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Ancient Temple Uncached by Archaeologists Near Jerusalem

Archaeologists Find Ancient Temple, Ritual Cache Near Jerusalem
Pottery figurines of human heads, part of a rare cache of sacred vessels found in an archaeological dig outside Jerusalem. Source: Israel Antiquities Authority via Bloomberg

Dec. 26 (Bloomberg) -- An ancient temple and cache of sacred vessels uncovered by Israeli archaeologists provides rare evidence of rituals held outside Jerusalem about 2,700 years ago, Israel Antiquities Authority said.

The cache includes fragments of chalices and pottery figurines of heads with curling hair as well as harnessed animals. It was found near a large structure with a wide east-facing entrance that conforms to traditional temple construction in the ancient Near East, the Authority said in an e-mailed statement.

The finds are “evidence for the existence of temples and ritual enclosures in the Kingdom of Judah in general and in the Jerusalem region in particular, prior to religious reforms throughout the kingdom at the end of the monarchic period which abolished all ritual sites, concentrating practices solely at the Temple in Jerusalem,” the Authority said.

The current excavation adds understanding to the site, west of Jerusalem, that archaeologists have been investigating since the early 1990s.

In the past, archaeologists proposed identifying the dig as the biblical settlement “Mozah” that’s mentioned in the Book of Joshua, in part due to the discovery of a building with storehouses and silos that led them to believe the site was used to store Jerusalem’s grain supplies.

“The find of the sacred structure, together with the accompanying cache of sacred vessels, and especially the significant coastal influence evident in the anthropomorphic figurines, still require extensive research,” the Authority said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at gackerman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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