Cults of the Bronze Age

Digs & Discoveries January/February 2015

(Courtesy Sky View)

Despite its location at the heart of the Shephelah, one of Israel’s most intensively researched regions, the site of Tel Burna had never been excavated. Scholars assumed that there was little there to uncover. But a team led by Itzhaq Shai from Ariel University has discovered, only a few inches below the surface, an abundance of objects, including dozens of beads, a cylinder seal and scarab, goblets, zoomorphic figurines, chalices, and ceramic masks, all within the remains of a large public building.

Shai believes that the presence of so many ceremonial items indicates that the structure, which dates to the thirteenth century B.C. and measures more than 5,000 square feet, was an important public space where cultic activities, including feasting, burning incense or other aromatics, offering of votives, and religious processions employing the masks took place. The team also found two very large ceramic pithoi (storage vessels) that were imported from Cyprus, and were likely used to safeguard the religious complex’s tithes or, perhaps, store food for use in cultic activities. The complex at Tel Burna may also have had administrative functions for the larger settlement in the Late Bronze Age, when it covered about 15 acres on the border between the ancient territories of Judah and Philistia.

  • Artifacts January/February 2015


    Read Article
    (Courtesy Anders Rosendahl)
  • Around the World January/February 2015


    Read Article
    (Tim Mackrell/University of Auckland)
  • Digs & Discoveries January/February 2015

    The Price of Plunder

    Read Article
    (Courtesy Penn Museum, image #148769)
  • Features January/February 2015

    Shipwreck Alley

    From wood to steel, from sail to steam, from early pioneers to established industry, the history of the Great Lakes can be found deep beneath Thunder Bay

    Read Article
    (Courtesy Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary/NOAA)