Daily Archives: June 7, 2010

3,500 year old discovery at Tell Kassis (Qassis)

The Israel Antiquities Authority reports here today on the discovery of more than 100 ancient cultic vessels in a natural hollow in the bedrock next to the Tishbi (Yokneam) junction

In an excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting along the route of the northern gas pipeline planned by the Israel Natural Gas Lines Company

A natural hollow in the bedrock that was exposed in archaeological excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the installation of the northern gas pipeline by the Israel Natural Gas Lines Company, at the foot of Tel Qashish (Tell el Qassis [or Tell Kassis]), did not cease to provide ancient surprises. For two weeks archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority excavated the contents of the rock-hollow and removed from it more than 100 intact cultic vessels and other extraordinary items that are c. 3,500 years old. Again and again, every time the excavators thought they reached the bottom of the cavity a new and fascinating layer of complete vessels was discovered beneath the one that was previously dismantled.

In the past the ancients would descend into the rock-hollow by way of two broad, hewn steps. Inside the cavity whole vessels were found piled one atop the other and other vessels were broken by those that had been placed upon them. Among the finds that were recovered: a cultic vessel that was used for burning incense, a sculpted face of a woman that was part of a cultic cup used in dedicating a libation to a god, goblets and bowls with high bases and tableware that was intended for eating and drinking. Other vessels that were found had been brought from Mycenae in Greece, including a storage vessel for precious oils – evidence of the ancient trade relations that existed with Greece.

According to archaeologists Uzi Ad and Dr. Edwin van den Brink, the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, this is an extremely rare discovery. Until now no such pits as these have been found from 3,500 years ago. It is also extraordinary to find scores of vessels that are in such a good state of preservation. In most excavations fragments of pottery vessels are found, whereas here the vessels were removed from the rock-hollow intact. Each object was removed with the greatest of care, was drawn and documented and revealed beneath it a wealth of other finds. The vessels are numbered and their precise location in the heap is recorded for future research. According to the archaeologists, it is obvious that considerable time and thought were invested in the placement of the vessels in the rock-hollow, as evidence by the different kinds of vessels that were buried separately.

Archaeologists van den Brink and Ad have various theories regarding the purpose of the rock-hollow. “In this period, before the Bible, the children of Israel were still in Egypt or the desert, and it would appear that the vessels were used in a pagan cult that worshiped idols. During this period it was customary that each city had a temple of its own where special cultic vessels were used”.

At the end of the Late Bronze Age (the Canaanite period) the region was vanquished, including Tel Qashish, which was destroyed by a fierce conflagration, along with nearby Tel Yoqneʽam.  Therefore, one of the theories is that the vessels were buried in order to protect them from the impending destruction.

Another possibility is that the cultic vessels that were employed in the rituals practiced in the temple were buried after they were no longer used. Since these artifacts were part of the ritual ceremonies a special place was allocated for them and unlike other vessels they were not discarded in the garbage.

Cultic Verssels at Tell Kassis. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Cultic Verssels at Tell Kassis. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

The next photo shows a cultic cup with the face of a woman.

Cultic Cup discovered at Tell Kishbi. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Cultic Cup discovered at Tell Kassis. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Those who have visited the site of Murakah on Mount Carmel have seen this tell and the Kishon River in the Jezreel Valley. The photo below shows the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley. The tell is in the center of the photo at the bottom. You can make out the line of the Kishon River below the tell. The dark areas in the photo are shadows of passing clouds. Click for a larger image.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon in the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon in the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo is a cropped portion of the previous photo. The tell is clearly visible.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon River from Mount Carmel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon River from Mount Carmel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Kassis (or Tell el-Qasis) is thought by some scholars to be the Biblical Helkath. Helkath was a town belonging to the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:25), and one of the Levitical cities (Joshua 21:31). This area is also associated with the battle of Deborah and Barak against the Canaanites (Judges 4-5). After the contest on Mount Carmel, Elijah had the prophets of Baal killed at the Brook Kishon.

And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. (1 Kings 18:40 ESV)

Rotem, the young lady who is webmaster for Bible Walks, lives only a few kilometers from the site. She has included many great photos of the mound and of the recent emergency excavations here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer