Rare evidence of the religious practices and rituals in the early days of the Kingdom of Judah has recently been discovered at Tel Motza, to the west of Jerusalem.
In excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently conducting at the Tel Motza archaeological site, prior to work being carried out on the new Highway 1 from Sha’ar Hagai to Jerusalem by the National Roads Company, a temple and a cache of sacred vessels some 2,750 years old have been uncovered.
According to Anna Eirikh, Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judaea at the time of the First Temple.
“The uniqueness of the structure is even more remarkable because of the vicinity of the site’s proximity to the capital city of Jerusalem, which acted as the Kingdom’s main sacred center at the time.”
According to the archaeologists, “Among other finds, the site has yielded pottery figurines of men, one of them bearded, whose significance is still unknown.”
Tel Motza and the surrounding region are renowned for their prime archaeological importance. Many finds have previously been uncovered at the site, from a variety of different periods. From the 1990′s to the beginning of the present millennium, the site was excavated in preparation for the new route taken by Highway 1.
At the time, the site’s archaeologists proposed once more identifying the site with the Biblical settlement “Mozah” mentioned in the Book of Joshua – a town in the tribal lands of Benjamin bordering on Judaea (Joshua 18: 26).
The proposal was based, among other things, on the discovery at the site of a public building, a large structure with storehouses, and a considerable number of silos.
At the time, archaeologists identified the site as a storehouse, run by high-ranking officials, for Jerusalem’s grain supplies.
The current excavations have revealed evidence that provides another aspect to our understanding of the site.