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Wim Wenders’ 'Jerusalem Seen from Mt Zion'

Wim Wenders’ documentary-style photographs capture a sense of the profound tragedy that often accompanies Jerusalem in the modern imagination. In contrast to the magisterial panorama of Reuwich’s work, or the imaginative rendering of the city in the Hague Map, Wenders captures a desolate landscape that hints at the troubling political situation of the city in the twenty-first century. Taken from Mount Zion—believed by many to be the burial site of King David and a particularly important location in the history of Judaism—Wenders’ image highlights the way in which the geography of the city has been shaped by both Judaism and Islam. As if standing on the 'holy mountain', the viewer’s eye is caught by the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the centre of Wenders’ image, implicitly placing the two sites in parallel. While Wenders’ composition recognises the centrality of these two important spiritual locations, it diminishes their power by foregrounding of a decrepit-looking graveyard, suggesting a sense of loss and degradation that exists in modern day Jerusalem.The image can also be interpreted to refer to the hope of many to be buried in Jerusalem so that they might be among the first to rise—but that that is a future reality and not the current situation.

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William Blake's 'The River of Life'

William Blake was affected throughout his life by the power of Revelation, its beasts and its vision of the future via the New Jerusalem. He produced watercolours and engravings on themes from Revelation during the 1790s and early 1800s as well as a series of watercolours on Revelation for his patron, Thomas Butts, between 1800 and 1805. His depictions of the city are perhaps the most influential of all imagined Jerusalems in the British artistic tradition.For Blake Jerusalem was the antithesis of Babylon—which, in his mind, was to be equated with London—and the locus of a new birth. He expanded on this idea at great length in his epic illustrated poem, Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion (1804–1820). The image of the New Jerusalem shown here is, on the face of it, a fairly literal visualisation of the River of Life in Revelation 22:1–2. The city of the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21 is not depicted. A river flows from the sun in the background—probably God’s throne of Revelation 22:1—through a street of the ‘city’, encircled by fructifying trees of life. The banks of the river are adorned with classical buildings, perhaps harking back to a nobler age, and the overall impression is one of space and light, in contrast to the dark and dirty London of Blake’s poems. Although this New Jerusalem is peopled—in contrast to many of the earlier manuscript depictions where humankind is conspicuous by its absence—it is difficult to make out who the figures are. The androgynous figure dressed in white and swimming with his back to us may be Jesus, while the flying figure is probably an angel. In contrast to Blake’s other works, there is no manifest difference in size between the human figures and divine ones; it is of interest that Blake has included children in this vision of the New Jerusalem—perhaps suggesting that, in his view, one appears in heaven at the age at which one dies.

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Weidner Ration List (Jehoiachin’s Rations Tablet)

This is one of four clay tablets, all from the middle of the sixth century BCE and housed in the Vorderasiatische Museum, Berlin, which detail the rations given to 'Ya’u-kīnu, king of the land of Yāhudu,' his five sons, and other royal captives. Ya’u-kīnu is usually identified with Jehoiachin, the king of Judah taken into captivity in 597 BCE, when the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem the first time. Parts of Ezekiel and Jeremiah reflect an argument over whether this king-in-exile should still be considered the rightful king of Judah, or if his authority had been ceded to the Babylonian appointee, Zedekiah.2 Kings 25:27-30 (paralleled by Jeremiah 52:31-34) records Jehoiachin receiving relatively favourable rations from the Babylonian king, as well as the presence of other royal deportees in Babylon. This appears to be corroborated by the cuneiform rations tablets. Interestingly, these tablets use the title 'King' for Jehoiachin. We must exercise caution in using these tablets to understand daily life in the diaspora: conditions were different for people deported to different places in Babylonia—life in the city of Babylon would have been very different from life on a rural royal agricultural project—and royal captives were treated very differently from others in the diaspora communities. These tablets can help to round out our picture of diaspora life, but only one very small and early part of it. The Al Yahudu tablets from the Nippur region show a very different kind of diaspora life in southern Babylonia.

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Wall Panel from Tiglath-Pileser III's South West Palace at Nimrud

This wall panel from the South West Palace of the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (ruled 745–727 BCE) shows Assyrian soldiers carrying away four statues of gods, captured from a city the army has just conquered. Although the exact location of the city is unknown, it was perhaps in Syria. The relief depicts the practice of 'godnapping', in which a conquering army carried off statues of the defeated enemy's gods. Although the exact contents of the Jerusalem temple when it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE are unknown—Ezekiel 8–11 claims that all manner of objects and practices were present—it is likely that the Babylonian army would have carted off whatever it found there.Deporting the statues of the defeated people's gods demonstrated the power of the Assyrian or Babylonian king's god, who had enabled his victory by defeating the gods of the conquered. The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Babylonians posed a major theological crisis for the defeated people of Judah, because it implied that Yhwh was weaker than the Babylonian gods. Many texts from this period seek to understand how this could have happened. Rather than admit that Yhwh was weaker than the Babylonian gods, however, most of these texts (such as Ezekiel) argue that Yhwh has authority over all of human history, and that the disaster was punishment for their accumulated sins, including and especially the worship of other gods. The experience of defeat and deportation thus was an important contributor to the theological development of the idea that the Israelites should only worship one god and, ultimately, that their god was the god of all.


Thomas Tallis's 'Lamentatio Ieremiae'

The most famous of all settings of Lamentations is that composed by Thomas Tallis in the middle of the sixteenth century CE. By the time that Tallis composed this work, the text of the Lamentations was an established part of the liturgy of Holy Week. European Christianity thus used the texts of the Lamentations—which had been written either as a direct reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians, or in order to recall the horror of the destruction during the rededication of the newly rebuilt temple in the late sixth century BCE—to express despair at the liturgically re-lived crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Tallis used the Latin text of the Vulgate translation of the Bible. The Hebrew poetry of Lamentations used a stylistic device quite common in Semitic languages: it was written as an acrostic. Instead of spelling out a word or name with the first letter of each verse, Lamentations goes through the letters of the alphabet in their Hebrew order—aleph, bet, gimel, daleth, he, and so on. In order to preserve this feature, the Vulgate translation has the name of the Hebrew letters preceding each verse, and Tallis, like most other composers included that into his music. By Tallis' time, it had already become common to compose the names of the Hebrew letters in a different style to the rest of the setting, perhaps comparable to the way the first letter in an illuminated manuscript often differed from that of other letters on the same page.

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The Temple Scroll from Qumran

The Temple Scroll is the largest single preserved composition found in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea. A small portion of the scroll, columns 41–44, is shown here. This work has been called the most important halakhic (Jewish legal) composition known from the Second Temple period. It is generally considered to have been compiled no later than the last quarter of the second-century BCE, describing systems that served as forerunners to the wider Qumran communities. As it precedes the Qumran community, it was not written by them, but its presence among other texts belonging to the community indicates that it was copied by and likely significant to them. The most well preserved copy of the Temple Scroll is 11QTemple Scroll a (11Q19), which was found in Cave 2 and is about eight metres long, with 65 extant columns (2-66). The copy is written in two hands, with one scribe writing columns 1-5 at the end of the first-century BCE and another scribe writing the remainder of the Scroll probably at the beginning of the first-century CE. The main purpose of the Temple Scroll is to envisage an idealised version of Jewish everyday life and religion that should be lived and maintained in the present, rather than a state which should be implemented in the later days.

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The Silos Apocalypse

This early twelfth century CE image of the New Jerusalem is from the Beatus family of Apocalypse manuscripts and depicts Christ seated on his throne, above the river and tree of life. Produced mainly in Spain between the ninth to the twelfth centuries CE, at monasteries in Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre, and elsewhere, the Beatus Apocalypse manuscripts are all based on the Apocalypse commentary of the eighth century Abbot Beatus of Liebana. They all reflect a similar iconography, quite distinct from the Anglo-Norman Apocalypse iconography that had developed in Northern Europe and is reflected in the Trinity Apocalypse and the Angers Apocalypse tapestry. The images in the Beatus Apocalypse manuscripts tend to be uncluttered, dramatic and vividly coloured. This image of the New Jerusalem, from the Silos Apocalypse, is no exception. An angel with very elongated fingers shows John not the descending city of the New Jerusalem but instead the River of Life, descending from the throne of God and the Lamb (Revelation 22:1–2). This throne is depicted as identical with the Heavenly Throne Room described in Revelation 4–5. Thus God/Christ is surrounded by the twenty-four elders, who point at him with elongated fingers. To the left of the river is the Tree of Life. While the text declares the Tree of Life to be growing on both sides of the river—a physical impossibility—the artist has quite sensibly elected to depict it on one side only. This image of the New Jerusalem radiates a reassuring sense of calm but, with its heavy visual divide between the heavenly and earthly realms—evoked via a heavy and ornate brown barrier underneath the heavenly throne room—it perhaps lacks the sense of interactivity between the divine and the human that the text of Revelation is at pains to stress.


The New Jerusalem Text from Qumran

The New Jerusalem Text (4Q554), composed in the first third of the second century BCE in Aramaic, conveys in minute detail an architectural plan of a city of huge proportions. The city has twelve gates named after the twelve tribes of Israel. Although the city is not named, the descriptions are usually taken as referring to the New Jerusalem. It is similar in many ways to the description of the temple in the Temple Scroll, but there are no direct literary links between the two texts. Further images of the New Jerusalem text and most other Dead Sea Scrolls can be seen in the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library.

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The Madaba Mosaic Map

The Madaba Map is a sixth century CE floor mosaic partially preserved in the Byzantine Church of St George in Madaba, Jordan. It is the earliest extant example of a map of the 'Holy City of Jerusalem'. Much of the map, which was likely originally around 7 metres high and 22 metres long, has now been lost; only a fragmentary remnant of 5 metres by 10 metres survives. Jerusalem would have been at the heart of the sixth century map. Among the key features of the map's rendering of the city are the Roman Cardo—the main street running through Jerusalem, which serves as the map's major horizontal axis—and several major Byzantine churches, including the Hagia Sophia and the Nea Church. The wider map also includes Palestine, the Transjordan, and part of Egypt. The Jerusalem section does not, however, offer an accurate geographical representation of the city. Rather, it offers an image of the idealised Jerusalem of the Christian artist's imagination, with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre placed directly at the city’s heart, even though this is geographically inaccurate. Another cartographic anomaly in the map is the absence of the Temple Mount. This was probably omitted deliberately by the artist(s). The erasure of the site from Christian topography seems to have developed in reaction against Jewish attempts to re-build the Temple in the fourth century CE. Numerous Christians successfully protested against the project at the time that the rebuilding was proposed, because they believed that the site should be allowed to remain in ruins as a sign of the fulfilment of Jesus' prophecy that the Temple would be destroyed. An alternative explanation may be that during the sixth century CE the Temple Mount was not considered part of the city proper, because it was located beyond the city walls.

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The House of Ahiel

The typical domestic unit in the cities of Judah during the late Iron Age was the four-room house. The House of Ahiel, excavated in the City of David in Jerusalem, follows this typical type: there are side rooms, separated by monolithic pillars and piers, and adjoining service rooms to the north. These service rooms provide good examples of spaces dedicated to food preparation and food storage, as well as the house's toilet facilities.

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The Hague Map

Although Jerusalem remained at the heart of the Christian imagination between the sixth and the twelfth centuries CE, it was not until the city came under Christian rule during the Crusades that it began to be mapped with detail comparable to the Madaba mosaic map. Approximately fifteen such maps are known from the Crusader period (1099–1187). Combining apocalyptic images of the New Jerusalem with the cartographic tradition of representing the world as a circle with Jerusalem at its centre, these maps present a peculiarly circular image of the holy city. The map shown here is a beautifully preserved example known as the Hague map, which produced in connection with the first Crusade. It offers a detailed rendering of the city, with Jerusalem is depicted as a walled city. Like the Madaba map and the Hereford Mappa Mundi, the Hague map presents a synthesis of reality and imagination. While not including fantastical beasts, the map takes liberties with the geographical layout of the Holy City, prioritising the presentation of Jerusalem in cruciform rather than according to its cartographic realities. The map also takes liberties in its presentation of the city’s architecture. For example, it shows two temples on the Temple Mount: the templum domini (the Temple of the Lord) and the templum salomonis (the Temple of Solomon). The buildings marked as such were, in actuality, the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, which the Crusaders converted and renamed as churches. The continuation of this elision between the Dome of the Rock and the Temple of Solomon may be seen in Reuwich's map of the city, four centuries later.The overarching effect is a map that simultaneously erased Islamic influence on Jerusalem whilst glorifying and celebrating the Christian heritage of the city. As such, the Hague map offers an important witness to the struggle between Christians and Muslims over the Holy City, its architecture, and, indeed, its history. Indeed, this sense of Jerusalem as a place of conflict is heightened in the map itself, as mounted Crusaders speed across the bottom of the map, giving chase to several fleeing Saracen fighters. The figures have been identified as St George in the lead, with St Demetrius of Thessaloniki following on behind.

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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

For many medieval Christians, the most powerful physical reminders of the New Jerusalem that they would encounter were the great cathedrals and churches of the medieval era. Nowhere would this have been more the case than at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem itself. These buildings, often entered via a door depicting the Last Judgement, self-consciously evoked the New Jerusalem and all its promise, with their soaring height, light-filled space and stained glass. This is powerfully evoked by Chaucer, in the prayer he places on the lips of the Parson at the end of the the pilgrims' journey to Canterbury in England: ‘So, may this earthly pilgrimage show you pilgrims the way to the perfect pilgrimage...which culminates in entry to the heavenly Jerusalem (Jerusalem celestial).’ The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the alleged site of Christ’s crucifixion, is an imposing, sprawling building, dating in its current form to 1149 CE. It was built to bring together under a single church roof the chapel where Christ’s tomb was supposed to have been located; a chapel on Golgotha, the hill on which the crucifixion was thought to have taken place; and another basilica on the site that Constantine’s mother Helena was reported to have found the true cross in 320 CE. A constant source of acrimony between Christian Crusaders and Muslim Arab residents during the medieval era and beyond—as well as between the four Christian dominations guarding over it—the Church was and is still considered by Christians to be the most holy location in the world and the climactic end point of any pilgrimage.

