High Place Ritual Circle in Israel (1100 BCE)

High Place" on the top of a hill in northern Israe
Remains of a "High Place" on the top of a hill in northern Israel. From Biblical Historical Context Blog
Ritual circle in iron age northern Israel
Drawing of the ritual circle. The alter faces south towards the sun. (From Mazar 1982)
Photo the the carefully wrapped bronze mirror with its broken off handle at the bottom. This object was placed carefully by a wall suggesting it was a part of the ceremony closing the circle (From Mazar 1982).

Israelite High Place for Life Powers

(July 9, 2022) These small ritual circles seem to have been common serving clusters of small villages but now very few remain. The Hebrew Scriptures describe high places (bamot) and sacred stones (masaboth) as being located "upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree" (Deut 12:2-3; 1 Kgs 14:23; 2 Kgs 16:4, 17:10-11; Isa 65:7; Jer 2:20, 17:2; Ezek 6:13, 20:28; Hos 4:13).

This well preserved one was found accidentally in Northern Israel. The site is surrounded by villages established during the Iron Age 1 period (1180 to 1000 BCE).

The only ritual objects found were a folded bronze mirror, a bronze bull, and a flint sickle indicating the rituals involved the sun (Hu), rain (Ba'al) and grain harvesting. These were found beside the outer wall. A mirror would have been used in some sort of sun ritual for reflecting its rays. That it was folded and hidden suggests it was deliberately destroyed when the ritual circle was closed prior to abandonment.

Inside the enclosure were found a few cooking pots indicating meals were prepared within it. Flint tools were also found. Of the 96 flints recovered, 24 are tools, 12 are cores, and 60 fall into various categories. These tools included three perforators, 5 scrapers, 1 sickle, 9 notches and denticulates, 2 multipurpose tools (a nosed scraper and a notched borer), 2 miscellaneous retouched pieces, 1 truncated piece, and 1 small scraper resembling a thumbnail scraper. These other tools indicate leathers were assembled into objects.

The high number of flake cores implies that these tools (except the sickle) were produced on the site. As is common in Bronze and Iron Age sites, no blade cores were recovered, implying that the sickle, manufactured on a blade segment, was imported.


Biblical Historical Context Blog: https://biblicalhistoricalcontext.com/trips/a-visit-to-the-bull-site/
Mazar, A (1982) The Bull Site - An Iron Age 1 Open Cult Place. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. No. 247 (Summer, 1982), pp. 27-42. https://doi.org/10.2307/1356477https://www.jstor.org/stable/1356477
Mazar, A. (Oct 1983) Bronze Bull Found in Israelite “High Place” from the Time of the Judges. Biblical Archaeology Review 9:5, Online at: https://www.baslibrary.org/biblical-archaeology-review/9/5/1

High Place Video

The video begins and ends looking at the standing stone. From Biblical Historical Context Blog.
Bull Found at High Place in northern Israel

Bull Found at High Place (1100 BCE)

This bronze bull was found near the western wall of the site. This bull differs from the bull from nearby Hazor which had extensions on the hooves to attach to attach it to something. This bull has well defined genitalia demonstrating potency and power and deep eye sockets which may once have held semi-precious stones. The figurine is 17.5 cm. long and 12.4 cm high. It was produced using the "lost wax" technique with the opening mark for the smelted bronze visible at the top of the neck.
It is now on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. (photo from Biblical Archaeology Society).
Bronze Bull Found at Hazor Israel

Bull Found at Hazor Israel (1300 BCE)

Bronze bull from Royal Sanctuary in area A dating to 1400-1200 BCE. This room was located south of the southern temple, the Royal. The sanctuary was built with thick mudbrick walls, wooden floors, an ornate pillared entryway and basalt orthostats. Its simple, symmetrical plan closely follows patterns found in other Canaanite temples. (image from Sharon Zuckerman at https://www.baslibrary.org/images/bsba320203521ljpg)