ocean foam at the place where the testicles of the Titan Uranus were cast into the sea by his son Cronus, who castrated him.
According to another story, she is the daughter of Zeus, king of the Gods.
Aphrodite was the Goddess of love, but also the Goddess of fertility and childbirth, Segal said.
Pregnant woman hoping for a safe birth would sacrifice to her, as would young girls hoping for love. Mainly, flowers, rather than animals, would be sacrificed to Aphrodite. The figurines we found were made in a mold in rather large numbers. They would be offered to the goddess in a temple by supplicants, or kept above ones bed, he added.
Aphrodite was a popular Goddess, represented in statues all over the Greek and Roman world. The best known of these is the Venus de Milo, on display at the Louvre.