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Tue Aug 04 03:24:09 SAST 2015

Israeli dig uncovers ancient Judaean temple

Sapa-AFP | 27 December, 2012 06:340 Comments
An employee of the Israeli Antiquities Authority displays figurines at Tel Motza archaeological site on the outskirts of Jerusalem
An employee of the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) displays figurines at Tel Motza archaeological site on the outskirts of Jerusalem. IAA said they unearthed a maze-like construction and a cache of sacred vessels some 2, 750 years old, including some unique figurines of men and horses, at the site. They said the findings are rare evidence that a religious following existed in the areas around Jerusalem at the beginning of the Judean monarchy.
Image by: BAZ RATNER / REUTERS

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a rare temple and religious figurines dating back to the Judaean period nearly 3 000 years ago, Israel's Antiquities Authority said.

The discoveries were made at Tel Motza, outside Jerusalem, during archaeological work taking place ahead of new highway construction in the area.

"The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judaea," the dig directors said in a statement.

Anna Eirikh, one of the directors, told AFP that the discoveries were rare evidence of religious practice outside Jerusalem during the Judaean period.

"What we can say for sure is the figurines served for religious purposes, and that Tel Motza was a Judaean kingdom," she said.

The findings date to the 9-10th century BC, when the First Temple would have already been built in its Jerusalem location.

The Jews of that era seemed to have kept some of the prevalent pre-Judaism practises alongside the mainstream worship in the Jerusalem temple, she said.

"It's very interesting to see these religious artifacts and temple so close to Jerusalem, a walking distance," she said. "We know very little about religious practise during the Judaean kingdom, there are two or three more sites of worship, and this is the closest to Jerusalem."

The items discovered, near an altar of a temple, include ritual pottery vessels, fragments of chalices and figurines of animals.

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