Biblical Archaeology Review 14:4, July/August 1988

On Cult Places and Early Israelites: A Response to Michael Coogan

In the January/February 1988 BAR an article entitled “Two Early Israelite Cult Sites Now Questioned,” BAR 14:01, presents the views of Professor Michael Coogan to the effect that the so-called “Bull Site” that I excavated in the Samaria mountains is not a cultic installation and is of questionable Israelite ethnicity.a

Of course, every silent archaeological discovery can be interpreted in different ways. The question is what is the most sensible explanation of a particular archaeological phenomenon. In this case, I disagree with Coogan’s views on several basic points.

Coogan lists four criteria that, to his mind, characterize a cult place. Yet many cult places and temples in ancient Palestine reflect only some of Coogan’s criteria. For example, his first criterion relates to whether the site in question is “isolated” architecturally. The temples at Tell Qasile, a temple in area A at Hazor, the temple at Arad and others all fail to meet this criterion, yet they are clearly temples.

Coogan’s second criterion—the presence of “exotic materials”—is not found at several important temples that were deserted or robbed of finds in their final phase (such as the Chalcolithic temple at Ein-Gedi, the Early Bronze temples at Megiddo, the Canaanite temple 2048 at Megiddo and the temples at Shechem).

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