Israeli dig uncovers 2,750-year-old temple
Rare evidence of the religious practices and rituals in the early days of the Kingdom of Judah has recently been discovered at Tel Motza, to the west of Jerusalem. In excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently conducting at the Tel Motza archaeological site, prior to work being carried out on the new Highway 1 from Sha'ar HaGai to Jerusalem by the National Roads Company (previously the Public Works Department), a ritual building (a temple) and a cache of sacred vessels some 2,750 years old have been uncovered.
According to Anna Eirikh, Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judaea at the time of the First Temple. The uniqueness of the structure is even more remarkable because of the vicinity of the site's proximity to the capital city of Jerusalem, which acted as the Kingdom's main sacred center at the time." According to the archaeologists, "Among other finds, the site has yielded pottery figurines of men, one of them bearded, whose significance is still unknown."
|Ceramic figurines of human heads, part of a rare cache of sacred vessels found in an archaeological dig outside Jerusalem [Credit: Clara Amit/Israel Antiquities Authority]|
At the time, the site's archaeologists proposed once more identifying the site with the Biblical settlement "Mozah" mentioned in the Book of Joshua – a town in the tribal lands of Benjamin bordering on Judaea (Joshua 18: 26). The proposal was based, among other things, on the discovery at the site of a public building, a large structure with storehouses, and a considerable number of silos. At the time, archaeologists identified the site as a storehouse, run by high-ranking officials, for Jerusalem's grain supplies.
|Figurine of a horse [Credit: Clara Amit/Israel Antiquities Authority]|
The assemblage includes ritual pottery vessels, with fragments of chalices (bowls on a high base which were used in sacred rituals), decorated ritual pedestals, and a number of pottery figurines of two kinds: the first, small heads in human form (anthropomorphic) with a flat headdress and curling hair; the second, figurines of animals (zoomorphic) – mainly of harnessed animals. The archeologists stress that "The find of the sacred structure together with the accompanying cache of sacred vessels, and especially the significant coastal influence evident in the anthropomorphic figurines, still require extensive research."
|An overhead view shows the Tel Motza archaeological site [Credit: Skyview/IAA]|
According to the site's directors, "The finds recently discovered at Tel Motza provide rare archaeological evidence for the existence of temples and ritual enclosures in the Kingdom of Judah in general, and in the Jerusalem region in particular, prior to the religious reforms throughout the kingdom at the end of the monarchic period (at the time of Hezekiah and Isaiah), which abolished all ritual sites, concentrating ritual practices solely at the Temple in Jerusalem."
Source: Israel Antiquities Authority [December 26, 2012]