Naked, his muscles bulging as he leans on a club, a lion skin draped over his shoulder, the hero Hercules, son of Zeus, has reappeared in a Roman-era bathhouse in northern Israel.

Archaeologists uncovered the beautifully preserved white marble remains of the mythological hero in an emergency dig at Horvat Tarbenet in the biblical Jezreel Valley. Government archaeologists rushing to excavate the site to build a rail road line unearthed what they believed to be a large pool that was probably part of a Roman bathhouse.

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“This is a rare discovery. The statue, which probably stood in a niche, was part of the decoration of a bathhouse pool that was exposed during the course of the excavations. It is a half-meter tall, is made of smoothed white marble and is of exceptional artistic quality,” said Dr. Walid Atrash of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Although Hercules was considered the strongest man in the world, this statue was found without his head. Atrash dated the statue to the second century CE. Benches were found on two sides of the pool, which had a sophisticated pumping system to fill it with water.

Horvat Tarbenet is located in the Jezreel Valley, about four kilometers (2.5 miles) northwest of the town of Afula. Atrash said it was a Jewish settlement in the third century CE which was mentioned in the Talmud as a site of learning.

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