This clay altar has two stories, with a roof that extends beyond the width of the altar and a slightly raised horn at each of the four corners. It is made from coarse clay and there is a certain roughness to its manufacture; the figures either side of the window are at different heights and the windows are asymmetrical. It is decorated with two molded figures flanking the lower windows, with an incised palm tree between. Each horn of the altar is incised with a palm frond and the space on the sides in between the horns is decorated with incised lines. The palm decoration is a symbol for an unidentified goddess. The altar shows signs of burning on the top, which indicates it was used for burning offerings at some point. The signs of burning on the sides are a result of the fire that destroyed the building it was found in. The altar was found along with a painted chalice and some other vessels close to an area that was devoted to producing honey and beeswax (an apiary). A number of clay cylinders bore traces of beeswax and were used as beehives. This apiary is the only one ever found in an excavation in the Levant. The altar and related objects found near the apiary are probably part of a 'cult corner' in this industrial area and, while the palm fronds on the altar indicate that a goddess is in view, they are also a symbol of fertility—an emphasis on which is to be expected given the apiary was dependent on the productivity of its bees. Another four horned altar of a similar, though finer, style was found at Megiddo, along with fragments of twelve others. These cult stands (see also this one from Jerusalem) were clearly popular among the inhabitants of the site in the tenth century BCE.
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.
The Ghent Altarpiece consists of twenty-four pieces painted by the brothers Hubert and Jan Van Eyck for a side chapel of St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent. It is a visual unfolding of the entire history of salvation, from Adam and Eve in Genesis, through the incarnation and passion of Christ in the gospels, to the promise of the New Jerusalem in Revelation. The central panel of the altarpiece, shown here, represents a foreshadowing of the New Jerusalem, with all peoples and nations flocking towards the Lamb (Christ) at the centre of the panel. As in the Angers tapestry, the paradisial, horticultural aspect of the New Jerusalem is foregrounded. Although real buildings from the cities of Utrecht and Ghent can be seen in the background, they remain on the periphery. The River of Life from Revelation 22:1–2 was often visualised rather crudely in earlier images, such as the Silos Apocalypse, as a river flowing from the throne of God; here it is conceived in the foreground of the image as a delicate fountain, surrounded by the precious stones of which the New Jerusalem is said to be made (Revelation 21:19–20). The emphasis in this vision of the New Jerusalem on humanity, who are at the heart of the scene, is overwhelming, evoking a vision of a second Eden. From all four corners of the panel come humanity: groups of martyrs—both male and female, saints, Old Testament patriarchs, pious pagans, apostles and popes. They all process towards the Lamb, who stands on the altar at the centre of the image. Unlike, for example, the Trinity Apocalypse, the New Jerusalem is here presented not foremost as a bejewelled and golden city, beyond the realms of human imagination, but as a spiritual place whose foundations are based in the faith and sacrifice of its inhabitants.
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.