Gates and Gods. Cults in the City Gates of Iron Age Palestine. An Investigation of the Archaeological and Biblical Sources
Abstract: The present study deals with the question of cult locales in city gate contexts in Iron Age Palestine. Both archaeological and biblical sources are analysed in order to determine the presence of gate cult locales and indicate some directions of interpretation. A general framework for the archaeological identification of cult (as proposed by Colin Renfrew and others) is discussed and applied within the strict context of Iron Age Palestine. The following sites are examined: Beersheba, Bethsaida, Chinnereth, Dan, Tell el-Farah North, Lachish, Megiddo, Mezad Hazeva, Tell en-Nasbeh, Horvat Radum, Horvat Teman, Timna Site 30, Horvat Uza, and Yotvata. The study draws attention to the fact that gate cults are not restricted to the public activity sphere or ?official? religious expression only, but that the multifunctional civic area of the gate would have encompassed a diversity of cult forms, incorporating characteristics also from the ?family? cult. Archaeological finds from Bethsaida and Dan clearly indicate the presence of gate cult locales, with specific reference to northern Palestine in the 9th-8th centuries BCE, while the finds from the other sites cannot be used as diagnostic due to problems in interpretation. Comparative archaeological remains from north Syria are restricted to Carchemish. Another part of the study concentrates on the biblical texts: Exod 22:6-11; Num 5:11-31; 1 Sam 9:12-14, 18-19, 22-25; 1 Kgs 22:10-12, 15-16; 2 Kgs 23:8; Ezek 8:3, 5; Ezek 16:24, 31. This biblical material is analysed with an eye to its implications for the presence and use of bamoth, altars and cult symbols in city gate areas and in the context of judicial oaths, ordeals and oracle procedures. It is concluded that the combined use of archaeological and textual evidence is necessary in order to gain an insight into the activities performed in the city gates of Iron Age Palestine.
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