Bible and archaeology news
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.”
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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