The cache dates to between 1550 and 1200 BC and includes some 200 objects, of which half were “perfectly preserved,” National Geographic News reports. Among the objects are small ritual stands, a cup sculpted with a human face, oil vessels, and tableware, all found in a rock hollow at the Tel Qashish site in northern Israel. The scientists have not yet uncovered the temple itself, but they believe it is buried nearby.
The site itself was destroyed at some point.
Team member Edwin van den Brink described the probable uses of some of the artifacts:
“On top of these stands were placed either food offerings or incense for a pleasant scent during worship of the god or goddess in the temple. . . . The face was part of a vessel in which libations were offered to the god or goddess of that temple. It is not assumed to be a face of the god or goddess, but is probably of one of the worshipers who gave this as a gift to the gods.”
Van den Brink added that many of the ritual items were imported from Greece. The site itself was destroyed at some point, and the objects may have been stored away specifically for safekeeping.
Where do the artifacts fit within biblical history? If the archaeologists’ dating is accurate, the objects may have belonged to the peoples who occupied the land before the Israelites destroyed them (mostly), in accordance (partially) with God’s command. If the dating is inaccurate, however, the objects may have belonged to idol worshippers of Israel (either the unified nation or the Northern Kingdom—such as the heterodox religious system built by Jeroboam). In any event, the find comports with the idol worship we know occurred at various points in the history of Canaan and ancient Israel.
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