Courtesy Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums

A cultic menagerie: This Canaanite pottery stand from Taanach dated to the late tenth century B.C., is one of the most elaborate. Four registers contain tableaux modeled in high relief, and a platform with a shallow basin crowns the stand. The bottom register depicts a nude female figure, perhaps the mother-goddess Asherah, holding the ears of flanking lions. Winged sphinxes seem to stand guard on each side of the opening in the second register. Lions appear again on the flanks of the third register; between them, two goats stand in a heraldic position and nibble on a stylized tree, a motif associated with Asherah and sometimes used as a tree of life. The top register displays a calf facing left between a pair of voluted columns. A winged sun-disc seems to ride upon the calf”s back. The calf may represent the Canaanite storm-god, Baal, who is generally associated with a bull in Near Eastern iconography.

The absence of soot marks in the stand”s basin indicates that it was probably used for offerings or libations rather than for incense burning.