Accidental discoveries of two pits containing cult figurines have led me to discern an extraordinary development in Israelite religious observance. This development occurred when the Jews returned from the Babylonian Exile in the sixth to fifth centuries B.C.
The first discovery took place in the opening season of our excavations at Tel Dor, on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, where we were fortunate enough to uncover a favissa (FAH-viss-uh). A favissa (plural, favissae [FAH-viss-ee]) is a pit into which votive figurines or statuettes have been thrown. Sometimesthese figurines are made of metal or stone, but mostly they are made of clay. They are almost always broken, intentionally destroyed.