Ilan Sztulman/Tel-Miqne-Ekron Excavations
Scholars commonly identify the small stands as incense altars based on their similarity to the biblical altar that stood before the Holy of Holies in the desert Tabernacle: “One cubit long [about 18 inches] and a cubit wide—it shall be square—and two cubits high, its horns of one piece with it…On it Aaron shall burn aromatic incense” (Exodus 30:2, 7).
But traces of fire appear on only a handful of these purported incense altars. Archaeologists have discovered altars from some sites outdoors, where people would have been unlikely to expend rare, costly incense. Weighing the archaeological evidence, author Menahem Haran suggests that a less expensive offering would have been more appropriate for these small altars, and that incense burning in Israel was largely confined to the Royal Temple of Jerusalem.