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Ancient Ritual Temple Discovered in Israel

Dec 28, 2012 03:54 AM EST

Archeologists have uncovered a 2,750-year-old ritual temple and a cache of sacred vessels at Tel Motza, to the west of Jerusalem, Israel.

A team led by Israeli Antiquities Authority discovered the ancient artifacts while excavating the archaeological site at Tel Motza before work to be started on the new Highway 1 section by the National Roads Company.

The findings include pottery figurines of men and horses and ritual pottery vessels, shedding light on the rituals and religious practices followed in the early days of the Kingdom of Judah, prior to the religious reforms established at the end of the monarchic period.

The reforms abolished all ritual ceremonies, allowing such practices to be observed only at the Temple in Jerusalem.

"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 Judaea 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," the directors of the dig, Anna Eirikh, Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz from Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement.

According to the Hebrew Bible, the First Temple was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem in the 10th century B.C.

The recent excavation at Tel Motza showed a part of a large structure that was constructed during the early days of the period of monarchy. The walls of the structure are massive and include an east-facing entrance, which conforms to the tradition of building a temple during that period.

East-facing temples were built so as to allow the sun's rays to illuminate the object placed inside the temple, symbolizing the divine presence within, the archeologists added.

A square structure, possibly an altar, was found in the temple courtyard. A cache of sacred vessels was also found near the structure, which included ritual pottery vessels, with fragments of chalices, pottery figurines of humans having small heads with flat headdress and curling hair and figurines of animals like horses. These objects were used for ritual ceremonies.

Several pottery figurines and sacred objects attributed to domestic rituals have been found at various archeological sites in Israel, but the discovery of a temple with ritual ceremonies in the Kingdom of Judah is a rare finding, said the researchers.

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