This horned altar from Beer-Sheva appeared in the first issue of Biblical Archaeology Review in 1975.a Dated to the eighth century B.C.E., the altar was discovered during Yohanan Aharoni’s excavations at Tel Beersheba, an archaeological site about 3 miles east of modern Beer-Sheva in southern Israel. Many—but not all—scholars believe Tel Beersheba to be the Biblical site of Beer-Sheva.
The altar was made of carved sandstone blocks—even though this goes against the Biblical rule that altars should be made of unhewn stones: “But if you make for me an altar of stone, do not build it of hewn stones; for if you use a chisel upon it, you profane it” (Exodus 20:25). The altar was found unassembled; the excavators discovered its blocks reused in the wall of a storehouse. Because the altar was dismantled, its dimensions are not known for sure, but archaeologists believe that the altar measured 5.25 by 5.25 feet and stood 5.25 feet high.
Some of the altar’s stones show evidence of burning, indicating that sacrifices took place on them. Aharoni believed that the altar proved there had been a temple at Beer-Sheva, which had been dismantled during King Hezekiah’s cultic reform. Yigael Yadin, however, believed that the altar was part of a bamah (high place) at Beer-Sheva.b In either case, the presence of an altar at Beer-Sheva, a Judahite site during the Iron Age, shows that worship and sacrifices took place outside of Jerusalem.
A. Stepping stool
B. Animal pen
C. Castle turret
Answer: (D) Altar
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