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The Broad Wall, Jerusalem

Excavation works in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City revealed a significant stretch—65 metres long and varying between six and seven metres wide—of a major defensive wall of Jerusalem. The construction of this wall has been dated to the late eighth or early seventh century BCE, because is built over the top of earlier, eighth century houses. The wall may have been built during preparations for the Assyrian invasion by King Hezekiah, as described in 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:2-5. Hezekiah is rebuked for his preparations by Isaiah 22:9-11, protesting that he ought to have trusted in Yhwh to protect him but also that he broke down houses to build the wall. The wall serves as a poignant reminder of the impact that warfare and royal authority could have on the lives of individuals. This part of the wall must have been still standing after the the Babylonian sieges in 597 and 586 BCE, although other parts of it would undoubtedly have succumbed to the onslaught of the Babylonian siege engines.

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The Book of Hours, Use of Sarum ('The Neville of Hornby Hours')

This fourteenth century CE Book of Hours—a type of medieval devotional volume with texts, prayers and psalms, and usually beautifully illuminated—is a carefully constructed piece of devotional narrative offers a guide to Christian history. It begins with the creation of the universe and concludes with a decisive moment in Christian history, the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. On this leaf of the manuscript, the Roman army appears below the battlements of Jerusalem, firing arrows up into the ranks of the Jews above. Amidst the ranks of Jewish soldiers on the lower section of the wall are two women, devouring their own babies in an act of savage desperation. This depiction of infanticide may be derived from Josephus’ story of Mary of Bethezuba, as seen in the Gospel Book of Otto III. Unusually, however, this depiction shows not one but two women consuming their children. This suggests the author may (also) have been influenced by the description of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, as recounted in Lamentations: 'The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they became their food in the destruction of my people.' The horror of the city's destruction by the Babylonians and the suffering of its people were understood by Lamentations and other texts of the period, such as Ezekiel, as just punishment for their broken covenant with Yhwh. For the Christian readership of this fourteenth century book of hours, the cannibalism it represents was the Jews' punishment for killing Christ—a deeply problematic but common Christian accusation against the Jews. The text's caption thus declares that it depicts ‘How Titus and Vespasian the Emperor of Rome destroyed the Jews in the city of Jerusalem for the love of God. And how the women ate their sons and the sons their fathers and the fathers their sons’.The Sarum in the title refers to the Cathedral of Salisbury, which had its own slightly different liturgy and continues to do so to this day.

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The 'Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem'

More scientifically accurate maps of Jerusalem began to be produced from the sixteenth century onward, following on from the developments made by Reuwich and Breydenbach and other pilgrimage maps. As cartographic skills developed, so too did the veracity with which the Holy City could be mapped; in place of artistic panoramas came bird's-eye views of the city. Interestingly, however, there was less appetite to create topographically exact records for Jerusalem than there was for other, religiously less significant cities. It was not until the nineteenth century that the development away from imaginative, biblically-informed maps came to full fruition. The first modern, scientifically accurate map of the holy city, the British Ordnance Survey Map of Jerusalem, was undertaken by Major General Charles Wilson, a member of the British Royal Engineers, between 1864-1865. He was commissioned by George Grove—one of the founders of the Palestine Exploration Fund, the moving force behind Crystal Palace, a biblical Scholar and famous musicologist—with backing from Baroness Angela Burdett Coutts (of Coutts Bank fame) and approval from the British War Office, on the grounds that the map would allow for the improvement of Jerusalem’s polluted water supply. The aim of improving the water supply by mapping the city was, of course, not disinterested: greater intelligence of the area and the improvement of its infrastructure meant an increased chance of incorporating the Holy Land into the British Empire. In addition to two scaled maps of Jerusalem, Wilson published an accompanying report that included a significant review of the water cisterns below Temple Mount. This was an early foray into the archaeology of the holy city which, although conducted on the basis of civic development, ultimately functioned as a catalyst for further British exploration of Jerusalem’s architectural remains, particularly the destroyed Jerusalem Temple, presumed to be hidden below the Dome of the Rock. The production of modern scientific maps thus remained underpinned by military and religious interests, much in keeping with earlier endeavours to map Jerusalem.

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Tablet mentioning Nabû-šarussu-ūkin (Nebusarsekim), the Chief Eunuch of Nebuchadnezzar II

This clay tablet dates from 595 BCE and describes the presentation of a gift of gold from Nebuchadnezzar II’s chief eunuch, Nabû-šarussu-ūkin, to the temple of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon. Measuring just 5.4 cm by 3.5 cm, the tablet was discovered in Sippar, close to Baghdad, in the 1870s CE, but its full significance for study of the Bible was not realised until 2007. The Neo-Babylonian administrative document, currently located at the British Museum, contains eleven lines of cuneiform text. From the perspective of biblical studies, its most interesting feature is that it may refer to a Babylonian royal official who is also named in Jeremiah 39.* If both texts refer to the same man, the cuneiform text may lend historical credence to other details contained in Jeremiah 39 concerning the siege of Jerusalem, fleshing out the picture of life under Babylonian rule. The full translation of the tablet reads: “(Regarding) 1.5 minas (0.75 kg) of gold, the property of Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, the chief eunuch, which he sent via Arad-Banitu the eunuch to [the temple] Esangila: Arad-Banitu has delivered [it] to Esangila. In the presence of Bel-usat, son of Alpaya, the royal bodyguard, [and of] Nadin, son of Marduk-zer-ibni. Month XI, day 18, year 10 [of] Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.” *The name should be Hebraized as Nebusarsekim, but some English translations, follow another manuscript traditions which divided up the list of Babylonian officials' names differently, putting the 'Nebu' part of the name with the previous one and resulting in officials called Nergal-sharezer, Samgar-nebo and Sarsechim, instead of Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar and Nebo-Sarsekim.

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Storage vessels from the House of Ahiel

The ability to store food is easily taken for granted in a modern context, but could easily spell the difference between life and death in the ancient world. Food storage was crucial to a family's ability to survive the winter each year, as well as its ability to survive crises such as famine or siege. The administrative ability of the Judean state to control and direct food resources was also fundamental to its citizenry's survival in such crises. The collection of vessels shown here comes from a service room in the House of Ahiel (named after the man whose name appears on clay shards also found in the house). Excavators discovered thirty-seven storage jars in the room, most of which had been marked by a rosette-type stamp impression. These stamp impressions were part of the state's administrative system for the distribution or taxation of produce in the last years of the kingdom of Judah, just prior to the destruction of 586 BCE. 

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Statuette of the God Ba'al

Ba'al—literally 'lord'—was a storm and fertility god widely known and worshipped in ancient Canaan, as recorded in biblical and non-biblical texts. He appears regularly in the Ugaritic texts from Ras Shamra and in numerous biblical texts, such as 1 Kings 18; Hosea 2:16–20; 2 Kings 11:17; 23:4–5; Zephaniah 1:4; and Jeremiah 2:8; 19:5, where he is a frequent object of the authors' ire, as they argue that the Israelites should worship Yhwh alone.This statuette of the god Ba'al is made of bronze and plated with gold. The deity is seated and holding an unidentified object in its left hand, while the right hand is missing. The facial features of the god are outlined with a black inlay and the left ear is pierced with an earring (missing from the right ear). The god is wearing a conical headdress and a long robe. The statuette was found in debris during the excavation of a Temple at Megiddo. The excavators dated it to Late Bronze Age layers. Although the original throne of the god and small parts of the statuette are missing, on the whole it is remarkably well preserved. 

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Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice from Qumran

The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice are a group of liturgical songs to be used on each of the first thirteen Sabbaths of the year, dating by the solar calendar. The copies found at Qumran are not generally understood as sectarian in nature. That is, they do not appear to reflect practices particular to the Qumran community. Eight manuscripts of the work were found in Qumran Cave 4 (4Q400 through 4Q407), with a further copy in Cave 11 (11Q17). The manuscripts date to the late Hasmonean and Herodian periods, from the middle of the second century BCE to the middle of the first century CE. The Songs focus on the angels and their worship and service of God in the heavenly Temple / palace, depicting the celestial sanctuary as a living temple comprised of a vast array of angelic beings.

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Silver Pendant from Ekron, depicting the Goddess Ishtar

This silver pendant depicts the goddess Ishtar standing on the back of a lion, beneath the symbols for the stars and the winged sun. Lower down is the symbol for the crescent moon. A worshipper stands with arms outstretched, facing the goddess and in between them is a small cult stand. The hands of the worshipper are facing the goddess in supplication. The iconography is reminiscent of Phoenician craftsmanship, rather than the Mesopotamian iconography expected of the Mesopotamian goddess. This together with the crude workmanship suggests that it was locally made, with Mesopotamian influence. The pendant was found in a silver hoard, hidden in the hole of a hewn, perforated, stone olive press. This hoard, along with five others, were sealed in a destruction layer dated to 604 BCE. The silver hoards are highly unusual for a Levantine city at this time and probably reflect the growing economic status and expanding needs of Ekron’s population. Ekron was located on the border between Philistine and Judean territory. In the seventh century BCE it flourished under Neo-Assyrian influence, becoming a major olive oil production centre. Prosperity came with cultural strings attached, however, as the pendant’s use of the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar suggests. A similar depiction of Ishtar on a pendant was found at Zinçirli, while seals depicting Ishtar have been found throughout Israel. Ishtar was widely venerated across the ancient Near East in the seventh century, with depictions of her most commonly found on personal items, such as seals or jewellery, rather than monumental inscriptions. During the period of Neo-Assyrian expansion between the ninth and seventh centuries BCE, the development of trade routes and exchange of peoples and goods across the ancient Near East meant that cultural and religious ideas and goods were exchanged at a notable rate, which led to a diversification of local cultures. As the pendant from Ekron attests, foreign religious and cultural ideas were present among Judah’s closest neighbours during the seventh century; it seems very likely that they were known also in Judah itself.

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Shalmaneser III's 'Black Obelisk'

This black limestone obelisk, inscribed at the command of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III, was found in the city of Nimrud in modern-day Iraq. The bas-reliefs* and inscriptions on the obelisk record and glorify the achievements of the king, the impressive extent of his authority, and the vast tributes paid by his client kings, whose territories spanned a wide geographic extent, from modern Egypt and Turkey to northern Iran. Of particular interest to historians of Israel and Judah is that these client kings include King Jehu, who ruled the northern kingdom of Israel from c. 841–814 BCE. He has the distinction of being the only Israelite or Judean king of whom we have a picture: he is shown paying homage, prostrate before Shalmaneser. Tribute payments of the kind recorded on the Black Obelisk were made by the kings of Israel and of Judah to their Mesopotamian suzerains in the eighth, seventh, and sixth centuries BCE, first to Assyrian kings and later to Babylonian kings. Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE and Nebuchadnezzar's sieges of Jerusalem in 597 and 586 BCE were the result of Judean king's decision to refuse payment.*Bas-reliefs are a type of sculpture that depicts figures and faces in a shallower form than their usual proportions. Bas-reliefs allow the inscription to be viewed from many angles without distorting the image.

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Sennacherib's South West Palace at Nineveh, portraying the siege of Lachish

These panels are part of a series of wall reliefs excavated from the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s (ruled 705–681 BCE) palace at Nineveh. The panels records the Assyrian siege and eventual capture of the city of Lachish. Lachish was one of the most important cities in Judah, perhaps second only to Jerusalem, and it played an important role in the administration and military strength of the kingdom. Sennacherib’s army's siege of Lachish is reported in 2 Kings 18–19 (cf. Isaiah 36–37). These panels depict the aftermath of the siege, with particular interest in the population of the city which is being deported to Assyria. Deportation of a defeated city's or country's leadership was a very common part of Assyrian—and to a lesser degree Babylonian—military policy, and was designed to reduce the chance of future rebellions. Elsewhere in the series Sennacherib's soldiers are shown plundering the city's cultic items.

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Sennacherib's South West Palace at Nineveh, portraying the capture of Lachish

This panel is part of a series of wall reliefs excavated from the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s (ruled 705–681 BCE) palace at Nineveh. The panels records the Assyrian siege and eventual capture of the city of Lachish. The panel shown here depicts Assyrian soldiers carrying away cultic items from the city. Lachish was one of the most important cities in Judah, perhaps second only to Jerusalem, and it played an important role in the administration and military strength of the kingdom. Sennacherib’s army's siege of Lachish is reported in 2 Kings 18–19 (cf. Isaiah 36–37). On the upper left hand side of the relief the besieged city of Lachish is shown, with archers and siege engines (perhaps spiked battering rams) attacking the walls. On the upper level there are various trees, which probably represent the journey to Assyria on which the deportees in the bottom two registers are embarking. In the middle register Neo-Assyrian soldiers can be seen carrying away the spoils of war. These include a chariot and shields and, to the right of those pulling the chariot, two figures are shown carrying incense stands or burners. These are cultic (religious) items that have been looted from the city, either from its main shrine or from private homes. Cultic items were a prized spoil of war, because they symbolised the defeat of the god associated with them, and the power of the god of the attacking forces.  A similar practice may be seen on one of Tiglath-pileser III's wall reliefs. The Bible does not record the Assyrians plunder of cultic items during Sennacherib's invasion (perhaps because Hezekiah was supposed to have destroyed them, according 2 Kings 18:4), but it does report that the Babylonians took cultic items away from the Temple of Yhwh when they attacked Jerusalem in 597 BCE and when they destroyed it in 586 BCE (2 Kings 24:13; 25:13–17).

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Seal from Megiddo depicting cosmological battle

This cylinder seal came from the Megiddo water system. This makes a precise date impossible, but the imagery is typically Neo-Assyrian, from the late tenth to the late seventh century BCE. It is approximately 4cm high and is made of olivine, a mineral composition typically found in dark igneous rocks like basalt. It is slightly worn, blurring the image somewhat, but the main features can still be seen. This seal has seven stars in the upper left, probably signifying the Pleiades, and the star of the goddess Ishtar on the far left side. A bearded figure is on the far right, fighting a winged dragon in the centre. Another dragon lies face-down on the ground under the deity’s foot, symbolising its defeat. The deity may already have defeated one dragon and be in the midst of battling a second, or the seal may simultaneously show the battle and its outcome, emphasising that the deity is ultimately victorious. It may depict the god Bel (Marduk) fighting the dragon, although it also resembles a seal from Emar, in which Ninurta fights the Anzu bird—or it could be the chief deity of the Neo-Assyrian pantheon Ashur.In the second and early first millennia seals often had religious motifs; over time more and more text appears on the seals and in the Levant with aniconic (non-pictorial) seals eventually replace seals with text almost entirely. When a document was sealed with cultic imagery it may have been meant that the god(s) witnessed the sealing of the document and its contents, lending a divine imprimatur to the details and emphasising that they should be carried out exactly. Alternatively, such seals may have symbolised the owner’s devotion to the deity, or been used for a specific function such as signalling that the document was a certain kind of communication, involving a person or temple connected with the deity.

