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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.

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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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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.