Cultic vessels from 13th century BCE go on display
Religious tools uncovered during excavation near Tel Qashish to be part of museum exhibit in Haifa.
Religious tools and common vessels found Photo: Courtesy National Maritime Museum
The public will soon be able to see Israel’s first uncovered treasured trove
that dates as far back as the 13th century BCE – and which indicates a cultic
type of tradition.
An exhibit on the finds will open this Saturday night,
August 25, at Haifa’s National Maritime Museum, courtesy of the Antiquities
Authority, where visitors will be able to observe the incense-burning religious
tools from ancient tribal peoples. Archeologists discovered the favissa – a
repository for discarded cult items – in 2010, about 300 meters north of Tel
Qashish and about 2 kilometers north of Tel Yokneam.
The find occurred
during a salvage excavation coinciding with the laying of the Haifa Bay
industrial area gas pipeline, under the leadership of Uzi Ad and Dr. Edwin C. M.
van den Brink and the Antiquities Authority’s Orit Segal.
“It is the
first time that a treasure from the 13th century was found,” the exhibition’s
curator, Avshalom Zemer, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday evening.
don’t have another treasure from this day here in Israel.”
The nearby Tel
Qashish, which lies on the northern bank of the Kishon River, was first
excavated in 1978-87 under the auspices of the Hebrew University Archeology
Department, during which 16 strata of settlements were identified, from the
Early Canaanite Age I (3,600-3,000 BCE) to the Persian Period (539-332
The treasure trove contains pottery vessels from the Late Canaanite
Age IIB (1300-1200 BCE), which were stored in an elliptical pit of limestone
rock – 3 meters high by 1.5 meters wide by 3 meters deep – containing more than
200 items, mostly previously unknown and quite rare, according to a statement
from the exhibition.
Inside the pit were items made locally, in Mycenae
and in Cyprus.
The locally-made products presumably for cult use included
goblets – one with a man’s face sculpted on it – tall cylindrical stands, small
stands, incense burners and chalices for libation, burning oil and incense.
According to the exhibition, they indicate that the trove belonged to a local
temple that has not yet been discovered and were items brought by worshipers.
However, researchers have neither been able to identify the specific deity nor
the worshipers themselves.
“The pottery was either buried in haste for
fear of damage by enemy forces, or stored in the pit when there was no more room
elsewhere, or discarded,” the statement from the exhibition said.
other more common local items were bowls, jugs, juglets, cooking pots, oil
lamps, Canaanite jars and cup-andsaucer sets. From Cyprus, the favissa contained
bowls of white-slip and base-ring wares, as well as white-shaved
Products from Greece included stirrup-jars, amphoriskos – small
glass jugs – and flasks. In addition to all of these, a Syrian- Canaanite region
bowl was also found in the pit made from faience – a compound with a crystalline
base, usually quartz, mixed with a glassy alkaline substance, the exhibition
The presence of all these imported vessels demonstrates
the strong trade atmosphere that characterized the area during this era,
particularly between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, according to the
“You have imported vessels from Mycenaean and from Cyprus and
Rhodes,” Zemer said. “That’s what makes the connection with the Maritime
While the exhibition is being held in the Maritime Museum, Zemer
emphasized that all of the finds are the property of the Antiquities
One stirrup-jar found in a favissa was quite similar to
another discovered in an excavation at Gurob in the Fayum district of Egypt,
which also contained a scarab – an amulet – from the reign of Pharaoh Ramses
By matching the cultic vessels to such finds, the archeologists were
able to properly date the contents of the favissa, Zemer
Despite some similar vessels, however, many of the tools seen
in the depository were completely rare materials, not analogous to anything else
found around the region, according to Zemer.
“What we have here is local,
cultic,” he said.
To ensure that the materials are positively uniquely
local, researchers are testing them with Neutron Activation Analysis as well as
petrographic examinations, he said.
Zemer spoke of the goblet with the
man’s face sculpted onto it, which he surmised may have been used for holding
water or wine on an altar.
He also made mention of a large incense stand
with flutelike vertical holes, which researchers found charred and blackened on
Whatever these objects were used for exactly, and for
whichever deity, Zemer said he was eager for people to come and experience the
“I want [visitors] to learn the way that people behaved in this
unknown small shrine, close to Tel Qashish,” he said.