While conducting a standard excavation to prepare for Israel National Gas Lines Company’s northern gas line installation, the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered a “bottomless pit” of intact cultic vessels. Layers of vessels that have been preserved for 35 centuries in a natural, underground hollow at the base of Tel Qashish next to Tishbi Junction were excavated with methodical care.
Uzi Ad and Dr. Edwin van den Brink – the archaeologists leading the excavation team – told the Israel Antiquities Authority that the find is especially rare since most excavations reveal mere fragments. As such, finding 100 or more intact vessels is tantamount to discovering the shimmering city of gold, El Dorado.
Another unique element of this particular dig is that the vessels were strategically placed. Archaeologists speculate that the cultic vessels were hidden during a siege at the end of the late Bronze Age to protect them from imminent destruction, or perhaps that they were no longer necessary as cultic tools.
Archaeologists also said that “In this period, before the Bible, the children of Israel were still in Egypt or the desert, and it would appear that the vessels were used in a pagan cult that worshipped idols. During this period it was customary that each city had a temple of its own where special cultic vessels were used.”
A sculpted face of a woman that was part of a cup used to worship gods, an incense holder, and a storage vessel for precious oils from ancient Greece are among the artifacts excavated to date. The Greek discovery is especially exciting since it reveals a trade link between the two ancient groups. Meanwhile, it has not been said how long it will be before the gas line installation will resume.
Although the public does not have access to this fragile discovery just yet, the Antiquities Authority plans to prepare an exhibition later this year. We will post those details as they become available to us.
Images courtesy of Assef Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority
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