Aren Maeir reports today on the Tell es-Safi/Gath blog that a two-horned altar was discovered about one-and-a-half weeks ago at Tell es-Safi. It was found in a destruction level dated to the 9th century and attributed to Hazael, the king of Damascus.

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.

For more details and several photos of the altar’s discovery, read Aren’s full announcement.

UPDATE: Joe Lauer sends along notice that the Foundation Stone website has a photo showing the newly discovered altar from another angle. There is also information about a radio interview with Aren Maeir on the LandMinds show, set to broadcast on Wednesday.


From FoxNews.com:

Working on an urban lot that long served residents of Nablus as an unofficial dump for garbage and old car parts, Dutch and Palestinian archaeologists are learning more about the ancient city of Shekhem — and preparing to open the site to the public as an archaeological park next year. The project, carried out under the auspices of the Palestinian Department of Antiquities, also aims to introduce the Palestinians of Nablus, who have been beset for much of the past decade by bloodshed and isolation, to the wealth of antiquities in the middle of their city. "The local population has started very well to understand the value of the site, not only the historical value, but also the value for their own identity," said Gerrit van der Kooij of Leiden University in the Netherlands, who co-directs the dig team. "The local people have to feel responsible for the archaeological heritage in their neighborhood," he said. The digging season wrapped up this week at the site, known locally as Tel Balata.

The full story is here. I’m less optimistic than the archaeologists that the local people will care for the archaeological heritage or take the steps necessary to encourage tourism.