Archeologists Find Long-Lost Biblical City and Rare Figurine of Canaanite God Baal


Archeologists Find Long-Lost Biblical City and Rare Figurine of Canaanite God Baal

At a long-lost city linked to King David, archaeologists discovered rare artefacts dating back over 3,000 years.

The Macquarie University team discovered a “smiting god” figurine, a bronze calf, and decorated Canaanite and Philistine pottery from the 12th century BC at the site in Khirbet el-Rai, Israel.

Smiting statue: The partially intact figurine wears a tall hat and would have had its right arm raised and its other arm held out in front, possibly holding a weapon such as a spear.

The discoveries were made as part of the Macquarie University’s Ancient Israel Programme, which had been excavating the site in partnership with The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Announcing their findings, the team believed the bronze figure represented the Canaanite god Baal, poised to smite his enemies.

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Director of the programme, Dr Gil Davis, said: “When we go on an archaeological excavation, we have high hopes and low expectations but, of course, it’s wonderful when we make exciting finds.

In the field: Archaeology student Eva Rummery says the practical experience has helped her to pursue postgraduate study at Macquarie.

“We dream of making discoveries that will change our understanding of a significant part of the ancient past.”

It came after the team previously claimed that the site may once have been the ancient Philistine city of Ziklag mentioned in the Book of Samuel.

According to the Bible, the Philistine King Achish of Gath gave Ziklag to David, renowned for slaying the giant Goliath, while he was fleeing King Saul.

Later, after Saul’s death, David became king in Hebron and Ziklag remained in the hands of his developing kingdom of Judah.

Hidden treasures: Macquarie student Hannah Newman discovered the bronze calf figurine during the last week of the excavation.

The team’s work revealed layers from the 12th century BC through to the 10th century BC, which appears to fit the narrative.

They have also found evidence of a fierce fire, burnt mud bricks, white ash, burnt wood and numerous destroyed ceramic vessels – which coincides with the biblical account of the city being raided by the Amalekites.

Digging deep: Just minutes after a seal is discovered among the dirt, Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority holds the precious artefact up for the team to see.

But scholars are divided over the true location of Ziklag and this recent claim joins the list of up to 12 potential sites put forward over the years.

Despite this, dig co-directors Professor Yossi Garfinkel and Dr Kyle Keimer, claimed the finds they have made gives Khirbet el-Rai the strongest claim.

Dr Keimer said in April: “Our site is chronologically the right time period and as we’ve excavated and discovered how significant this site was from a political and economic and geographical stance, we sought to identify it with a biblical site.

Evidence-based findings: Dr Sophia Aharonovich carries out a soil sample test in the field alongside student Edward Clancy.

“I wholeheartedly think that it’s a very feasible explanation, particularly in comparison to the other sites which have been proposed, all of which have one issue or another with them whether it be chronological, archaeological or geographical.”

The site has yielded a wealth of artefacts including rich finds of Canaanite pottery, vessels used to store oil and wine, a stash of flint ‘blanks’ used for sickle blades, inscriptions, oil lamps, a portable shrine and even a large bronze spearhead.

Researchers uncovered a series of superimposed monumental buildings as well as multiple domestic buildings. 

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The earliest of the monumental buildings was destroyed, preserving a room full of burnt bones and cultic objects, some of which find their origins in Cyprus. 

The architecture and small finds indicate that a sophisticated society with international connections was in existence at that time rather than modest scattered settlements as scholars previously thought.


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