Archaeologists have found a 3,300-year old cult complex in Israel while excavating the archaeological site of Tel Burna. Directed by Itzhaq Shai of Ariel University, the Tel Burna Archaeological Project has been digging near the Israeli city of Kiryat Gat since 2009. What the researchers uncovered were thought-provoking ancient artifacts richly influenced by Canaanite culture and Greek culture.
The archaeological site features a mansion-sized building and an expansive courtyard measuring over 50 feet wide and over 50 feet in length. The ancient artifacts discovered there include burned animal bones, mask fragments, interconnected cups, decorative goblets and large ceramic jars usually seen in sacrificial ritual sites. They found other intriguing objects as well, such as half-human, half-animal figurines, a cylinder-shaped seal and an Egyptian scarab. The discovery of the letters Ugarit, which was an ancient Syrian site, suggest that this archaeological find could be an ancient Canaanite pantheon.
The broken masks the archaeologists found are large enough to be worn and were most likely used for ancient feasts, cultic ceremonies and processions. So far the archaeological research team has been unable to determine at this point who the masks may be depicting, or if these masks have a specific image on them at all. The interconnected cups the archaeologists found in the 3,300-year-old complex in Israel appear to be imported from the island of Cyprus, based on their decorative carvings. Researchers hope to reveal more on how these objects were used in rituals once more excavation is done.
The archaeologists found gigantic jars known as pithoi in the 3,300-year-old cult complex in Israel that are almost as big as a human being. Shai explained that the pithoi were likely used to store tithes brought to the cultic complex, although this theory is currently being tested through residue analysis. The inner walls of the vessels are currently being analyzed by Dvory Namdar of Hebrew University to determine what was put inside them and how they were used. Two of these large vessels the archaeological researchers found appear to also have been imported from the island of Cyprus based on inscriptions carved into the outer walls of the vessels.
The archaeological research team has analyzed what they have uncovered so far in the excavation and have narrowed down their choices on what ancient god might have been worshiped there. Shai believes that the most likely candidate is Baal, an ancient Canaanite storm god. Baal Hadad was considered by the Canaanite people to be the god of thunderstorms, agriculture, and fertility. The archaeologists have yet to rule out the possibility it could be another ancient deity that was regularly worshiped there, for instance the war goddess Anat. However, they acknowledge that the probability Anat was actually worshiped there is very low.
These intriguing artifacts raise numerous questions for the archaeological research team on how much influence and direct contact other cultures had in ancient times what is now Israel. The archaeological research team can only speculate at this point about what they found in the 3,300-year-old cult complex located in Israel. There is still more slow and careful excavation to be done. The objects must be thoroughly and carefully cleaned. Then these ancient artifacts must undergo a forensic process to determine how old and authentic these objects really are.
By Valerie Bordeau
The Westside Story
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