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  • Format contains "A four-tiered clay cult stand with decoration. Rectangular shape, hollow inside, with a basin on the top. Height: 53.7cm; Width: 22cm; Length: 24.5cm."
Taanach cult stand.tif

Cult stand from Ta'anach

This clay cult stand was found in a cistern at Ta’anach, protected by layer of silt. Its exact purpose is unclear: no traces of incense or burning were found on it. Some have claimed it functioned as a pedestal for a deity.  The bottom tier features a nude female stretching her arms out to two lions which flank her on either side. The faces of the lions can be seen on the front of the stand and their bodies on the sides. The lower middle tier features two creatures on either side, directly above the lions, and have been identified as 'cherubim' (subordinate divine beings). There is no figure between the creatures, which seems to have been deliberate. The upper middle tier also features lions, on either side of a tree flanked by two ibex. The top tier displays a side-view of a quadruped, perhaps a calf or a horse, with a winged sun disk above it. Volute columns appear on either side of the quadruped and winged sun disk, and a winged griffin or sphinx appears on the side of the stand. Each tier is thought to represent a temple. It is widely recognised that the bottom and upper middle tiers depict a goddess, probably Asherah. The identity of the deity represented by the empty lower middle tier is unclear. Some have suggested that it is an early representation of Yhwh, who was not supposed to be depicted pictorially, but it is inevitably difficult to identify a deity who is not there. The sun disk of the top tier suggests a sun-god; this might also be Yhwh, but a range of other deities could also be identified with a sun disk. If the upper tier and the lower middle tier should be identified with Yhwh, then this cult stand is an early example of Yhwh and Asherah depicted together, as they are at Kuntillet ‘Arjud, Khirbet el-Qom, and in the Bible, where a/the Asherah often appears in Yhwh’s temple (for example, 2 Kings 23:4-6).