Canaanite Cult Stone in a Jewish Farmhouse

Bible and archaeology news

Tel Rekhesh. Credit: Mordechai Aviam

Archaeologists recently uncovered a Canaanite ritual stone in the second story of a Second Temple period Jewish farmhouse in northern Israel. In six seasons of excavations, the international expedition at Tel Rekhesh has uncovered tools, lamps and coins confirming the chronology and the villagers’ Jewish identity. The site is associated with Anaharath, a city known from the Bible (Joshua 19:19) and Egyptian records, including the famed Amarna tablets.

The carved stone is a ritual type known from Canaanite sites; its out-of-context location in the doorframe of a Jewish structure suggests that it had lost its cult function in this later setting. Materials were often reused in the ancient world; in the process, some lose their sanctity. The profanation of once-sacred objects can be the result of intentional degradation of a foreign material culture. More commonly, objects lose their meaning as they are reused for simple utility purposes. Kinneret College archaeologist Mordechai Aviam told The Jewish Press “This is the unique development of archaeological hills in Israel, where successive generations mingle ritual objects on their way from the world of the Canaanite mythology to monotheism.”

Read more in The Jewish Press.

BAS Library Members: Read “Sacred Stones in the Desert” by Uzi Avner as it appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review.

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3 Responses

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  1. JAMES E says

    I am much interested in the statement that this is a second story level-it must be very unusual to find such a situation intact-what is below it one wonders and is the floor all fill?

  2. LESTER FREUNDLICH says

    So the ancient ones were practical and recycled.

  3. JAllan says

    Absolutely they recycled. And when you can recycle AND desecrate a sacred object of the religion of your enemies at the same time, that’s a bonus. But there were exceptions.

    Leviticus tells of a puzzling condition called “leprosy of the stones of a house.” The cure for this is to tear down the house and carry all the stones of the house to an “unclean place” from which they would nevermore be used to build any other buildings. Similarly, the ruins of a city destroyed for violating the covenant would never be recycled. Strangely, the use of a pagan idol stone in a Jewish building would appear, at first glance, to violate this commandment.

    I am not aware of any archeological digs that have found such “unclean heaps” condemned for either of these reasons, and I have not seen any explanation of what “leprosy of stones” might be. In any event, if it were found in a Jewish family’s house today (is it mildew? bad news in Miami Beach for sure!), it would be a VERY expensive fix to a religious problem that may or may not represent “secular” damage to the building.

    Does anyone have a clue about this mystery?


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