Courtesy Israel Museum

A Canaanite temple orchestra decorates this pottery stand, unearthed in 1969 at the Mediterranean coastal site of Ashdod. The stand, about 13.5 inches (343 cm) high, comes from the first post-Philistine layer, 10th century B.C. Like other finds of this period from Ashdod and similar sites, it combines Philistine and local Canaanite elements.

Five figures appear in the base of the stand. In this photograph we see, left, frame-drum player and, right, a double pipe player. The second photograph shows the double pipe player (far left) then a lyre player and a woman. The lyre player’s instrument is not intact and the woman’s hands have not survived. Either her hands were pressed to her breasts, in the pose of many cultic figurines of the period, or they held a pair of cymbals. In the third photograph, the fifth figure, at center, is a large man who is either playing a wind instrument or “hollering.”

The incised rectangle above the frame-drum player in this photograph is the schematic representation of an animal’s body, possibly a cow, with its tail hanging. The head of the cow appears in the round opening.

Vessels found nearby and the known tradition of such stands confirm the cultic function of this stand from Ashdod. The orchestra depicted here must have been the one serving the temple. The excavator of Ashdod, Dr. Moshe Dothan, immediately perceived the relationship between this scene and the one described in 1 Samuel 10.5 in which Samuel says to Saul: “After that thou shalt come to the hill of God where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shall meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a nevel (large lyre) and a tof (frame-drum) and a halil (double pipe?) and a kinnor (lyre) before them: and they shall prophesy.”