Canaanite Worship? 3,400-Year-Old Figurine Found at Tel Rehov

Bible and archaeology news

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Seven-year-old Ori Greenhut stumbled upon a figurine that may have been associated with Canaanite worship while visiting the site of Tel Rehov in Israel. Photo: Moriya Greenhut.

On a recent trip to the archaeological site of Tel Rehov in Israel’s Beth-Shean Valley, seven-year-old Ori Greenhut noticed something in the dirt with the image of a person. He picked up the object and brought it home. Ori’s mother, Moriya, recognized that the object was ancient and contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

“We explained to him that this was an ancient artifact and that archaeological finds belong to the state,” Moriya Greenhut said in an IAA press release.

The Israel Antiquities Authority awarded Ori with a certificate of appreciation for good citizenship for giving the artifact to state authorities.

The artifact—a clay figurine—was studied by Dr. Amihai Mazar, professor emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and director of the archaeological excavations at Tel Rehov.

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“It is typical of the Canaanite culture of the 15th–13th centuries B.C.E.,” Mazar explained in the IAA press release. “Some researchers think the figure depicted here is that of a real flesh-and-blood woman, and others view her as the fertility goddess Astarte, known from Canaanite sources and from the Bible. It is highly likely that the term teraphim mentioned in the Bible1 indeed refers to figurines of this kind.”

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This Late Bronze Age figurine found at Tel Rehov may have been used in Canaanite worship, according to Dr. Amihai Mazar. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Canaanite and Israelite site of Tel Rehov is the largest mound in the Beth-Shean Valley—and one of the largest in Israel. While the Bible doesn’t seem to reference Rehov, the city is mentioned in Egyptian sources.

Excavations led by Amihai Mazar at Tel Rehov from 1997–2008 revealed continuous occupation levels in the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age I (12th–11th centuries B.C.E.) as well as buildings dating to the 10th–9th centuries B.C.E. (the period of the United Monarchy of David and Solomon and the subsequent division of the kingdom). In 732 B.C.E., the city was violently destroyed by the Assyrians, and thereafter the city was abandoned.

“Evidently, the figurine belonged to one of the residents of the city of Rehov, which was [in the Late Bronze Age] ruled by the central government of the Egyptian pharaohs,” Amihai Mazar said.
 


 

Notes:

1. See Genesis 31:19,30–35; Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2; 2 Kings 23:24.
 


 

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Tel Rehov House Associated with the Biblical Prophet Elisha

Canaanite Religion at Tel Burna

Asherah and the Asherim: Goddess or Cult Symbol?

Judean Pillar Figurines
 


 

Learn more about Tel Rehov in the BAS Library:

Amihai Mazar, “Tel Rehov,” in Ephraim Stern, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 5 (Jerusalem and Washington, DC: Israel Exploration Society and the Biblical Archaeology Society, 2008).

Amihai Mazar and John Camp, “The Search for History in the Bible: Will Tel Rehov Save the United Monarchy?” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2000.

Amihai Mazar and Nava Panitz-Cohen, “To What God?” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2008.

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  1. Elena says

    Yay! I was wondering how long I’d have to wait for this to show up in BAR/BAS.

    It’s in amazing condition for its years in the ground, too.

    Way to go Mom — you set a wonderful example for your son. Culture belongs to us all.

  2. Anthony says

    I wonder if the Canaanites didn’t make male figurines or if they only made them out of wood. I’m also wondering if the figurine might simply have been a doll. I like the idea of it being a teraphim though. Is anyone making reproductions of these things?


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