Among the cult artifacts excavated from the Iron Age II temple at Tel Moẓa was a large cult stand (pictured here from two sides). It had to be reconstructed from several fragments: a large solid base, a fragment with the “pendant petal” motif, a crescent-shaped appliqué, and fragments of a large bowl decorated with schematic pendant petals around the exterior. A popular motif throughout the ancient Near East during the Iron Age, pendant petals were used in various media and made of an array of materials. They likely represent a schematic and somewhat simplified lotus leaf.

The vessel’s base diameter of about a foot indicates that the stand must have been quite tall. Its size and mass suggest that it was a semipermanent fixture positioned in the courtyard, near the offering table. In fact, the large base was found in situ on the courtyard floor.

Though badly preserved, the stand shows the remains of two symmetrical lions or sphinxes, one on either side of the base, facing forward. The front paw and hindquarters of both animals are preserved, with the animal on the right depicting a hind leg and a long, upward-curving tail ending in a tuft of hair that rests on the animal’s back. Despite the absence of the animals’ heads, their identification as sphinxes is more probable given a wing-shaped fragment found collapsed into the stand base.

Both lions and sphinxes are well known in Iron Age visual imagery of cultic artifacts, as these ferocious animals served as guardians and symbols of divine and royal dominance. Locally, they are best exemplified by the two large rectangular stands from Ta’anach, both elaborately decorated with pairs of sphinxes and lions positioned one on top of the other. Stands similar to the one from Moẓa have been found at Arad, Megiddo, and Tell es-Safi.