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Rudolf Mauersberger's 'Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst'

Rudolf Mauersberger's motet 'Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst' was written on Good Friday and Holy Saturday in 1945 CE (see the composer's autograph manuscript here). The liturgy of Holy Week had gained a new meaning for Mauersberger in the aftermath of the firebombing and large scale destruction of Dresden, including the Kreuzkirche, where he was director of music. Among the many dead were eleven boys of Mauersberger's choir. Mauersberger's setting includes words from Lamentations 1:13: 'Er hat ein Feuer aus der Höhe in meine Gebeine gesandt und es lassen walten' ('From above he has sent fire into my bones, and let it rule'). The text differs from standard English translations—NRSV has 'From on high he sent fire; it went deep into my bones'—due to a different interpretion of the Hebrew, and is particularly striking here. This verse, originally written to describe God's destruction of Jerusalem, finds a poignant new home in a city destroyed by incendiary bombs. The setting is largely very quiet and expresses despair and sadness, but also hope for salvation. With the translation of the Bible into the spoken languages of Europe from the sixteenth century CE onwards, the biblical text became part of everyday experience. European Christians understood many of the texts to refer not only to the real city of Jerusalem and its environs, but also to their own homelands, as this setting illustrates. It may be troublesome to some to see a German composer use biblical texts to lament the destruction of his city during World War II, in which Germany destroyed so many cities and killed 6,000,000 Jews. Some have accused Mauersberger of not including a clear statement of German guilt in his selection of texts. The inclusion of the last few lines, however, requesting that God bring 'us' back to him, may be understood as a recognition that contemporary Germans were far from God (the Lutheran understanding of sinfulness). The setting also uses both the beginning and end of the text of Lamentations, indicating that the hearer is to understand the entire text as part of the work, including Lamentations 5:16b: 'Woe for us, for we have sinned!'.

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Rosette seals and ink marking on storage jars

The rosette seals appear on large numbers of storage jar handles, from the late seventh and early sixth centuries BCE. They represent an official, centralised marking system, a successor to the lmlk ('belonging to the king') stamps used during the eighth and seventh centuries BCE.  The group here also includes an unusual ink marking—a letter he or het, written in black ink—preserved on a complete storage vessel. The meaning of this sign on the vessel is unknown. It may have indicated something about the contents, or perhaps the provenance or destination of the vessel. This marking is exceptional, in that it is written in ink rather than incised or stamped on the vessel. However, this rarity may simply be the result of the reality of what survives in the archaeological record, because markings in ink are more likely than incisions to have been washed away or lost.

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Rembrandt's 'Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem'

Rembrandt’s Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem depicts the prophet mourning the loss of the city, which can just be made out on the left hand side. Portrayed in sharp detail against an otherwise soft background, Jeremiah leans to his left, propped up by a large book marked Bibel. The position of the prophet is somewhat reminiscent of Michelangelo’s portrayal of the same prophet in his earlier Sistine Chapel fresco (1508-1512 CE). Jeremiah 39–52 records the fall of Jerusalem and its immediate aftermath. Unlike Ezekiel, whose book speaks from the perspective of Babylonian exile, the book of Jeremiah speaks with the voice of those left behind in Judah; the prophet, it says, was granted permission to stay in Judah by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. When Jeremiah left Judah with others who had been left in Judah by the Babylonians, he went Egypt. Jeremiah was traditionally also considered the author of the book of Lamentations. This is attested even in the early translations of the Bible—the Septuagint, the translation into Greek, for example, includes a superscription that ends 'Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented this lament over Jerusalem'. The perceived connection between Jeremiah and Lamentations is due in part to the two books' linguistic similarities, although this may simply be due to their shared subject matter and close chronological proximity. 2 Chronicles 35:25 records Jeremiah chanting a lament over the death of Josiah the king, which may have helped the two books to be connected in the subsequent tradition.

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Rembrandt's 'Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple'

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch master who ranged across printmaking, painting and draughtsmanship and had a particular interest in dramatic biblical scenes. His etching of Christ driving the money changers from the Temple (Matthew 21:12-14) was influenced by Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut image (c. 1508) of this scene and also by a general sixteenth century interest in the metaphorical symbolism of the purification of the Temple. The Temple had come to be seen as a symbol of the Church’s own need for purification, through condemnation of heresy and through internal reform. In this lively etching, Christ is depicted as the central figure from whom all the other action flows, as in the El Greco image of this scene. Unlike Dürer, who lights the scene from a candle above Christ’s head, Christ is illuminated here by light which emanates from his raised hand. People and animals scatter all around in the face of Christ’s anger—note the man being pulled along by his own cow on the right hand side of the image, which suggests that Rembrandt was perhaps inspired by the Johannine version of this episode, in which Christ finds merchants selling cattle, sheep and doves, in the Temple alongside the money changers. In the background, a religious ceremony continues uninterrupted, presided over by priests. In the foreground one of the money changers looks up at Christ in desperation—a very human moment amid the chaos.

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Reconstruction of the Shrine of the Temple at Arad

Arad is famous as royal Judean fortress, outside Jerusalem, that housed a temple of Yhwh. Although debate continues as to the exact date of its construction and subsequent phases of its use, the identification of the temple as dedicated to Yhwh is not in doubt.The shrine, a reconstruction of which is shown here, was situated at the far end of the temple and only accessible by going through the temple. This has led to the shrine being described as a 'holy of holies', or the most sacred space within the temple complex. It is unclear who would have had access to the shrine, but it would probably have been only the priests. The entrance to the shrine is flanked by two small limestone incense altars. Inside was a small platform and a smooth stele, or massebah ('standing stone'). The incense altars had been laid on their sides—that is, put out of use—but still had traces of incense on them when they were found. The main space of the temple contained a large altar; two offering bowls were found by its base. The Arad temple and shrine were put out of use around the end of the eighth century BCE, drawing comparisons with King Hezekiah’s reform (2 Kings 18:1-4). Scholars remain divided on the exact dates and the interpretation of these events.An ostracon—a pottery sherd with ink writing—also found at the site refers to an unidentified person 'in the house of Yhwh'. The letter was written by a subordinate to one 'my Lord Eliashib' sometime in the late seventh or early sixth centuries BCE. Because the ostracon post-dates the activity of the temple at Arad, this 'house of Yhwh' is usually understood be the Jerusalem Temple.

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Reconstruction of a four-room house

The Harvard Semitic Museum has produced a full scale reconstruction of a four-room house, the typical home in Iron Age Judah. The reconstruction gives an idea of what an Iron Age Judean house would have looked like, divided into four rooms or spaces: three spaces separated by large pillars, and a fourth space in the back. The reconstruction also shows an upper floor, which does not survive directly in the archaeological record, but may be assumed from the presence of staircases in these homes. The first photo shows a general view of the house, with a reconstructed loom on the upper floor. The second photo shows examples of foodstuffs available during the Iron Age and vessels used in food preperation. The third photo shows a mortar and pestle, a set of grinding stones, and storage vessels in the background.

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Rashi's Diagram of the Holy Land

One of the most difficult tasks for interpreters of biblical texts has been to try to imagine and reconstruct the restored Temple which is envisioned in Ezekiel 40–48. One early instance of medieval imaginings of the Temple, based on Ezekiel’s descriptions, is the work of the Jewish scholar Rashi (1040–1105). Writing to a group of rabbis in Auxerre, France on the matter, Rashi hinted tantalizingly that, ‘concerning the northern outer chambers, about not being able to understand where they began to the north-west and how much they extended to the east ... I cannot add anything to what I explained in my commentary, but I shall draw a plan of them and send it to him.’ The images hinted to by Rashi’s letter have, like the Jerusalem Temple, been lost for several centuries. What has survived instead, in a number of thirteenth and fourteenth century CE manuscripts of Rashi’s commentaries, are his diagrammatic interpretations of the description of the Holy Land given in Ezekiel 45 and Ezekiel 48. The version here, inked some two hundred years after Rashi’s death, is an illustration for his commentary on Ezekiel 48. In it we can see the prophet’s proposed division of the Holy Land, with the land to be portioned off to God—the sanctuary—in the centre. Moving outward from this holiest space are the territories of the twelve Israelite tribes, beginning with the Levites who served in the Temple.

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Rabbi H.S. Pinie's 'Jerusalem Pilgrimage, 1875'

There was an established Christian tradition of mapping of the Holy Land throughout the Middle Ages, but there is little evidence of Jewish mapping of the Promised Land during this period, aside from Rashi's diagrammatic plans of the Holy Land. Jewish cartography began to develop during the early modern period, as Jewish map makers began to produce pictorial accounts of the route of the Exodus. Paralleling the Christian creation of maps of the Holy Land that aided or recorded religious journeys or battles—pilgrimages and Crusades—Jewish maps focused on the holy, historical geography of Jerusalem. This printed map produced by Rabbi Pinie was designed for pilgrims to Palestine and was published in Poland in 1875. Jerusalem appears at the centre of the panorama. Above the Dome of the Rock is the inscription ‘the place of the holy of holies’, hinting at the Temple site below the mosque (compare the Hague Map and Breydenbach's Peregrinatio). At the centre of Jerusalem is the Kotel Ma'aravi, or the Western Wall. The surrounding countryside is labelled with key sites from Jewish ancient history, including the tomb of Huldah the prophetess, the tomb of the ancestress Rachel, and the tomb of the prophet Samuel. The map has more recently appeared on Israeli postal stamps.

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Psalm 137 from the St Alban's Psalter

Psalm 137’s famous opening line, 'By the river(s) of Babylon we sat down and wept...', leads its hearers into a poem of yearning for a lost homeland. The psalm probably originated in the time of the the Babylonian exile, where it is set. It describes the communal grief experienced on the banks of the river, where the exiles’ captors demand 'songs of Zion', that is, songs of the holy city Jerusalem (v. 3). The central part of the poem, in the singular voice, expresses the refusal to 'sing Yhwh’s song in a foreign land' (v. 4) and calls for bodily repercussions, should the speaker forget Jerusalem. The final (and least used!) part of Psalm 137 implores Yhwh to remember the events that have taken place, seeking punishment on the singers' persecutors, and describes the one who will repay those persecutors as ashrei (happy/blessed). Although the ending has proved theologically problematic for many, the poem remains one of the most famous and influential ‘artefacts’ from the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of many of its inhabitants to Babylonia. Indeed, the psalm has a rich reception history—in recent years it has been used at the inauguration of the American President Donald Trump, been taken as inspiration for Paulo Coehlo’s novel By The River Piedra We Sat Down and Wept, and been interpreted as the earliest written record of middle cerebral arterial infarction (Saxby Pridmore and Jamshid Ahmadi, 'Psalm 137 And Middle Cerebral Artery Infarction', ASEAN Journal of Psychiatry 16/2 [2015]: 271). It is perhaps no surprise that it continues to capture the imagination: the sense of yearning and fear of forgetting are palpable throughout. The manuscript pictured, featuring Psalm 137 in Latin, is from the twelfth century CE St Alban's Psalter, currently housed in the Dombibliothek in Hildesheim, Germany.

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Offering Stand from Megiddo

This two-part cult stand from Megiddo is unusually well preserved. Often only one part of two-part stands survive. The offering stand is conical, made of clay, and yellow in colour, with a red wash on the bottom part of the stand up to the ridge above the window and on the bowl. The bowl and the upper part of the stand are encircled with leaves, and those on the stand have a red line decoration. The bowl would have been joined to the stand by a pin going through the hole visible on the neck of the stand. The inside of the bowl was discoloured by fire. The offering stand was found in an area with only fragmentary architectural remains, but a wealth of domestic finds, such as ovens, silos, mortars, pottery, and evidence of textile and (bronze) metal work. As there was no evidence of a temple in the area where the stand was found, it is most likely an example of domestic cultic practice. A variety of offerings could have been placed in the bowl, including liquids for libations, grains or food offerings, or incense. The discolouration by fire suggests incense or some kind of offering by burning is likely. Without an inscription on the stand it is impossible to identify which deity was venerated through its use, but the leaves probably point to a fertility deity linked with agriculture. Offering stands of various types, shapes and sizes have been found from all over the Levant; they seem to have been a normal part of cultic practice, whether used more officially in temples or as part of daily life in the domestic sphere.See also the Altar from Tel Rehov, the Horned Incense Altar from Megiddo and the Musicians Cult Stand from Ashdod.

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Offering bowl from Arad

The main room of the temple of Arad contained a large altar. Two offering bowls (one pictured above) were found by its base. Both bowls have inscriptions consisting of two incised letters: ק (qoph) and כ (kaph). These are thought to be abbreviations for קדשׁ כהנים (qdš khnm), meaning 'holy / set apart for the priests'.See also the reconstruction of the shrine at Arad.

