First Temple Period Ritual Structure Discovered Near Jerusalem

Bible and archaeology news

Excavations at Tel Motza have uncovered a First Temple period ritual structure. Photograph- Skyview, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced the discovery of a temple and cache of sacred vessels dating back to the First Temple period, providing a unique archaeological glimpse into public religion in the early monarchy before the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah.* The 2,750-year-old ritual center was discovered at Tel Motza on the western outskirts of Jerusalem.

The IAA press release quoted excavation directors Anna Eirikh, Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz on the importance of the discovery: “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 Judea 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.”

Discoveries at the First Temple period site of Tel Motza include anthropomorphic (as well as zoomorphic) figurines. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Excavations at Tel Motza, carried out before construction on Israel’s Highway 1 in the area, have exposed a public building, storehouses and silos. The ritual structure, according to the excavation directors, dates to “the early days of the monarchic period (Iron Age IIA). The walls of the structure are massive, and it includes a wide, east-facing entrance, conforming to the tradition of temple construction in the ancient Near East: the rays of the sun rising in the east would have illuminated the object placed inside the temple first, symbolizing the divine presence within. A square structure which was probably an altar was exposed in the temple courtyard, and the cache of sacred vessels was found near the structure.”

Because Hezekiah and Josiah centralized Judean religion in Jerusalem in the 8th-7th centuries B.C.E., the discoveries at Tel Motza stand out as some of the only examples of non-domestic cult uncovered from the First Temple period.

A proto-aeolic capital associated with the longest First Temple period Judahite spring tunnel system was recently discovered near Jerusalem. Discover the site today.


* For more on the First Temple period reforms, read P. Kyle McCarter, Jr.’s “The Religious Reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah” in Aspects of Monotheism. (The full text of the book Aspects of Monotheism is online for free for BAS Library members here).

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5 Responses

  1. Do you agree that the Bible is error-free? - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism, God, Universe, Science, Spirituality, Faith, Evidence - Page 17 - City-Data Forum says:

    […] Originally Posted by nana053 NOVA | Archeology of the Hebrew Bible There are NOT hundreds of archaeological finds that prove anything about the Bible. Lots more on the website. And lots more on this website. It's updated practically daily with new information and findings. Here is a recent one: A First Temple Period Ritual Structure from Tel Motza (near Jerusalem) – Biblical Archaeology … […]

  2. Krzysztof Ciuba says:

    Interesting. Isaiah II cult of One Invisible jAHWE is quite later time; therefore, a religious tolerance of that time?

  3. Tim Upham says:

    Were these ritual objects of Jebusite origin? KIng David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites. So obviously their beliefs along with the ritual objects they used, did not completely disappear, after the Hebrews took control of the city.

  4. Seer says:

    Would love to hear more about what figurines were discovered and what rituals took place.

  5. Jonathan says:

    While being grateful to the excavation directors for their work, we should remember that they are offering only theories at this time. The truth about the site and what has been found there has not been established yet. All possibilities about the site itself and the figurines found there must be considered, and we must wait to hear the opinions of various scholars, before reaching any conclusions.

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