Biblical Archaeology Review 41:5, September/October 2015

Archaeological Views: How Canaanites Worshiped

By Itzick Shai

You never know. What led us to Tel Burna was the possibility of studying the borderland between Judah and the Philistines in the Iron Age. The site might even be Biblical Libnah (Joshua 21:13; 2 Kings 8:22; Isaiah 37:8; 2 Kings 24:17–18). When we surveyed the site, however, we discovered a large Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.E.) Canaanite settlement on the western slopes of the tell, just inches below the surface that featured a large public building with an adjacent courtyard. Here we uncovered some extraordinary finds that provided insights into the Canaanites and their religious world.

The overall plan of the building is still unclear. It had a large courtyard of approximately 52 square feet. The outside walls of the building were built of large field stones, and the floor was largely composed of exposed bedrock. The finds from the courtyard suggest that the building may have been a temple. They seem at least to indicate that religious activities took place in the courtyard.

Many animal bones and much pottery lay on the surface of the courtyard. Two complete tabuns (ovens) also suggest religious activity. This was confirmed by several chalices, goblets and cup-and-saucers. Apparently the ritual involved eating and drinking.

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