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Nicholas Poussin's 'The Destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem by Titus'

Nicholas Poussin was a French painter who spent most of his working life in Italy. His work is characterized by an interest in religious and historical subjects, often expressed in large landscape form. This large oil painting of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE by the Roman army under Titus is typical of Poussin's work, even though the background is a cityscape rather than a landscape. The work was undoubtedly inspired in part by Josephus’ Jewish War, which chronicled the build up to the Jewish Revolt against Rome, and ultimate defeat in 70 CE after initial successes. In a busy and powerful image, Poussin depicts the massacre of the Jewish army in the foreground, the sack of the Temple buildings to the left and the surrounding buildings on fire. Titus is a focal point, thanks to the brilliant white hue of his horse and his raised hand. Josephus, who became an apologist for the Romans, was at pains in the Jewish War to point out that Titus had tried to save the Temple and the city from being burnt and destroyed, but had not managed to hold back his soldiers. His raised hand signifies his vain attempt to save the Temple and its environs. The raised gaze of Titus and some of his soldiers, to a focal point out of the picture frame in the top left hand corner, has also drawn critical attention. What they are looking at is not clear, but their may be meant to point to the presence of the Divine. Whether God is present in support or condemnation is left ambiguous. Notably, some of the details in Poussin's rendering of the city and the temple have been drawn from Rome, not Jerusalem. Thus the Temple resembles the Pantheon in Rome, although some of the architectural details (such as the colonnades of the Stoa and the placement of the sanctuary on the right) are historically accurate. But Titus and his horse resemble one of the equine statues of Marcus Aurelius that used to stand on the Capitoline. As frequently the case in other artistic renderings of the Jerusalem's destruction—see, for example, the work by Jean Fouquet—this key historical moment is visualised using an array of sources and imagery, not all of which relate to the historical city.

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Nicholas of Lyra's 'Temple Diagram' from the Commentary on Ezekiel

Although the history of the mapping of Jerusalem is dominated by Christian iconography, there are some aspects of Jerusalem's imagery that demonstrate Jewish influence on these Christian traditions. One such example appears the writings of Nicholas of Lyra, a Christian theologian whose work was highly indebted to contemporary Jewish scriptural interpretation. Indeed, Lyra himself informs readers of his influential commentary on the Bible, Postilla litteralis et moralis in totam bibliam, that he not only relied on the works of prominent Christian theologians but also and ‘especially Rabbi Solomon’, now known as Rashi. Rashi influenced Lyra’s use of illustrations to accompany his commentary, with the Postilla ultimately including around 35 drawings. These included a number of different elevations and plans for the Temple, some based on descriptions found in Kings and Chronicles and others on the prophetic vision of Ezekiel. The plan here is one of Lyra’s diagrams of Ezekiel’s Temple. It is clear from the layout that Lyra was visually quoting both Rashi and Maimonides, weaving Jewish images of the Temple into his own Christian context. At the centre of Nicholas’ rendering is the altar used for sacrifice, with a river flowing past—a crucial part of Ezekiel’s vision of the New Jerusalem (Ezekiel 47:1). Notably, the river does not feature in the plan produced by Maimonides, suggesting that Lyra was more strongly influenced by the Ezekiel vision—or, perhaps, inclined to include it because of the significance of the River of Life in Revelation (compare, for example, the Angers Apocalypse tapestry). Although Lyra was clearly informed by Jewish tradition concerning the Temple's layout, his theological understanding of the significance of this now lost part of Jerusalem differed meaningfully: while Jews such as Rashi continued to long for the restoration of the Temple in a future messianic age, Christians such as Lyra understood Ezekiel’s Temple as a prophetic precursor of the Church.

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Musicians Cult Stand from Ashdod

This cult stand depicts a musical ensemble made up of five figures playing different instruments. The figures are displayed around the base, with three four-legged animals above them. Four of the figures are modelled in the round and appear in small windows. One plays a flute, one the cymbals, one a lyre, and one a tambourine or drum. At least two of the four (the cymbal and tambourine players) are wearing hats or headdresses; the pointed chins on some may indicate beards. The fifth figure is larger than the other four and probably represents the leader of the group. The lead figure plays a double flute, like the one of the figurine from Tel Malhata, which held differently to that played by the smaller flute player. The stand comes from a group of buildings in Ashdod which produced numerous other fine cultic and domestic items. The unusual architecture of the buildings, combined with the finds, led to its identification as an official or elite building, part of which had a cultic function. The complex did not function as a temple and so attests to the close intertwining of daily life and cultic practice. The musicians are often thought to symbolise worshippers, but it has also been suggested that they could depict a wealthy family engaging in musical activities—perhaps the family to whom the stand belonged. Offerings or incense may have been placed in the dish at the top of the stand.See also the Altar from Tel Rehov, the Offering Stand from Jerusalem and the Horned Incense Altar from Megiddo.

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Musical Instruments: Flute, Rattle, and Conch Trumpet

In ancient times as in modern, both religious and non-religious life often involved music. Several ancient instruments are shown above. The flute above is made of bone, with incised decoration at the top and bottom. It was found at En-Gedi, near the Dead Sea. It is one of several similar flutes known as 'Megiddo-type flutes', named after a famous example from Megiddo. These flutes tend to be between 7 and 12cm long, are generally made of bird or goat bones, and have a hole in the center. They produce a shrill tone and have been found in a variety of contexts. There is no specific information known about their use; they may have been children’s toys, cultic instruments, domestic instruments, or even amulets. The rattle is made of pottery and decorated with painted red lines. It was found with another rattle under a layer of ash at Hazor, in a large house that had suffered a violent destruction. Similar rattles have been found in tombs in Samaria. The conch trumpet is made from a large shell (Charonia tritonis), with the point snapped off to form a mouthpiece and a small hole pierced near the end. It was found inside a casemate wall at Hazor, where it may have been used as a signal-horn. Conch trumpets are known in the Levant from the third millennium BCE. Almost all were found within areas connected with the Phoenician or Philistine cultural spheres—as one would expect, given they are made from sea-shells!Musical activity is also attested by the figurine of a double flute player and the cult stand from Ashdod with musicians on it.

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Moses Maimonides' Reconstruction of Solomon's Temple

Moses Maimonides was an important medieval Jewish scholar, sometimes referred to as the “second Moses” by his followers. While living in Egypt after a visit to the Holy Land, Maimonides completed a monumental commentary on the Mishnah (a collection of ancient Jewish law), in which he provided a number of different diagrams of the Temple. The Temple plan here is one of these diagrams. Unlike his predecessor Rashi, whose diagram of the holy land and and plan of the long-destroyed Temple were derived from the description in Ezekiel 40–48, Maimonides relied on the account of the Temple's architecture given in the Mishnah. The west side of the Temple complex appears at the top of the diagram, with east at the bottom. As the eye travels up the page, the first section depicts the women’s area, followed by the the men’s area, and then the priests' area. At the centre of the page, the dark brown stepped shape is the sacrificial alter. Above this are another series of chambers, including the the menorah, represented as a single line, and the Holy of Holies. For Maimonides, Jerusalem was an eternally sacred space filled with the Divine Presence. Although the Temple had been destroyed, the land where it had once stood remained deeply spiritually significant. Nevertheless, Maimonides' map is quite different from other maps of Jerusalem from the Middle Ages, in that he is concerned only to depict the complex layout of the building, as described in Middoth. His work is an attempt to grasp at the reality of the Temple as it once stood, rather than to embellish it with features from the imagination.

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Model Shrines from Yavneh

These two models shrines come from a pit used for the disposal of cultic items at Yavneh. The pit was uncovered by accident in 2002, during the development of a garden. In the pit excavators found an unprecedented number of cult stands, as well as numerous bowls, chalices, fire pans, and an altar. Many of these items were identified as having had religious significance because they were all broken and thrown into the pit together in a relatively short space of time during the mid ninth and early eigth centuries BCE. The two shrines shown here are examples of a wide assemblage of mostly rectangular pottery models found at Yavneh. The roofs tend to be open, with strips of pottery across them, perhaps representing wooden beams. The figures in the openings were made separately and feature humans and animals. The excavators called these models 'cult stands', although their function is unclear. Unlike some cult stands, the top of these models could not have supported any weight, either to burn incense or to bear a statue of a deity. Notably, no evidence of burning was found on the models, in contrast to many of the other items in the repository. Although they are shaped like buildings, the models do not resemble any known building styles. They seem to have functioned simply as models, perhaps meant to be dedicated to the gods as votive offerings by being placed within temples. Though the figures that adorn the openings and sides of the models are probably deities of some kind, it is impossible to know which gods were venerated through the use of these models.See also the Model Shrine from Megiddo.

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Model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Pilgrims have sought souvenirs and relics of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the days of the earliest pilgrimages to the sacred sites. In the seventeenth century, wooden models of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was believed to built on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, became particularly popular as a pilgrim souvenir. Part of the appeal was that such models could be taken apart, which made not merely for easier transportation but also, and more interestingly, gave pilgrims the opportunity to re-live their pilgrimage by looking inside and rediscovering the different chapels and areas of theological interest within the church. Each model would be labelled with numbers indicating important places in the church, such as the site of Calvary or the burial tomb, and would be sold with a key scroll for ease of use, identifying the sites associated with the particular number. This particular model has been inlaid with mother-of-pearl and was based on designs made by Bernardino Amico, a priest who served in the Holy Land from 1593 to 1597 CE.

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Model couch from Beersheba

The figurine repertoire of Judah includes not only female figurines and horses (with or without rider), but also models of furniture, such chairs and this couch or bed. Little is known of the use and meaning of these figurines. However, the fact that they are found in both domestic and funerary contexts suggests that they must have formed part of daily life and its rituals. It should be remembered that furniture was probably owned only by the better off and was probably a status symbol. Some scholars also suggested that couches like this one should be associated with fertility and birth. This particular example in Beersheba was found with a female figurine. At present, far too little is known from secure archaeological contexts to provide a conclusive answer.

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Michele Myers' 'By the Rivers of Babylon—Psalm 137'

California-based artist Michele Myers was inspired by Psalm 137:1–6 to create this striking picture. The vivid colours and unguarded expressions of the three figures in 'By The Rivers of Babylon—Psalm 137' bring to life the raw emotion of the psalm. The raised right hand of the central figure, so clearly outlined against the bold green of the trees, recalls the defiant cry of verse 5: “If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget [its skill]!” Myers is by no means the first interpreter to be moved by the earlier parts of Psalm 137 rather than the latter. The end of the psalm calls for violent retribution, pronouncing “Happy is the one who seizes and smashes your children against the rock!” The threat has caused theological quandaries for Jewish and Christian readers alike. It is important to understand these words in their historical context. In the aftermath of exile, Psalm 137 was an honest response to the trauma of destruction and displacement, which had shaken the core of the exiles’ understanding of their relationship with their God, Yhwh.


Max Beckmann's 'The Apocalypse'

This remarkable realisation of Revelation 21:4 (‘And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes') was produced by Max Beckmann as part of series of lithographs produced while in exile in Amsterdam during World War II. The work represents a very different dimension in the tradition of visualisations of the New Jerusalem. Other images in this collection, such as the Angers Apocalypse tapestry and the Ghent altarpiece, exemplify the strong tradition of representing the New Jerusalem as either a city or a landscape. Human presence and interaction has been notable mainly by its absence—even in William Blake’s The River of Life the human figures are secondary to the landscape and the river. In Beckmann's work, however, the New Jerusalem is conceived in primarily relational terms. In the colour rendering a winged figure dressed in a golden robe wipes away tears from a squat, human figure lying on a table. The prone figure is thought to be Beckmann himself as, in the tradition of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1526) and Jean Duvet (1485–c.1561), Beckmann has inserted his own likeness into his Apocalypse series several times. Through a circular window which resembles a port-hole lies what one presumes to be the new Heaven and new Earth of Revelation 21:1, but this is very much not the focus of the image. This presentation of the New Jerusalem as a place of consolation and intermingling between the divine and the human takes the imagined New Jerusalem a long way from the actual city of Jerusalem.

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Matthew Paris's Itinerary map from London to Palestine

Pilgrimage maps of Jerusalem began to appear alongside mappae mundi and Crusader maps in the 1200s CE. This example was produced by an English Benedictine monk, Matthew Paris, and depicts the journey from London to Jerusalem. The map now appears in versions of Paris’s Chronica Maiora, his history of the world from creation to 1253 CE. It appears in a linear style, with folios pasted back to back, and may have originally have been a single long strip map. In his itinerary, Paris's Holy City is presented simultaneously as the real earthly city of his own day and as the square-walled heavenly city of the future described in the Book of Revelation. The function of the map is unknown, and has been subject to a variety of interpretations. Some understand Paris’s maps as illustrations of the historical accounts in his Chronica Majora, arguing that the images provided a political topography of the region in the wake of the first Crusades. This may have been intended to illuminate the territory for a royal English readership, as well as serving as an encouragement to reclaim the city, which had fallen into the hands of Khorezmian Turks in 1244. Others, however, argue that Paris’s map was created for his own monastic community, as an aid to a monk undertaking an imagined meditative pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the heavenly city of the future, which the monks were unable to visit in their own day.

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Matthaus Seutter's 'Prospectus Sanctae olim et Celebrimae, Urbis Hierosolymae', after Juan Villalpando

The works of Rashi, Maimonides and Nicholas of Lyra all offer literal diagrams of the Temple. Another important part of the iconographic tradition of Jerusalem are other, more imaginative, more theologically motivated, and more extensive reconstructions of the Temple, such as the map of Jerusalem produced by Juan Villalpando, a sixteenth century Spanish Jesuit priest, with a major Temple complex at the centre. Villalpando’s early modern printed reconstructions of the Temple were presented in a monumental illustrated three volume work, In Ezechielem explanationes, produced between 1594 and 1605 CE with assistance from Hieronymo Prado. With this work Villalpando aimed to offer the first comprehensive and to-scale reconstruction of the Temple, including its apparatus and its furnishings. As his title suggests, this was according to the description found in Ezekiel 40–48. As others concerned themselves trying to reconcile the varying accounts of the Temple presented by different biblical books and historical reports, Villalpando believed that the vision in Ezekiel was an accurate description of the Temple built by Solomon. He reasoned that the original Temple was planned by God, and was consequently entirely confident that the fantastic structure described by the prophet must have been a true-to-life memory of the temple destroyed by the Babylonians. Furthermore, the same Temple was also a vision of the Holy Church. Indeed, Villalpando was so confident in the original perfection of Solomon’s Temple that he went even further in his assertions about the architectural merit of the building and its Divine Architect. The Temple, he believed, formed the foundation for Vitruvian architecture and was the blueprint for all classical architecture in Greece and Rome. The work of baroque imagination that Villalpando produced on the basis of his convictions caused a great theological stir when it was published: he was tried for heresy by the Inquisition for misrepresenting scriptural accounts of the Temple, but eventually acquitted. Villalpando’s work considerably influenced later re-imaginings of the Temple, informing the architecture of monasteries and Churches across Europe. The version shown here was produced by Matthaus Seutter around 1734 and gives a sense of Villalpando's influence over subsequent imaginings of Jerusalem’s past.

