Thursday, July 28, 2011

Large Stone altar discovered at Gath

Aren Maier is the archaeologist heading up the dig at Tel-Es Safi. This site is biblical Gath, famed hometown to Goliath of David and Goliath Fame. They have had some great seasons with some important finds.

My group and I were privileged to have Aren come to Gezer this summer and lecture on his excavations. But he did not mention the discovery of this altar. It is a double horned, Philistine Altar. Congrats to Aren and his team!

Below is the description of the altar and a short video in which Aren explains how this altar reveal important cultural contacts between the Philistines and Israelites.

There are many interesting points about this item, many of which can’t be discussed here, but I can mention a few:
1) It is the earliest stone altar from Philistia, a precursor of the many stone altars that are known from 7th century Tel Miqne-Ekron.
2) It is one of the largest altars known (save for the Tel Sheva altar [which though is made of many stones] and an altar from Ekron which was found out of context).
3) It is one of the earliest such altars from the Iron Age, save for those from Megiddo which are late 10th-9th cent. BCE
4) It has TWO and not four horns – quite unusual for such altars. This is VERY interesting, since this may very well confirm a theory put forward by our team member Louise Hitchcock that there is a connection between the Minoan/Cypriote “Horns of Consecration” and the horned altars – perhaps brought by the Philistines.
5) Its dimensions are virtually identical to the dimensions of the incense altar in the biblical tabernacle (1X1X2 cubit) in Exodus 30!
6) Quite surprisingly, the back part of the altar, and part of the top is unfinished! While the back part might have been “built-in” to a niche behind it (and this could explain the unfinished parts) the top is hard to explain.
7) No evidence of burning or residues were found on top of the altar, although a very nice Cypriote “Black on Red” flask was found right near it. Perhaps it originally stood on top of the altar!
8) Surrounding the altar we found large concentrations of various types of vessels and several concentrations of astragali.

1 comment:

  1. Very, very cool! Definitely not just a supporting pillar.

    Do you think God had the Israelites build four horned altars as another way to differentiate them from the surrounding people and cultures; to set them apart because the Israelite God is different and is One God, not many?