|Bird's-eye view over the sacred complex, with round stone |
structure at right and temple at left. Photo: SkyView.
But in biblical times it was a city that sat on Israel's border with the Philistines and it frequently changed hands between Canaanites, Philistines, and Israelites. Careful readers of 1 Samuel 6 will remember that Beth Shemesh is where the Ark of the Covenant came to rest after returning to Israel from Philistine territory. The Philistines had captured the Ark in battle, but returned it after seven months when they realized that God was knocking over the statues of their gods and giving the people hemorrhoids. But things didn't end all that well for the people in Beth'-Shemesh. Some of the inhabits let their curiosity get the best of them and took a peek in the Ark. God killed 70 of them. I guess they never saw Raiders of the Lost Ark.
This week archaeologist have announced the discovery of an iron age temple complex at Beth-Shemesh dating back to 1,100 BCE.
“The newly discovered sacred complex is comprised of an elevated, massive circular stone structure and an intricately constructed building characterized by a row of three flat, large round stones.” Declared an unparalleled discovery by excavation directors Shlomo Bunimovitz and Zvi Lederman,* the early sacred site was not merely destroyed; it was intentionally desecrated by later occupants. Just above the sacred stratum, which yielded shards of painted chalices and goblets, bones and liquid channels, lies a stratum featuring manure and Phytoliths (weed remains), suggesting that the sacred space was reused as animal pens in the successive occupation. Later still, occupants built ovens over the complex, a surprising construction in a non-domestic area. Archaeologists working at the site believe the ovens were used to cook feasts celebrating the memory of the sacred history of the site even after it was desecrated.
You can read about the temple here, here and here.