In September 2010 archaeologists announced the discovery of another Iron Age temple—this one at Khirbet Ataruz in Jordan. According to Ziad Saad, director general of Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, the new discovery most likely dates to the eighth century B.C.E., when the Moabites were living on the east side of the Jordan River. Like many of its contemporaries, the temple, which was constructed of limestone and basalt, contained three sections—a main sanctuary measuring 97 by 43 feet and two antechambers—as well as an open courtyard.

Excavation of the sanctuary produced a rare collection of approximately 300 pots, delicate cultic vessels and figurines of deities—including the bull-shaped Hadad, another name for the Storm God of Aleppo—made of clay and bronze. The discovery is an important indication of the level of cultural sophistication and technological advancement the Moabites had achieved in the Iron Age. Most previous finds from Jordan were meager remains of small houses and farms, but this temple suggests the existence of a strong central ruler capable of organizing the resources to build such a structure.

Scholars widely agree that Khirbet Ataruz is the site of Biblical Ataroth, which Moses granted to the tribe of Gad during the settlement of the Promised Land (Numbers 32:34). Hundreds of years later, in the mid-ninth century B.C.E., the Moabite king Mesha recounts his conquest of the city on a famous stela known as the Mesha Stela or Moabite Stone: “Now the men of Gad had always dwelt in the land of Ataroth, and the king of Israel had built Ataroth for them; but I fought against the town and took it and slew all the people of the town as a satiation for Chemosh and Moab.”1

The site then probably remained under Moabite control, which led to the construction of the temple soon after.