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IAA 1968-1182-Cult Stand with Musicians, Ashdod, Israelite Period, 11th cent. BCE.tif

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.

Taanach cult stand.tif

Cult stand from Ta'anach

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

Megiddo Offering Stand.jp2

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.