Biblical Archaeology Review 11:1, January/February 1985

Has Joshua’s Altar Been Found on Mt. Ebal?

By Adam Zertal

To appreciate fully the significance of the unique altar and cult center we are excavating on Mt. Ebal, one must first understand the archaeological context in which these discoveries were made.

We found the altar and cult center, not in the course of excavating a tell, but in the course of conducting an archaeological survey. The recent history of archaeology in Israel and in adjacent lands has seen a slow movement away from the excavation of large, well-known tells in favor of surveys of larger geographic areas. A survey not only provides a comprehensive background of an area, but it also gives the archaeologist a broader understanding of individual sites discovered during the survey.

It would be difficult to find a better example to illustrate this than Mt. Ebal and the altar and cult center we found on it. To understand what we found, we must understand not only the site itself, but the mountain on which it was discovered and, indeed, how this mountain relates to the surrounding area in a particular time period.

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