Yosef Garfinkel, excavator of Khirbet Qeiyafa, has written responses to some of the recent questions about the cultic material uncovered at the site.
To Aren Maeir he addressed questions concerning calling the shrines “arks.” He argues that a more appropriate term than shrine or building model is the biblical term “ark.”
I proposed that the technical term of such items, in their own time, was “Aron Elohim” (box for keeping god symbols). Each religion kept different gods or goddesses in such boxes. In Middle Bronze Ashkelon such example was found with a small calf figurine inside it. The bible described a portable shrine (“Aron”) in various traditions and it was translated into English as: “The Ark of the Covenant”, “The Ark of the Lord”, and other names. I am not talking about this ark, or any other specific ark mentioned in the biblical tradition, but that the term “Aron Elohim” was used to describe this category of objects.
Maeir responds at length, rejecting the proposal. He writes, in part:
There is simply no supporting archaeological, biblical and ANE textual sources that imply this directly (and as far as I know, even indirectly). To this one can add that if “Ark/Aron” was the term used for these and various other types of objects, I think one should expect some extra-biblical mention of this term. Even if these small models were called “arks” – it is clear that the “Aron Elohim” referred to in the biblical text was envisaged as something quite different – see the Aron Brit Adonai that the Philistines capture in the battle of Eben Ezer and moves around Philistia – would it be moved around in a wagon drawn by oxen if so small?
In a comment on that post, Victor Hurowitz rejects the use of the term ark, insisting that these are actually temple models.
The temple models from Yossi’s dig should be compared with well known parallels from Yavneh and elsewhere. In my opinion they resemble the miniature shrines you can find in private houses and on street corners in the far east.. No Temple was found at Keiyafah, and these two models probably came from private homes and represent a family parallel to the official cult.
Garfinkel addressed several other issues on the blog of Luke Chandler, including concerns raised about his claims of aniconism.
Indeed one of them has two guardian lions and birds on the roof, but these are clearly different from similar items in Canaanites, Philistines, Edomite and even sites of the Kingdom of Israel, where naked goddesses were found attached to the models. We never talk about monotheistic cult here, but instead draw attention to the absence of iconic representations. I think that aniconic cult evolved over a large period of time, with deep struggles between those who accepted it and those who still believed in graven images. In Khirbet Qeiyafa we see a strong attitude toword aniconic cult. This needs to be addressed and discussed.
Yesterday I was interviewed about the Qeiyafa discoveries on the Science News Flash produced by Reasons to Believe. A link on that page will take you to a previous post on “Avoiding Crackpot Archaeology.” Krista Bontrager offers some good advice on how to evaluate the latest sensational claim.