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Mark Wallinger's 'Painting the Divide (Jerusalem)'

Mark Wallinger is a contemporary British artist known for works on political and religious themes, including 'Angel' (1997), 'Ecce Homo' (1999) and 'Threshold of the Kingdom' (2000). This work is one of a trio of works inspired by divided cities—Jerusalem, Berlin and Famagusta—that Wallinger describes as ‘three of the most divided places you can find anywhere’. Unlike the Christianised visions of the city that dominate the visual history of Jerusalem in pre-twentieth century Western art, Wallinger’s work recognises two religious traditions, Judaism and Islam, coexisting yet divided in the city. The work itself is constructed on a folding screen, embodying the act of dividing space. On the left side of the screen is the Sultan’s Pool, an ancient water reservoir surrounded by a Herodian acqueduct. This water source was modernized by the sixteenth century Ottoman sultan Suleiman, whose extensive renovation of Jerusalem as a city of Islamic prestige earned him the title of the ‘Second Solomon’. On the right side of the screen is an image of the Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the first Jewish settlement outside of the Old City, established in 1860. The patron of this project was Sir Moses Montefiore, a wealthy British Jew deeply invested in Jerusalem, who believed it would one day be 'the seat of a Jewish Empire'. The juxtaposition of the two photographs allows the artist to create a neutral, side-by-side presentation, offering a poignant reflection on the tension of the coexistence of Islam and Judaism in Jerusalem. By placing the two sites together—one a monument of the Muslim Empire, the other a representation of ninteenth century hopes for a Jewish counterpart—Wallinger recognises the profound religious and political turmoil of contemporary Jerusalem, while also hinting of a hoped for bridging of the divide in a fractured city.

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Lucas Cranach the Elder's 'The New Jerusalem'

Unlike Albrecht Dürer’s very ambiguous version of the New Jerusalem, in which it is unclear whether the woodcut is depicting the Millennium or the New Jerusalem, Lucas Cranach's version is a fairly standard Reformation view of the scene from Revelation. The image was produced some as part of Cranach's Apocalypse series for Martin Luther’s New Testament of 1522 and, while it is fairly faithful to the text of Revelation 21:10—which tells us that John is taken by an angel to look down on the newly descended city—Cranach has clearly visualised the city in the style of a contemporary German city, much more than the New Jerusalem as described in Revelation or the historical city of Jerusalem of Cranach's own time. Thus there are angels appearing at three of the twelve gates, as described by Revelation 21:12, but otherwise the architecture is very much in the sixteenth century German style, with none of the gold and jewels or extreme dimensions stipulated by the text of Revelation 21. All in all the image constitutes a rather underwhelming end to the Cranach series—the angel ends up being the focal point, rather than the city—perhaps giving credence to those who argue that Revelation, as written, is impossible to visualise.

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Lower grinding stone in the House of Ahiel

The grinding of grains into flour was perhaps one of the most laborious and time-consuming aspects of food production in the ancient world and therefore a very regular part of domestic life. The tool used for grinding up the grains in ancient Judah consisted of a larger lower grinding stone, which served as the main grinding surface, and a smaller upper stone that was rubbed against the lower one. The grains, caught between the two stones, was crushed and pulverized, eventually broken into pieces small enough to serve as flour for baking The size of the lower grinding stone means that it would likely have been difficult to move, and suggests that the stone may be in, or close, to the place where it was used, in the service rooms of the House of Ahiel.See also: cooking pot and baking tray; clay oven.

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Loom weights near the House of the Bullae and a spindle whorl from the House of Ahiel

The manufacture of cloth and garments formed an important part of daily life in a late Iron Age household, as attested by the presence of loom weights and spindlewhorls in excavated homes. This group of 24 clay loom weights were found in the City of David in Jerusalem. Two other collections of of clay loom weights were found on a possible living surface immediately below the House of the Bullae. The location of these loom weights suggest that in a previous period (before the floor of the House of the Bullae was laid down) the room contained a loom and was used for the manufacture of cloth.  The spindle whorl, made of decorated limestone, come from the House of Ahiel, also in the City of David. An image of a reconstructed warp-weighted loom gives an idea of the way that these loom weights would have been used in an Iron Age domestic context.

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Lika Tov's 'Writing the Temple Scroll'

Lika Tov, a Holland-born Israeli artist, has used the Temple Scroll in this collograph work to re-imagine the scribe at work on the Temple Scroll manuscript at Qumran. The scribe occupies the right half of the image, while the left side depicts his imaginings about what the future Temple may look like. A menorah forms the basis of this future Temple, which is guarded or protected by angelic beings.

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Leni Dothan's 'Dead End'

Leni Dothan is an artist and twenty-first century ‘Renaissance Woman’ from Israel, who frequently works with themes of religion, gender and art history. Dothan exhibited this piece, Dead End, as part of a recent (2017) exhibition in Washington, DC focusing on Jesus’ journey through Jerusalem to his crucifixion, The Stations of the Cross. Her film formed part of her installation at the First Congregational United Church of Christ and offered an artistic response to the scene in which Jesus meets the ‘daughters of Jerusalem’ who were ‘beating their breasts and mourning for him’ (Luke 23:27). Jesus responded by telling them not to weep over him, but rather to weep over their fate and the fate that awaited their children with the destruction of Jerusalem. The film, which ran on a loop above the altar of the church, records the artist’s bare feet and legs as she walks the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrow) through Jerusalem, the path Jesus is traditionally thought to have taken to his crucifixion at Golgotha. Pilgrims have travelled this route for centuries, either imaginatively in their own churches or cities, with the use of devotional images like the ones produced as part of The Stations of the Cross installations, or by going to Jerusalem to tread the same ground. In Dead End Dothan thus inserts herself into the history of the city as a site of pilgrimage, as well as a site of suffering and redemption. In the context of this exhibition, her work presents a challenge to the overwhelmingly male gaze on the Holy City, reminding us that women too have lived, shaped and dreamed of Jerusalem.

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Lamentations 1:6-10 from Qumran

The destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE changed everything. Few texts express the sense of loss and longing that resulted from this as poignantly as the Book of Lamentations. The five laments in the book give voice to an emotional response to the destruction of the city, blaming the sins of a personified Jerusalem for the horrors her citizens now face. The fragment shown is from 4QLam (also known as 4Q111), the largest of the Lamentations scrolls from the Qumran texts discovered in the Judean desert. The text in this extract is Lamentations 1:6–10 (albeit with some important differences between the readings given in this scroll and the traditional Hebrew text, the Masoretic text). Lamentations 1:6–10 speaks of Jerusalem’s sin and the punishments bestowed upon the city in colourful terms, with imagery whose shock value is exacerbated by the portrayal of Jerusalem as female: Jerusalem 'has become an impurity—all who honoured her make light of her, because they have seen her nakedness' (v. 8). Laying issues of gendered violence momentarily aside, this text points to some of the key questions raised in the aftermath of exile: what caused this, and what does this mean? For the author(s) of Lamentations, the answers are that Jerusalem’s own transgressions brought about its downfall, and the result is that the city and people have been abandoned by Yhwh. The lament tradition was a longstanding one and may be seen also in the Lament for the City of Ur.

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Lament for the destruction of Ur

Laments are well-known from the Bible, especially the book of Lamentations, but are also found throughout the ancient Near East. Biblical authors likely took inspiration from the forms used in these surrounding cultures. An early and famous example of such a poem is the Sumerian Lament over Ur (c. 2000 BCE), a city-state in the region of Sumer in modern-day Iraq. The lament is one of five such Sumerian poems, each of which mourns the loss of a different city. At 438 lines long, the Lament over Ur presents a detailed story of the city's destruction, starting with the goddess Ningal's pleas that the god Engil turn back the storm sent to ravage the city, then moving into graphic descriptions of Ur's eventual destruction. The tablet above, which has preserved this lament for four millennia, is housed at the Louvre in Paris. Although nearly 1500 years elapsed between the destruction of Ur and the fall of Jerusalem, the genre of the city lament remained popular, and has visible influence on biblical literature. The impact of the genre is perhaps most obviously felt in the Book of Lamentations, but traces can also be found in Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Psalms. The bleak tones of these poems, in which Yhwh deserts the city and allows—or even causes—its destruction, have been a key feature of the literary responses in the wake of heavy loss.

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Kernos from Tell el-Hammah

This kernos—a pottery ring with small vessels for holding offerings—consists of a hollow ring with five attached recepticals: two pomegranates, one jar, one cup, and one zoomorphic model that might be a bull or a calf. The kernos was found at Tell el-Hammah in a large room in the western complex, dated to the tenth or ninth centuries BCE. The exact function of the room is unclear, but the kernos was part of a rich assemblage of finds, including several figurines, a multi-handled krater (a very large vase) decorated with animal appliques, a cat amulet, astragali (small joint bones), and a censer lid. The term kernos (plural: kernoi) is borrowed from Greek archaeology, and there have been several suggestions that the kernoi found in Israel may have originated in the Aegean. Vessels like this one and the Megiddo Kernos were used for the ritual pouring of libation or drink offerings. Liquid—probably wine, oil, or milk—would be poured into the pomegranates, jar, or cup and then flow around the hollow ring at the base, so that it could either be poured out of the nostrils of the animal, or drunk from the cup itself. The circulation of the liquid perhaps symbolised the fertility of the earth, as it flowed through objects symbolizing animals, birds and plants. Libation rituals are widely known in the Hebrew Bible and seem to have been a part of daily religious life that anyone could enact in any location.

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Kernos from Megiddo

This vessel is a very well preserved kernos ring from Megiddo. The term kernos (plural kernoi) is borrowed from Greek archaeology and refers to a pottery ring with small vessels for holding offerings. As the borrowed terminology suggests, kernoi may have originated in Cyprus or elsewhere in the Aegean, and been brought to the southern Levant by traders or immigrants. Although fragments of four others were found in Megiddo, this example is the most intact. It is made of baked clay and originally featured eight attachments, of which seven have survived. These include a cup, two doves, two pomegranates, one jar and an animal previously thought to be a gazelle but more recently identified as a bull. The prevailing view is that kernoi were ritual vessels, perhaps used for pouring libations. The liquid (likely wine, oil, or milk) could be poured into one of the attached vessels and would run around the hollow ring at the base and fill up the other attachments, which could either be drunk from or used to pour out the liquid. Libation rituals are widely known in the Hebrew Bible and seem to have been a part of daily religious life that anyone could enact anywhere. An example from Jeremiah 19:13, announces judgement on the inhabitants of Jerusalem because they have poured out libations to 'other gods' (that is, gods other than Yhwh) on the roofs of their houses. Jeremiah 7:18 similarly accuses the people of Judah and Jerusalem of pouring libations to the 'Queen of Heaven'. These texts suggest that libation rituals were widespread in late seventh century Jerusalem and Judah. Another example of a kernos is the Tell el-Hammah Kernos.

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John Mundy's 'De Lamentatione Ieremiae'

Like other composers working with Lamentations, John Mundy used the names of Hebrew letters to structure his music. The Hebrew text of Lamentations begins each line of a verse with the same letter, beginning with the first letter of the alphabet: thus the the first verse starts with א (aleph), the second verse begins with ב (bet) and on through the alphabet. The tradition of attempting to convey this in musical works comes via the Latin Vulgate translation of Lamentations, in which each verse was preceded by the name of a Hebrew letter. In musical works these letters are often used to give room to the musical abilities of the composer—they function a little bit like the large letters in an illuminated manuscript. Where Mundy's Lamentations differs from those by his predecessors is that, apart from the title and the Hebrew letters, he does not use the text of the Lamentations. Instead his Latin text expresses anguish about the schisms in the Roman Catholic Church that arose during the Reformation. This creative use of both the form and the name of Lamentations, in order to evoke the anguish which the Lamentations so powerfully express, demonstrates the extent to which the upheavals of the Reformation were perceived by Mundy and others in the sixteenth century as a disaster—comparable to the destruction of Jerusalem—and, indeed, a disaster for the Church's conception of itself as a New Jerusalem.

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John Martin's 'The Plains of Heaven'

John Martin’s evocation of the New Jerusalem is part of a triptych of canvasses made betwen 1851 and 1853 CE. This image is the culmination of the trio, the paradisical resolution to the dark themes of the two preceding works, 'The Great Day of His Wrath' and 'The Last Judgement'—interestingly, the coming of the New Jerusalem is foreshadowed at the top of the Last Judgement panel. In contrast to medieval and early modern visualisations of the New Jerusalem, which always present it as a city, Martin has created an altogether more rural version of the celestial city, like Blake. Although the ‘great and the good’—the cast of characters including Shakespeare and Galileo who were among the ‘saved’ in The Last Judgement—have been transposed to the middle of the painting, it is the incredible landscape that is the focus. This is very much in line with Martin’s Romantic tendencies, but may perhaps be criticised for neglecting the resolutely urban details of the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, as well as the fact that this is supposed to be a place of intermingling between the human and the divine. While God and the Lamb may implicitly be present in the paradisial landscape, this is left ambiguous.

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John Duggan's 'Lamentation I-III'

John Duggan's Lamentation is at the same time both quite unusual and quite traditional in its setting of this now-classic text. Unusually, he adds a soprano soloist and a solo trumpet to the more common choral sound. His choice of text, however, is quite traditional, using the traditional introduction, 'here begins the Lamentation of Jeremiah', which is not from the Hebrew text but inferred from the Greek Septuagint; he finishes with a quote from Hosea 14:1 ('Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto your God'). Like the piece by Cecilia McDowall, Duggan's composition showcases the best in modern British composition, combining tradition features with departures from tradition in order to bring the ancient text and expression of liturgy to a modern audience.

