Earliest Evidence of Biblical Cult Discovered
Credit: LiveScience, Photo By Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Excavation within the remains of the roughly 3,000-year-old fortified city of Khirbet Qeiyafa, located about 19 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem, have revealed three large rooms used as shrines, along with artifacts, including tools, pottery and objects, such as alters associated with worship.
The three shrines were part of larger building complexes, and the artifacts included five standing stones, two basalt altars, two pottery libation vessels and two portable shrines, one made of pottery, the other of stone. The portable shrines are boxes shaped like temples.
The shrines themselves reflect an architectural style dating back as early as the time of King David (of the biblical David and Goliath story), providing the first physical evidence of a cult in the time of King David, according to an announcement by Yosef Garfinkel, an archaeologist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The research is presented in the book, "Footsteps of King David in the Valley of Elah" (Yedioth Ahronoth, 2012).
Radiocarbon dating on burnt olive pits found in the ancient city of Khirbet Qeiyafa indicate it existed between 1020 B.C. and 980 B.C., before being violently destroyed.
According to Biblical tradition, the ancient Isrealites’ belief in one God and their ban on human and animal figures set them apart from their neighbors. However, it hasn’t been clear when these distinct practices arose.
The discoveries offer a clue to the timing, since they contain none of the human or animal figurines common at other sites. No bones from pigs showed up here or elsewhere in the city.
"This suggests that the population of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed two Biblical bans — on pork and on graven images — and thus practiced a different cult than that of the Canaanites or the Philistines," Garfinkel said in a press release issued by the university. The discoveries also offer support for the Biblical depiction of King David, he said.
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