Sixty feet long, this rectangular structure is apparently an eighth-century B.C. addition to the religious sanctuary at Tel Dan.

Jeroboam, king of the northern kingdom of Israel (924–903 B.C.), built a sanctuary at Dan to compete with the Temple in Jerusalem. As the Bible records, Jeroboam said, “‘Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David; if this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam, king of Judah … ’ So the king [Jeroboam of Israel] … made two calves of gold … And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan” (1 Kings 12:26–29).

Avraham Biran identifies the bamah, or “high place,” as the focal area of Jeroboam’s sanctuary. His recent excavation of the lishkah, however, revealed that the Tel Dan sanctuary is larger than he first supposed.

Students in the foreground of the photo at top clear the northern end of this lishkah, or chamber, where the priests may have officiated.

A three-foot-square stone structure found in the lishkah is an altar, according to Biran. A jar containing ashes was buried in the hole to the left of the altar. The ashes have note yet been fully analyzed, but preliminary indications are that they may be frankincense and myrrh used in religious rites.

Three iron incense shovels, probably used during religious rites, were discovered nearby. The shovels, called matah and naah in Hebrew, are the earliest such shovels ever found and resemble incense shovels pictured on synagogue mosaic floors of the fourth to fifth centuries A.D.

Also found in this area was a bronze bowl approximately six-and-a-half inches in diameter and emblazoned with a lotus design. The finds all point to the cultic character of the building.