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Jean Fouquet’s 'The Siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar' from Antiquites Judaiques

This image of the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE is taken from illuminated images made by master illustrator Jean Fouquet to accompany a French translation of Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. Fouquet began around 1410 CE, originally intending the work for the Duc de Berry, and finished around 1476 CE, with the work ultimately destined for the Duc de Nemours. There was an upsurge in interest in manuscripts dedicated to Jewish history in fifteenth century Europe and this work is part of that trend. The siege and subsequent capture of Jerusalem and the Temple was a pivotal moment in Jewish history and Josephus, a first century CE Jewish historian, devotes a significant part of his Antiquities of the Jews to the episode. He reports that Nebuchadnezzar, having besieged the city, sent in General Nebuzaradan to pillage and burn the Temple, to kill and capture the priests, and to exile the Jewish people to Babylon. Fouquet’s lavish images follow Josephus’ text fairly faithfully. We see, for example, the Babylonian forces entering the temple and killing and capturing priests in the background of the image. The Temple has been set on fire, and flames and wisps of smoke are visible. The habit of depicting Jerusalem and the Temple in contemporary terms, which apparent also in Cranach and the Angers tapestry, is clear here as well. The Temple itself, for example, though faithfully depicted as gold and cubic in shape, resembles the Cathedral at Tours more than any historical or biblical descriptions. See also Fouquet's image of Herod's entry into Jerusalem.

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Jean Fouquet’s 'Capture of Jerusalem by Herod in 36 BC', from 'Antiquites Judaiques'

This image of the capture of Jerusalem by Herod in 36 BCE is taken from illuminated images made by master illustrator Jean Fouquet to accompany a French translation of Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. Fouquet began around 1410 CE, originally intending the work for the Duc de Berry, and finished around 1476 CE, with the work ultimately destined for the Duc de Nemours. There was an upsurge in interest in manuscripts dedicated to Jewish history in fifteenth-century Europe and this work is part of that trend. Fouquet’s lavish images follow Josephus’ text fairly faithfully. In this image we see Herod’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem alongside the Romans and the Roman general Sossius. In the background the High Priest continues with cultic ritual in the Temple sanctuary while, in the centre of the image, Fouquet appears to have included a ritual Jewish bath (mikveh) in which, in a conflation of Josephus's narratives, another High Priest and enemy of Herod’s, Aristobulus, appears to have just been drowned. As with Fouquet’s image of the Siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the dress and architecture of this image—with the exception of the rebuilt Temple—owes more to late medieval Northern European style than to the historical Jerusalem. This tendency may also be seen in the Angers Apocalypse Tapestry.

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Incense Burner from Tel Halaf

This elaborately carved tripod vessel may have served as an incense burner, as evidence of burning substance was found in the bowl. It comes from a royal tomb of the tenth or ninth century BCE at Tel Halaf (ancient Guzana). Tel Halaf was an important Aramean site that became a vassal of the Neo-Assyrian empire in the early ninth century and was assimilated fully into the Neo-Assyrian empire by the end of that century. The sides of the vessel are decorated with carvings of bulls, a winged quadruped, and a man shooting a bird with a bow and arrow. The legs of the tripod are decorated with incised rosettes. Another example of an incense burner may be found here.

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Ian McKeever's 'Jerusalem'

Like a number of British artists of the twentieth century, Ian McKeever’s work on Jerusalem is less about the historic city than it is about the Jerusalem of the imagination of William Blake. Developed around Blake’s Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, McKeever’s series of prints contribute a new layer to the city’s visual history. In Blake’s work, the New Jerusalem is conceived as the final paradise, achieved through the creative process. In making his abstract prints—which complement and build directly onto the work of Blake—McKeever’s dialogue with Blake represents part of his own particular artistic journey towards the holy city of the imagination.

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Horse and rider figurines from Lachish and Judah and a horse figurine from Jerusalem

Fragments of figurines of four-legged animals are by far the most common figurine type in Judah and Jerusalem, and are part of a wider repertoire of clay figurines. The horse and rider figurine type is common through the southern Levant during this period, and survives well into the Persian period (539–333 BCE). The particular style shown here, with very simple modelling and a pinched head, is typical of Judah.Few figurines survive intact or nearly so; the ones that do survive generally come from tombs. The horse here comes from Cave I in Jerusalem and the horse with a rider—the head broken off in antiquity—is from Tomb 106 in Lachish. The two complete figurines are unprovenanced, but are probably from Judah. The exact meaning and use of these figurines remains unknown. They do however, open a window on the way social meaning was contructed and manipulated in ancient Judean society. Horses were used only by the royal family and the military. Horses and riders, therefore, are likely to represent military power, and their frequent presence in the figural repertoire suggest that military power was a significant concern for the inhabitants of Judah.

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Horned Incense Altar from Megiddo

This altar was one of three limestone altars found in the vicinity of a storeroom in Megiddo. This one is carved from a single block of stone, has horns at the top four corners and tapers toward the bottom of the stand. It is partially discoloured by fire. These altars are usually interpreted as incense altars, because they are too small for animal sacrifice, although grains or other small offerings may also have been burnt on them. The horns may symbolize the divine, or indicate that the altars are imitations of architectural structures (towers), or they may have been intended to hold the bowl or vessel in which the offerings were burnt. Quite possibly they are a combination of all three. Altars such as these are predominantly known in the western ancient Near East, and are especially common in Israel and Judah between the eighth and fifth centuries BCE. They could have been used to make offerings to any deity, as incense and burnt offerings were part of everyday cultic activity. The Bible attests to incense being burnt to Yhwh (e.g. Exodus 30; Leviticus 16; 1 Kings 9), as well as to other gods (e.g. 1 Kings 11:8; Hosea 2:13). Both Zephaniah (1:4-5) and Jeremiah (19:13) attest that the people of Jerusalem were burning offerings, usually identified as incense, on the rooftops of their houses, and a small incense altar like the one above was found in a rooftop collapse at Ashkelon. Two incense altars have been found in Iron IIC contexts in the City of David excavations and can be seen in the Israel Museum. The small size of these altars and the fact that they are often found in domestic or industrial contexts suggests that they were part of popular religious practice, perhaps mirroring some of the rituals which took place in the larger temples. They are part of a wider architecture of ritual which includes the Altar from Tel Rehov, the Offering Stand from Jerusalem and the Musicians Cult Stand from Ashdod.

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Hereford Cathedral's 'Mappa Mundi'

After the production of the Madaba map in the sixth century CE, no individual maps of Jerusalem are known to have been produced until the twelfth century. This should not, however, be taken as a sign that the sacred city’s importance dwindled during this period. Indeed, Jerusalem was recorded at the centre of the earth on numerous circular mappae mundi, also known as T-O maps because of their distinctive layout. These maps were produced beginning around 400 CE, continuing right up until the sixteenth century. They provide clear evidence of the pivotal position Jerusalem held in medieval cartography and the Christian imagination. This extraordinary example of a circular medieval world map, the Hereford map, now mostly brown and black, would originally have been richly coloured in blues and greens, with some of the lettering produced using gold leaf. The map is divided into three continents on a T-shaped layout, representative of the cross: in the bottom left of the map is Europe, with Africa to the bottom right and Asia at the top. It combines both real and imagined cartographic elements, with actual geographical cities and towns like Hereford, Paris and Rome appearing alongside biblical locations such as Eden and the Tower of Babel. The map is also populated by fantastical, mythical creatures. At the heart of the Hereford map is the city of Jerusalem, with the crucified Christ above. At the top of the map is another image of Christ, this time surveying the day of judgement. The producer of this map, then, was as much concerned with conveying the spiritual journey of the Christian as he was with aiding in any worldly travels to the Holy City.

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Head of a Goddess from Horvat Qiṭmit

The three horns of this figurine identify it as the head of a deity. The lack of a beard suggests a goddess, while traces of paint indicate that the face was originally painted red and the hair and the handle were painted black. The facial features and hair were modelled around a hollow object and the features are slightly asymmetrical. The nose is prominent and the lips are incised in a small smile. The head comes from Horvat Qitmit, a site in the Judean Negev region. Horvat Qitmit seems to have been a purely cultic site; hundreds of fragments of figurines, cult stands, cultic vessels, and statues were found at the site, but no evidence of habitation was uncovered. A large number of burnt bones were uncovered in one of the building complexes. The site had two main complexes: a bamah (high place) complex and an altar complex. The bamah complex was the larger of the two and produced more cultic finds, including this head of a goddess. The style of the pottery and finds has led to the site’s interpretation as an Edomite shrine, located near a number of small Judean settlements that in part guarded a road running from Edom through the Beersheba valley into Judah. A number of the figurines, including this one, were not made in Edom but were made in the Edomite style from materials local to the region, as indicated by analysis of their chemical compositions. Whether the site was primarily used by Edomites, Judeans, or was open to anyone is not clear. The large number of figurines and cultic finds at Horvat Qitmit is in stark contrast to the small amount found at the Judean shrine at Arad, but the reasons for this contrast are not entirely clear. 

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Hans Memling's 'The Passion'

This image, painted between 1470 and 1471 CE by the Flemish painter Hans Memling, belongs to a category of images of Jerusalem which self-consciously use a stylized version of the city as a setting for biblical narratives. Using ‘simultaneous painting’, a style for which he was well-known, Memling has here depicted the entirety of the Passion and resurrection in twenty three scenes. The earliest scene is the entry of Christ into Jerusalem in the top left hand corner. The narrative then unfolds via the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane, also on the left side of the panel, moving towards the trial scene and flagellation in the centre of the painting before shifting outwards via the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion at the top centre-right. The three resurrection scenes all take place in the top right corner of the (comparatively small) panel. There is some suggestion that Memling based the layout of the city and the main sites on the report of Anselm Adornes’ pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1470. Adornes was a friend of the painting’s patron, Tommaso Portinari, depicted in prayer in the bottom left hand corner of the image. At the time, it was possible to obtain an indulgence by making an imaginary ‘pilgrimage’ to the Holy Land by contemplating a painting such as this one, or Matthew Paris's itinerary map. In this image Jerusalem—translocated to fifteenth-century Bruges—thus functions imaginatively on two levels: it is an imaginary vision of Jerusalem via which imaginary pilgrimages could be made.

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Gospel Book of Otto III

As in some of the other images in this section, the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in 586 BCE by the Babylonians is conflated in the Gospel Book of Otto III (c. 998–1001 CE) with its later destruction in 70 CE by the Romans. The iconography of Jerusalem is quite unique to this manuscript. In this particular image, Christ is seen mourning for Jerusalem in the top half of the image, and this is paired with a depiction in the bottom half of the page of Mary of Bethezuba's cannibalism of her infant child as reported by Josephus. In Josephus’ account of the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, he describes the extent of the ravages of war on the city. Influenced by the biblical books of Ezekiel and Lamentations and by their descriptions of the Babylonian attack on Jerusalem centuries earlier, Josephus describes the plight of one particular Jewish woman, Mary of Bethezuba. Having lost her entire world to the Roman invaders and in a state of rage and desperate hunger, the woman decides to kill her son, roast him, and consume his flesh. By presenting Mary of Bethezuba’s infanticide beneath the figure of Christ, the artist implies that this horror of war was a fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the destruction of the city (Luke 19). The Christian fascination with Mary of Bethezuba as a means of representing the fall of Jerusalem was unlikely to have been produced because of any sympathy for her extreme action. Indeed, in the Christian West the holy calendar included a specific day to celebrate Titus’ sack of Jerusalem. It is much more likely, therefore, that the image was intended as a parody of the sacrifice of a child, an idea that is core to Christian theology and its focus on the sacrifice of Jesus the Son. The Jewish Mary of Bethezuba was, for medieval Christians, a sinful negative type of a mother in crisis, to be contrasted with the more positive and hopeful Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. This image in the Gospel Book of Otto III, then, offers a strongly Christianised reading of the trauma of the destruction of Jerusalem.


Gordon Cheung's 'Rivers of Bliss'

Described by Paul Hobson as an example of 'the techno-sublime', Cheung delivers a very twenty-first century image of the New Jerusalem in this large-scale montage. Created as part of an exhibition entitled ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’, in which Cheung also tackled other themes directly lifted from Revelation (including the Four Horsemen themselves), Cheung applied his signature style to the New Jerusalem. In his landscapes, influenced by John Martin among others, Cheung transposes digital landscape imagery onto a base layer of collaged stock-listings newsprint from the Financial Times; he then augments the work with spray paint, oil pastels and ink. In this image the ‘rivers of bliss’, possibly a reference to the River of Life of Revelation 22:1, sit at the forefront of the image, with the Financial Times stock-listings reflected in them. The waters are enclosed in a rainbow, reminiscent of Revelation 4:3; in the background are scenes of fiery mountains and possibly buildings on fire—perhaps intended to capture the corrosion of capitalism. A lone figure—perhaps a latter-day John—watches from a mountain top. This is a far more ambiguous New Jerusalem than even John Martin’s work, a long way from the golden pomp of the Trinity Apocalypse’s ordered city vision or the Edenic visualisation presented by the Van Eyck brothers in The Ghent Altarpiece. Although it does present a kind of cleansing, it does not present a fully reassuring vision of the post-apocalyptic future.

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Goddess Figurine from Megiddo

Many different goddesses were worshipped throughout the ancient Levant. This figurine of a goddess was excavated from a house at Megiddo which seems to have been part of a larger compound. The goddess is wearing a headress, a collar and a long robe, and has bracelets on her wrists. The figurine's edges are neatly trimmed, and her features are outlined with hatching.The many goddess of the ancient Near East were often depicted similarly by artists, which makes it difficult to identify which goddess is represented by a particular figurine. Candidates for this figurine include Athirat, Anat, Astarte, Qudshu, Ishtar and Asherah. Goddess worship is attested throughout Israel’s history, with the biblical texts' authors engaged in a seemingly futile effort to persuade their audience to stop such practices. The Bible condemns of worship of the “Ashtartes” (for example, Judges 10:6; 1 Samuel 12:10) and worship of Asherah (for example, Judges 3:7; 1 Kings 18:19; Jeremiah 17:2). Goddess worship is connected several times with Jerusalem; King Solomon is said to have set up a temple for Ashtarte which was later destroyed by King Josiah (1 Kings 11:5-7; 2 Kings 23:13), while the goddess Asherah seems to have had a role in the Jerusalemite cult (1 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 21:7; 23:4, 6, 7). The book of Jeremiah also attests to a cult of the “Queen of Heaven”, worshipped in the streets of Judah and Jerusalem (Jeremiah 7:17-19; 44:15-19).

