A massive haul of ancient cultic vessels dating back over 3,500 years has been discovered in Israel. The find, made ahead of gas pipe works at the base of Tell Qashish, near Tishbi Junction, has been described as a ‘bottomless pit’ of artefacts, and contains over a hundred intact objects – almost unheard of in archaeological circles.
The find includes incense-burning vessels, a sculpted woman’s face – seen in the picture below – and various items of tableware. Experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) who made the find believe the artefacts were part of an ancient pagan cult which was wiped out during the Bronze Age.
“In this period, before the Bible, the children of Israel were still in Egypt or the desert,” says lead digger Uzi Ad.
“It would appear that the vessels were used in a pagan cult that worshipped idols,” Ad continues. “During this period it was customary that each city had a temple of its own where special cultic vessels were used.”
One theory for their hidden location is that the vessels had been buried to protect them from their town’s impending destruction. Another is that they were allowed special treatment simply due to their high religious status.
Ad and colleague Dr Edwin van den Brink are amazed at the discovery – not least because the rock cavity in which it was made appeared to continue forever: each time the team reached the foot of one cavity another appeared featuring another set of items. Some had even been imported from Mycenae in Greece, known for its stunning vases.
The IAA plans to showcase the discovery at an exhibition later this year. The location of the show is unknown as yet.
The find is a welcome high note for Israeli archaeology, whose work threatens to be overshadowed by ongoing rows over excavations at Temple Mount in Jerusalem.