Courtesy Dr. Ze’Ev Meshel

OF LIONS AND TREES. The lion was a common symbol of Asherah throughout the ancient Near East; she is frequently depicted standing on a lion. At Kuntillet ‘Ajrud in the Sinai, a pithos, or storage jar, was found with an inscription that speaks of Yahweh (the Israelite God) and his Asherah. An accompanying drawing on the pithos portrays a lion with a tree on top flanked by ibexes. The BAR naos depicts tree-columns standing on crouched lions, demonstrating that it, too, was associated with Asherah. The photo at top shows the Kuntillet ‘Ajrud drawing re-assembled from the fragmentary and sometimes indistinct potsherds from which the modern drawing below was created. We are grateful to Dr. Ze’ev Meshel of Tel Aviv University, the excavator of Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, for making this hitherto-unpublished photo of the original pithos available to BAR and its readers.

Additional evidence of Asherah’s connection to lion symbology comes from the famous tenth-century B.C.E. Taanach cult stand. In the bottom register Asherah places her hands on two lions’ heads. A similar scene with lions is repeated in the third register from the bottom, but this time the goddess figure has been replaced by a tree and two heraldic goats.