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Gerhard Richter's 'Jerusalem, 1995'

In this ethereal painting of the city, the German artist Gerhard Richter recreates a snapshot photograph he took of Jerusalem from his hotel room in 1995, looking towards the Christian Quarter. Discernible features of the cityscape have been all but erased in the painting, partially anonymising the city, or supplying it with a sense of timelessness. Only with very close inspection is it possible to make out a lamppost or car amongst the architectural structures. By these means Richter’s rendering of Jerusalem appears simultaneously as a vision of the city from centuries ago and a bird’s eye view on the contemporary metropolis. While the image is not a work of imagination, the ambivalent and luminescent light imbuing the painting effects a dreamlike quality in the image, perhaps alluding to the mystical and mythical status of the Holy City. Unlike some modern artists who chose to focus on the desolate quality of contemporary Jerusalem, or explore the religious and national divisions in the city, Richter’s work seems to meditate on the impossibility of visually conveying the full complicated history of the place. Instead his painting functions like a medieval visual aid for spiritual pilgrimage, evoking in its viewers a personal, individual response to the site by encouraging the exploration of their own memories and imaginings of the city, brought to the fore by his own ambivalent representation.

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Gebhard Fugel's 'An den Wassern Babylons'

An der Wassern Babylons, by the German artist Gebhard Fugel, depicts the setting of Psalm 137: 'By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and could we sing Yhwh's song in a foreign land?' (vv. 1, 4). Exiles from Judah line the banks of a river, and multiple harps can be seen in the background. Psalm 137 moves between the collective and singular voice, from “we remembered Zion” (v. 1) and “our captors demanded of us words of a song” (v. 3) to “Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you” (v. 6). Perhaps this is why Fugel chose to highlight one character in the centre of the picture: amid the mourning crowd, one figure lifts his eyes upwards, as the lighting on his hand and face set him apart. The majority of Fugel’s work concerned biblical and Christian themes, including his 136 so-called Schulwandbilder (school wall paintings). This work was painted around 1920.

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Franks Casket

This Anglo-Saxon casket is covered with scenes from Jewish, Christian, German and Classical mythology and history and provides one of the earliest examples of a medieval depiction of the fall of Jerusalem—in this instance, its fall to the Romans in 70 CE. On the back of the casket, Titus’ attack on the city is carved out to dramatic effect. The whole panel is densely populated, with Roman soldiers on the left and fleeing Jewish inhabitants of the city under siege on the right. In the centre of the work is the Jerusalem Temple, with the Ark of the Covenant within it. The inscription on this part of the casket reads: ‘Here Titus and a Jew fight: here its inhabitants flee Jerusalem’. For an eighth century CE Christian artist, the fall of Jerusalem signified the end of the Jewish era and the beginning of a superior Christian Empire. This would have been particularly resonant in Anglo-Saxon England, which had only very recently been converted to Christianity.

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Francesco Hayez's 'Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem'

Francesco Hayez was a Venetian painter working in Italy in the nineteenth century. Hayez was known for his theatrical history paintings of biblical and classical themes, rendered in neo-classical style. This chaotic, dramatic, and rather violent image of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and his Roman army in 70 CE, as described by Josephus in his Jewish War, is typical of Hayez’s style. The focal point of the image is the fighting taking place on the giant stone altar in the middle of the Temple precinct. This stone altar, used for burning the offerings specified in Deuteronomy 27:6-7, was an actual feature of the Second Temple buildings. In this respect Hayez's work represents a move towards a more architecturally accurate rendering of the Temple. Nevertheless, the placement of the altar is inaccurate, as are the steps, as the stone altar was accessed by a ramp. The symbolism inherent in the Jewish victims being thrown to their deaths from the altar is typical of Hayez’s allegorical style. The sense of sacrilegious chaos is also echoed by the visible theft of the golden menorah, the holy seven-armed candlestick, in the foreground of the image, as well as by the flight of a group of angels in the top left hand corner of the painting.

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Forty shekel weight from Jerusalem, with reconstructed scales

The presence of limestone weights in Jerusalem and Judah during the late Iron Age attests to an increasingly standardised economy. This economic system does not yet involve coins, which only appear during the Persian period, but does use precious metals. Because these metal pieces were not issued and guaranteed by a central authority, they had to be carefully weighed at each transaction. Stone weights like the one shown here were used, along with scales, in order to make these measurements. The reconstructed scales (the pans are ancient) give an idea of how such weights would have been used. The presence of weights and scales throughout the kingdom of Judah attests to a shift from a subsistence-type economy, typical of smaller, more locally- and tribally-based societies, to a more complex state society, with centralised power and bureaucracy. The term shekel, which comes eventually to refer to a specific denomination and coin, originated as the word for 'weight'. This development is common to various languages: the lira and the pound, for example, were in the first instance terms for weight, only subsequently used for the currency used to represent the metal of that weight.

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Figurine of the god Resheph from Megiddo

This bronze, anthropomorphic (human-shaped) figurine was one of several found at Megiddo. It comes from a context dated to the eleventh or tenth century BCE, probably domestic in usage. The figure holds a club or mace in its right hand, poised to strike, as is common with depictions of 'smiting' deities such as Resheph and Ba’al. The figurine wears a headdress and a knee-length robe, decorated with incised lines. Resheph is a Canaanite god who was particularly prominent in Syria in the second millennium BCE. He was a warrior-god, associated with bringing violent plague and disease. He was previously thought to have connections with the underworld, but this has been recently called into question. Although Resheph was better known in the second millennium than in the first millennium, he appears eight times in the Bible. In Deuteronomy 33:24 and Habakkuk 3:5, he appears as part of Yhwh’s entourage, as Yhwh marches with his military might. In other references, however, 'resheph' no longer seems to refer to a deity: in Psalm 76:4 it seems to mean 'arrow', while in Psalm 78:48 it seem to mean 'fiery thunderbolt'. Notably, although the Bible seems to be aware of Resheph as a deity, there are no references to the people of Israel bringing offerings to him. The Resheph cult should thus be considered as an example of an cult practiced in the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages that began to be replaced by other cults in the later Iron Age. One cult supplanting Resheph was, as Deuteronomy 33:24 and Habakkuk 3:5 attest, the cult of Yhwh.

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Figurine of a double flute player from Tel Malhata

This item is a hollow pottery head and shoulders of a figurine playing a double flute, like one of the musicians from the cult stand from Ashdod. The figure has a large nose and protruding eyes, and the beard indicates it is male. The core was wheel-made with various other parts handmade and stuck onto the core. Originally it was painted in black and red. The figurine is one of a number of similar figurines found at Malhata. Only one other flute player appears in this assemblage (also male), but there are some female drummer figurines and a range of other anthropomorphic (human-shaped) and zoomorphic (animal-shaped) examples. As the body of the figurine is missing, it is unclear what the item was intended for. It may have been a small anthropomorphic figurine, part of a hollow cult stand, or perhaps part of a rattle with an anthropomorphic body. As the figure plays the flute it probably depicts a worshipper rather than a deity; musical instruments were often used in worship. Comparisons with other figurines from sites such as Horvat Qitmit suggest that it reflects Edomite cultural traditions, from the area of modern Jordan, and close interaction between Edomites and Judeans in the Negev region in the seventh century BCE. 

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Female figurines from Jerusalem and Bethlehem and figurine and fragments from Lachish

Female figurines with prominent breasts and a moulded or pinched head on a solid pillar type base are common at Judean sites. For this reason figurines of this type have become known as Judean Pillar Figurines. They are well attested in Jerusalem, Lachish, and other sites in Judah.The figurines shown here are from Jerusalem (Jewish Quarter), Bethlehem, and Lachish. The fragments from Lachish remind us that most figurines are often found in a fragmentary state, having been broken and thrown away with common refuse in antiquity.  The meaning and use of these figurines is unclear. The figurines are clearly female, leading to suggestions that they are linked with fertility and childbearing, representing a goddess such as Asherah or Ashtarte or perhaps the women who worship the female deity. They differ, however, from the much clearer Late Bronze Age plaque figurines of such goddesses, insofar as these figurines lack any clear indicators that they are, indeed, goddesses. Some scholars have suggested that they might have had an apotropaic (for warding off evil) use. The figurines are found quite commonly in domestic contexts, and occasionally in funerary ones. This indicates that, whatever their specific use, they formed part of the daily life and rituals of ancient Judah and Jerusalem. They should not be isolated from the rest of Judah's figurine repertoire—most notably the horses and riders, as well as couches. They all formed part of a miniature world in which social meanings were represented and manipulated.

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Family Trees of Judeans in Babylonia

These are the family trees of two families of Judeans living in southern Babylonia during the latter half of the first millennium BCE, under Babylonian and under Persian rule. The relationships they depict are based on a collection of cuneiform tablets from southern Babylonia, often referred to as the Al Yahudu tablets. The exact origins of these tables are unknown, because they appeared on the antiquities market rather than being found in a controlled scholarly excavation. These family trees show that naming practices among the Judean deportees and their descendants varied, sometimes quite substantially. Some Judeans have distinctly Jewish names, while others bore Babylonian names, even within the same family. The willingness to adopt Babylonian names indicates that there was some accommodation and assimilation to the local Babylonian society within the deportee community. These documents, dated to the sixth to fifth centuries BCE, also show that some Judeans / Jews continued to live in Babylonia long after the end of the 'exile' as described in Ezra and Nehemiah. Why these people remained while others chose to return to Jerusalem and its environs are unclear, but recent research suggests that many of them became well-integrated with the general population in Babylonia, without having given up their cultural distinctiveness. The reason we know that these two families are of Judean / Jewish descent is that their names contain the name Yhwh. It was common in ancient Near Eastern cultures for names to contain the name of a deity. The biblical name Jonathan (or Yonatan), for example, means 'Yo-has-given' ('Yo' is a shortened form of Yhwh). In the Al Yahudu tablets, as in Akkadian more generally, Yhwh's name usually appears as 'Yama'. It seems unlikely that any other group of people in Mesopotamia would have revered the God of Israel and Judah.

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Ezekiel 41:3–6 from Qumran

Ezekiel 40-48 paints a vivid picture of a restored Jerusalem Temple, depicting the return of Yhwh’s kabod (glory), regulations for the Temple, and the division of land surrounding the temple and city. Ezekiel’s plan is not just of a temple building, but of a clear structure for the proper worship of Yhwh in the renewed community.These fragments (4Q73/4QEzek a, frgs. 4-5), preserved among the scrolls at Qumran near the Dead Sea, preserve part of a copy of Ezekiel 41:3–6. The text tells of Yhwh’s triumphant arrival in the restored Jerusalem, the undoing of the disaster brought on when Yhwh left the Temple at the end of Ezekiel 11. The preservation of this text, possibly for a scroll of biblical excerpts, suggests that later Jewish communities valued the temple vision, whether or not they considered it a realistic expectation. 

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Eye of Horus Amulet from Megiddo

This eye of Horus amulet is one of a number of similar amulets found at Megiddo. This one is small, made of faience (glazed ceramic), and covered in a blue glaze. It was pierced through horizontally, so may have been hung on a cord and worn as a necklace or accessory. It was found just outside of a building in an area mainly made up of residential houses, in a layer of material dated to around 780–650 BCE. Amulets were thought to be powerful symbols of protection, and their appearance at Megiddo testifies especially to the influence of Egyptian beliefs there. Many more amulets of a wide variety of different types have been found all over the Levant, attesting to the intermingling of religious belief and daily life.

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El Greco's 'Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple'

El Greco was a Greek (Cretan) painter who trained in Venice and then moved to Spain in the 1570s. He is well known as a visionary painter of religious scenes, with a style prioritizing colour and light over form. He was in many ways ahead of his time and one of his signature features was his elongated, non-naturalistic figures. El Greco painted many versions of this scene of Jesus driving the money-changers from the Temple (Matthew 21:12–14), an atypical moment in Jesus’ usually non-violent ministry. This is an early version, from around 1570 CE, during his Venetian period. As such, the anatomy of the figures and the composition is more in the Italian Renaissance style than his later versions, in which Christ is more elongated and seems to exude light (as in the National Gallery version, from c. 1600). The composition is divided into two halves around the central figure of Christ, who stands with his whip poised above the group of money-changers on the left. This is a moment of great movement and energy. On the right are the ‘righteous’, commenting on the event. The image is part of an extensive artistic tradition using Jerusalem and the Temple as the backdrop for the depiction of a key New Testament narrative. The Temple itself is classical in style, replete with Corinthian columns, while the surrounding buildings owe more to Venetian architecture than to what we know of the historical Jerusalem of the first century CE. In a rather odd detail in the bottom right corner, El Greco has painted the four artists that he considered to be masters of the Renaissance (Titian, Michelangelo, Clovio and Raphael).

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Dennis Creffield's 'Jerusalem Sunrise'

Dennis Creffield, a British artist known for his series of cathedral drawings, was commissioned by James Hyman to produce a collection of works on the theme of 'Jerusalem', for exhibition at the James Hyman Gallery in 2007 CE. The works created for the exhibition built in part on a 1948 painting by Creffield, created during his time as a student of David Bomberg (1890–1957), as well as on works from an earlier exhibition in Jerusalem, also curated by James Hyman, which prompted Creffield to visit the city. The body of work Creffield developed for the 2007 show constituted a response to the famous city itself and a response to William Blake’s London/Jerusalem. In the process Creffield interwove the holy city of the imagination of Jews, Christians and Muslims with the imagined realm of Blake that is so deeply embedded in the history of British art. The collection, one of which is shown here, includes images of the city of Jerusalem, the city of London, and portraits of Blake. Running through these images was a recurrent image of a dome: the dome of Blake’s head, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the Dome of St Paul’s in London. Paintings of Jerusalem landscapes from Creffield's early visits to the city in the 1990s were presented alongside more esoteric and symbolic visions from the 2000s, such as Jerusalem as a bride. The juxtaposition highlighted the multifarious significance of the city, as both a beautiful geographic reality as well as a symbolic ideal. Creffield’s works thus play with the idea of Jerusalem, consciously recognising and celebrating the city ‘as an actual place but also a part of… faith, imagination and dreams - dreams of the past and even hopes of the future’ (Creffield, Jerusalem catalogue).

