Nelly Lama

Mysterious disks. The figurines uncovered at the wayside shrine show female figures holding circular objects either perpendicular to their body, or as shown in these examples, flat against their chests. Excavators do not know what the disk represents, or even whether these figures are meant to be deities or human worshipers. Similar figures are known from a few Iron Age sites in Israel, where the disks have been interpreted as being tambourines, sacrificial cakes or loaves and (more speculatively) solar emblems. The Bible refers to tambourines being played by women and girls at victory celebrations, so it may be that the figures represent cult participants. But female divinities like Ishtar are also represented with tambourines in some Mesopotamian cylinder seals, so the possibility that these are goddesses, objects of worship, can’t be ruled out. These objects, and the other recent finds at Khirbat al-Mudayna, testify to a richer Moabite culture than previously suspected.