Excavated remains on Mt. Ebal from the air. It’s simply an old farm house—not an altar—says archaeologist Aharon Kempinsky of this stone structure near the summit of Mt. Ebal, in the Biblical territory of Manassah. The excavator of the Iron Age I structure, Adam Zertal, contends that this is an altar, perhaps the altar built by Joshua, where all of Israel assembled to hear the words of the law (Joshua 8:30–35).

One element in Zertal’s identification of the ramp (arrow) leading up to the top of the structure. Kempinski explains the ramp as an internal house wall that deteriorated most towards its outer end, thereby appearing as a slope. Kempinski observes that the gray color of lowest end of the wall, on the left, is the result of the long exposure that led to the deterioration. The higher end of the wall, where it was buried and protected from weathering and loss of stones, retains its golden hue.

For a detailed description of he square structure, according to both Kempinski and Zertal, see the sidebar “Kempinski Takes the ‘Altar’ Apart.”