Some of the most mysterious remains in the City of David from the time of King David and King Solomon concern what is known as “the cultic corner.” The cultic corner was found inside the city’s fortification wall south of the Stepped-Stone Structure in the area designated E1 in Yigal Shiloh’s excavation.

The cultic corner is located in a building with several surviving rooms paved with pebble floors. This building was found above an earlier structure with much more poorly built walls, now buried in a deep accumulation of debris. This material clearly dates to the period immediately prior to the tenth century B.C.E., in which David and Solomon lived. This prior period, before the United Monarchy, is known in archaeological parlance as Iron Age I (Shiloh’s Stratum 15). Above this is Stratum 14, the earliest phase of Iron Age II (tenth century B.C.E.), in which the cultic corner was found.

In one corner of the building from Iron Age II (Stratum 14), excavators unearthed the lower half of a fenestrated (windowed) offering stand. In the same area they found two chalices that were apparently used for cultic purposes (photo above). The offering stand and the chalices gave the area in which they were found its name: the cultic corner. Why it was here—what function it served and for whom—remains a mystery.

Both the stratum in which the cultic corner was found and the stratum above (Stratum 13) contained similar pottery—hand burnished and covered with a red slip. This is characteristic of pottery from Iron Age II. The fact that a second, later stratum contains this Iron II pottery strongly supports the dating of the earlier stratum (Stratum 14) to the first part of Iron Age II—the period of the United Monarchy.

The material from this area of Yigal Shiloh’s excavation is being prepared for publication by Alon De Groot with the assistance of Hannah Greenberg, both of the Israel Antiquities Authority (see “First Person”).