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.

Archeology (370) (photo credit: Courtesy National Maritime Museum)
Archeology (370)
(photo credit: 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.
“You 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 BCE).
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.
Among 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 juglets.
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 statement said.
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 statement.
“You have imported vessels from Mycenaean and from Cyprus and Rhodes,” Zemer said. “That’s what makes the connection with the Maritime Museum.”
While the exhibition is being held in the Maritime Museum, Zemer emphasized that all of the finds are the property of the Antiquities Authority.
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 II.
By matching the cultic vessels to such finds, the archeologists were able to properly date the contents of the favissa, Zemer explained.
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 the inside.
Whatever these objects were used for exactly, and for whichever deity, Zemer said he was eager for people to come and experience the vessels.
“I want [visitors] to learn the way that people behaved in this unknown small shrine, close to Tel Qashish,” he said.