Clara Amit and Zila Sagiv/Israel Antiquities Authority

‘En Hatzeva’s excavators found 75 cultic objects, including these pottery vessels, in a pit close to a late Iron Age fortress (seventh-sixth centuries B.C.E.). Covering the pit were large ashlars (hewn stones), probably taken from a nearby shrine. Since every piece from each vessel has been recovered—allowing them to be completely restored—the objects were evidently thrown intact into the pit and then crushed by the ashlars.

The most unusual objects in the collection are three anthropomorphic cult stands (upper left of photo). Like the other objects in the pit—limestone altars, cylindrical cult stands, chalices, cup-shaped incense burners, clay shovels—these human-shaped stands were probably used to make offerings at the shrine. But unlike the other objects, of which similar types have been found at numerous sites in ancient Israel, the anthropomorphic stands are uniquely Edomite; the only similar stands found so far are from the Edomite site of Qitmit.

That the shrine and its cultic objects are Edomite helps to explain their sudden destruction: This idolatrous shrine may have been leveled during the Judahite king Josiah’s religious reform in the late seventh century B.C.E.