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David Roberts' 'The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70'

David Roberts was a Scottish painter and printmaker who made his name with Orientalist paintings, sketches and lithographs based on his extensive tours of Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon. In contrast to other artists featured in this collection, therefore, Roberts’ depiction of the New Jerusalem was informed by his visit to and study of the Jerusalem of his own time, in addition to the writings of Josephus (especially the Jewish War). The image here is a lithograph of one of Roberts' most famous paintings, the monumental The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 (lost in 1854, only to reappear in 1961, long after his death). In this impressive image, we are given a panoramic view of the destruction of Jerusalem from the perspective of the Mount of Olives to the east of the city. It closely resembles another of his lithographs of Jerusalem, made on his trip there in 1839. In this image, the north wall of the city is already on fire, reflecting the staged description of the attack on the city given by Josephus. The Temple complex is visible on the left, with the Antonia fortress in the top left hand corner. In the foreground a Roman garrison of archers attack the city across the Kidron valley, even though in military terms this is rather improbable. Next to the archers is a group of mostly female Jewish captives. Although more architecturally and geographically accurate than others, Roberts’ painting perhaps lacks some of the personal drama and immediacy of his predecessors, although one comes away better informed about the scope and scale of the city and Titus's attack upon it.

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David Bomberg's 'Jerusalem, Looking to Mount Scopus'

David Bomberg is perhaps most famous for his paintings influenced by cubism and futurism, such as the Vision of Ezekiel (1912) and The Mud Bath (1914). A key figure on the British art scene before the First World War, Bomberg was associated with a group of artists and writers now known as the Whitechapel Boys, a collection of Anglo-Jewish modernist artists and writers. On his return to England from the Western Front, traumatised by his experience of war, Bomberg went into crisis. He lost his passion for the modern world — abstract painting and the hopes of futurism became connected to the horrors of mechanised warfare. After a period of considerable struggle, he was given a commission by a British Zionist group, the Palestine Foundation Fund, who worked to relocate Jewish settlers in Palestine with the support of the British government following the Balfour Declaration in 1917. Under encouragement from his contemporary Muirhead Bone, the group sponsored Bomberg's travel to Jerusalem, with the expectation that he would produce a number of paintings that would serve as propaganda for their project. Although Bomberg was not a Zionist, he felt rootless and distracted living in England and the attraction of the Holy Land was strong. In 1923 he and his wife Alice arrived in Jerusalem and Bomberg set to work. The paintings he created during this period were not, however, well received by his patrons. Rather than focus on the attractions of new settlements, Bomberg’s work eschewed all reference to modernisation of the land, ignoring the promises of pioneer life so central to the PFF’s cause. Instead Bomberg favoured desolate landscapes that spoke to the long, unchanging spiritual significance of the Holy Land rather than the modern twentieth century city. The painting here is typical in presenting a serene, calm, and unpopulated view over the Jerusalem cityscape. Although its figurative style is a far cry from Bomberg's earlier work, there remains some trace of his cubist mode of working in the angular, flat planes of the city’s architecture.

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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).

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Crescent Moon Amulet from Megiddo

This small, crescent shaped amulet was excavated in an Iron Age II room in a domestic building at Megiddo. The two holes at either end of the crescent suggest it would have hung from a cord or chain and been worn by its owner. The moon had always been important in ancient Near Eastern religion, but between the ninth and sixth centuries BCE it gained even greater popularity through the Aramean cult of the moon god Sin and the increasing popularity of astral cults across the ancient Near East. The moon was connected with agriculture and fertility and played an important part in religious festivals, including in Israel (see, for example, 1 Samuel 20:5, 24; Isaiah 1:13-14; Hosea 2:13; Ezekiel 45:17; 46:1, 3; Psalm 81:3). The crescent moon was celebrated as a symbol of redemption, as the small crescent moon rose from the days of darkness that form part of the lunar cycle. Although some texts in the Bible associate the moon with Yahwistic religious activity in a legitimate way (for example, Ezekiel 46), others polemicize against the astral worship that became popular in Judah in the seventh century BCE (Deuteronomy 4:19; 17:3; Jeremiah 8:2; 2 Kings 23:5). Jeremiah 8:1 announces judgement upon the “inhabitants of Jerusalem” for having worshipped the sun, moon, and the host of heaven, while 2 Kings 23:5 says that the kings of Judah had appointed special priests to make offerings to the sun, moon, stars, and constellations in the high places around Jerusalem. Both Jeremiah and 2 Kings associate astral worship, including worship of the moon, with the upper echelons of Jerusalemite society, accusing even the kings of engaging in these activities. Although the difference between “legitimate” (Psalm 81:3; 1 Samuel 20; Ezekiel 46) and “non-legitimate” (Deuteronomy 17:3; Jeremiah 8:1-2; 2 Kings 23:5) ritual practices involving the moon is unclear, the moon had a longstanding and important place in Israelite and ancient Near Eastern religious beliefs, at both official and popular levels.

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Cooking pot and baking tray from Jerusalem

Elements of daily life are—by their very nature—often simple, practical and unassuming. They are not the elements that attract the eye of the visitor to a museum or exhibition, and rarely receive more than cursory attention. Yet food production and consumption is an essential part of life—and not merely from the point of view of subsistence. Customs and taboos relating to food appear in all cultures and are very frequently important in marking out both the shared practices of neighbouring cultures and their points of difference.See also: clay oven; grinding stone.

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Clay seals of Gemariah and Azariah

In one of the houses destroyed by the Babylonians in Jerusalem, excavators discovered 53 clay seal impressions ('bullae'). These small lumps of clay, impressed with the seal of a particular individual or official, were used to seal documents, and suggest that by time of the Babylonian destruction in 586 BCE the kingdom of Judah had a group of literate elites, who presumably controlled the administration of the city.

It is a pleasant surprise to find, among these bullae, two with likely connections to biblical personages: Gemeriah, son of Shaphan, and Azariah, son of Hilkiah.

Bulla of Gemariah son of Shaphan The inscription on the seal reads: (Belonging) to Gemaryahu [s]on of Shaphan

This Gemariah, son of Shaphan, should probably be identified with the person by this name known from the book of Jeremiah:

"Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of Yhwh, in the chamber of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of Yhwh's house." (Jeremiah 36:10)

Gemariah's father Shaphan was the chief scribe at the time of King Josiah and appears as a key player in the story of the finding of the law during work in the Temple (2 Kings 22). It is important to note that the term scribe is probably best translated as secretary, and to be understood as a high ranking official as in 'secretary of state'.

Bulla of Azariah son of Hilkiah The inscription on the seal reads: (Belonging) to 'Azaryahu son of Hilqiyahu

This Azariah, son of Hilkiah, may be identified with the person by the same name in the priestly genealogy in 1 Chronicles 6:13. Azariah himself is not a major biblical figure but, if the identification is correct, his father Hilkiah was high priest in the temple in Jerusalem at the time of King Josiah, and a key figure in the story of the finding of the law in the Temple (2 Kings 22).

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Clay oven

This image shows the remains of a clay oven (tabun) just outside the House of Ahiel in Jerusalem, excavated as part of by Kathleen Kenyon's expedition to Jerusalem. Similar clay ovens are still in use in parts of the Middle East. They were (and still are) often found in courtyards, and are especially used for the preparation of flat bread.See also: cooking pot and baking tray; grinding stone.

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Clay Model Shrine from Megiddo

This clay model shrine, found at Megiddo, is one of a number of similar shrines found in the southern Levant over an extended period; others include the shrines found at Yavneh. The shrines are thought to be miniature representations of actual temples, in which the god or gods were thought to dwell and to be particularly accessible to their worshippers. Some shrines had small figurines of deities placed inside them, to symbolise the presence of the deity, while others appear to have been empty. This shrine was found in one of a series of rooms on the north side of a Late Bronze Age palace at Megiddo. The function of these rooms is unclear, but the room in which this particular shrine was found did not seem to have been a dedicated shrine or religious room, as such. Indeed, the exact purpose of such shrines is not clear although, on the basis of its shape and the decorations on the front, this one seems to have been an architectural model. The shrine stands at just over a metre tall and is square with the sides tapering toward the top. The clay is coarse, with a pink buff finish; the front of the shrine is decorated with red lines and caprids (sheep or goats) lining the upper windows. The head of an animal may be seen protruding from three of the four top corners.

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Clay figurines and models from Jerusalem and Judah

The variety of figurines found in Jerusalem and Judah are aprt of a general phenomenon and should not be studied in isolation. While the individual items and types are—of course—interesting, it is important to understand that they form part of a repertoire of figurines: a miniature world that includes female figurines, horses with and without riders, as well as furniture. Studies on figurines have tended to focus on specific types, but this risks isolating them from other kinds of figurines. Considering the female figurines alone, for example, it is easy to imagine them related to fertility ritual or female goddess. In reality they form a smaller part of the wider figurine repertoire. The majority of figurines are animals, which can generally be interpreted as horses; some appear with riders, others without. The use and meaning of the figurines is not very clear. Explanations range from cultic or apotropaic use, especially for the female figurines, to toys, usually with reference to the animals. Their archaeological context, which is primarily domestic and occasionally funerary, suggests that they were part of daily life. Whatever their immediate use, the repertoire provides a small window onto social meanings and identities that were represented and manipulated through the medium of clay figurines. 

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Clay figurine of a woman baking from Achziv

This clay miniature is from a tomb at Achziv. The subject of this tableaux is ambiguous, because of the rather rudimentary way it is modelled, but it is generally interpreted as representing a woman kneading the dough for baking. It is part of a wider tradition of figural representation in clay.

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Chair model from Lachish

The miniature figural world of Judah included not only female figurines and horses (with or without rider), but also model furniture such as this chair and the couch from Beersheba. Little is known of the use and meaning of these figurines. However, the fact that they are found in both domestic and funerary contexts suggests that they must have formed part of daily life and its rituals. It should be remembered that furniture was probably owned only by those better off in society and was probably a status symbol. A chair, in particular, may be understood as a throne, and in this sense it may represent authority—the authority of a king or queen, or the authority of a male or female god. As the archaeological context does not shed any clearer light, however, these suggestions remain speculative.

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Carved wooden items from the House of the Burnt Room

Fragments of carved wooden items from the House of the Burnt Room, Jerusalem These tiny fragments of carved wooden items come from a house in Jerusalem, in the City of David area. Their presence suggests that at least some members of the local population were rich enough to afford luxury items like furniture. The items were made mostly of boxwood, which does not grow locally in the southern Levant. Identifying the wood as something not grown locally means that its presence in Jerusalem had to come from trade, with either the raw material or, more likely, the finished objects imported and sold in the city. 

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Burial Inscription from Khirbet el-Qom

This inscription was removed from the pillar of a tomb at Khirbet el-Qom. It displays a carved handprint with some lines of text above it and two more lines of text on the lower left corner. The stone was smoothed over in preparation for the inscription with a tool that left scratches in its surface, and this, combined with natural faults in the stone and the presence of ghost-letters* has led to considerable debate over the translation of the text. Attempts to date the inscription paleographically (on the basis of the letter shapes) suggest a date between 750 and 700 BCE. If meant to be read top to bottom, the text perhaps reads: Uriyahu the rich wrote it Blessed be Uriyahu by Yhwh For from his enemies by his [Yhwh’s] Asherah he saved him [carving of hand]… by Abiyahu… by his Asherah… his A[she]eraAlmost all commentators agree that the inscription involves Yhwh’s blessing of Uriyahu, but it is not entirely clear if the inscription praises Yhwh for past blessings or expresses a plea for future blessing. The significance of the hand carving is also unclear, although a few places in the Bible associate hands with monuments. Both Saul and Absalom, for example, set up monuments that are referred to in the Hebrew as a 'hand' (1 Samuel 15:12; 2 Samuel 18:18). One of the most interesting features of the inscription is the mention of Asherah. This goddess was well known in biblical times; the biblical texts that use the term Asherah refer varoiously to a goddess or to an object (or, perhaps, sometimes to both, in an elision between the deity and the cultic object meant to represent the deity). When the texts refer to an object, it often appears in close proximity to Yhwh’s own altar. Biblical Hebrew does not usually affix pronominal suffixes to personal names. This has led to suggestions that 'his Asherah' in this inscription might mean the cultic object, rather than the goddess. A few other inscriptions associate Yhwh and Asherah; two inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Arjud provide an especially useful comparison, as they also refer to 'Yhwh and his Asherah'.*Ghost-letters are traces of letters that can be seen on an inscription but are not properly incised into it. They are often detected by modern cameras that pick up details the human eyes cannot see. Some of the ghost letters on this inscription were probably caused by a person in antiquity tracing the letters with a fingernail, or perhaps a stick.

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Bull statuette from near Samaria

This bronze bull is a special find from a fairly remote open air cult site on the summit of a ridge in the northern part of the Samaria hills. The site is at least 6.5km away from the closest major city, though there were a number of small Iron Age settlements in the surrounding area. The site was only used for a short period of time in the twelfth century BCE before being abandoned, leaving little evidence of activity. The bull is bronze and would have had eyes made of a different material, pressed into the depressions in the face. The head is somewhat triangular and the legs have been made by looping the metal up over the back, creating a ridge. The tail is coiled on the right thigh, which is unusual; bulls were often depicted with the tail hanging between the back legs. The size of the object—quite large for a bronze figurine from Israel—suggests that it was itself a cult object, rather than a votive item brought as an offering. Bulls held an important position in ancient Levantine cult. They were associated with storm-gods, especially Hadad and Baal, but they could also symbolise other deities, including Yhwh. They represented the god's power and strength. Bulls are also sometimes used as pedestals for deities who stand on their backs; a bull figurine could thus represent the deity itself, or symbolise the presence of the deity. The golden calves in the biblical tradition provide a textual parallel to figurines such as this one; the golden calves may have been thought to represent Yhwh directly, or to symbolise his presence by serving as a pedestal for his invisible manifestation. The Megiddo Kernos in this collection may also attest to the cultic importance of the bull in early Iron Age society. 

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Bone needle and bone implement from Jerusalem

Clothing forms an important part of daily life and is a key venue for the expression of individual and group identity. The climate in Jerusalem is such that textiles themselves very, very rarely survive to be found in an archaeological context. However, the tools used for spinning and weaving, such as spindlewhorls and loomweights, as well as the tools used for sewing—such as this needle—do survive. They provide a small glimpse about where and how ancient textiles were produced.