Canaanite Cult Complex Discovered at Tel Burna

Baal possibly worshipped at Burna, archaeologist says

tel-burna-complex

A 3,300-year-old cult complex where Baal may have been worshipped has been excavated at Tel Burna in Israel. Photo: Courtesy Professor Itzick Shai.

Excavations at Tel Burna, located in the Shephelah region in Israel, have uncovered a 3,300-year-old cult complex where Baal, the Canaanite storm god, may have been worshipped. While the complex has not been fully excavated yet, its 52 by 52-feet courtyard has given archaeologists an idea of the overall size of the place. The excavators found within the complex three connected cups, facemask fragments, massive storage jars and burnt animal bones.

“From the finds within the building, we can reconstruct the occurrence of feasts, indicated by several goblets and a large amount of animal bones,” excavation director Itzick Shai of Ariel University told LiveScience. “Some of these animal bones are burnt, probably indicating their use in some sacrificial activity.”

Shai believes worship of Baal at this cult complex is a good possibility, but he hasn’t ruled out other candidates, such as the ancient war goddess Anat. The identification awaits further research.

Some scholars believe Tel Burna can be identified as Biblical Libnah, a Canaanite town that Joshua conquered and allotted to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 10:29–33, 15:42). Located in the Judean Shephelah, the region served as a border between the kingdoms of Judah and Philistia in the Iron Age. Surveys and excavations conducted at the site of Tel Burna since 2009 have exposed settlements in the 13th, ninth, eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E. as well as in the Persian period.

Read more about the cult complex discovered at Tel Burna in LiveScience.

As the point where three of the world’s major religions converge, Israel’s history is one of the richest and most complex in the world. Sift through the archaeology and history of this ancient land in the free eBook Israel: An Archaeological Journey, and get a view of these significant Biblical sites through an archaeologist’s lens.

Related reading in the BAS Library:

Joe Uziel and Itzick Shai, “Archaeological Views: How Archaeologists Decide Where to Dig:
The Case of Tel Burna,”
Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2010.

William G. Dever, “How to Tell a Canaanite from an Israelite,” in Hershel Shanks et al., The Rise of Ancient Israel (Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1991), pp. 27–60.

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  • James says

    Why is it that when ever they find temples to Baal, or Balshiah or Ashera they are akways refered to as Cannanite or Philistine. As i remember Israel was divided and The 10 Northern Tribes anointed K. Eber. The Northern Confederation of 10 tribes was religiously different from Judah.
    K. Jephthah sacrificed his daughter. His mother was a temple prostitute.
    K. Ahab prays to Bealzbob and some other female Angel before he lifts the seige of the City of Samara.

  • Jürgen says

    Baal only stormgod? Why discriminating again other gods? Baal was much more than this. “Baal” may refer to any god and even to human officials. In some texts it is used for Hadad, a god of thunderstorms, fertility and agriculture, and the lord of Heaven. Even fathers and grandfathers had been worshipped as Baal and nearly everybody had a statue in front their house representing Baal. There is no doubt, that even Israelites worshipped for long time the god Baal.

  • Karim says

    Another new interesting finding… Another proof that the land now called Israel was Canaanite/Phoenician par excellence. No matter how hard they try, they will not find any Hebrew relic before the 6th-5th centuries BC.


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