Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Chalcolithic temple

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While hiking in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea, we came upon an ancient temple . . .

These are the oldest findings (so far) in the Ein Gedi oasis, from about 5,500 years ago.
That was the Chalcolithic period.
The pagan temple served as a cultic center for the nomadic tribes of the region.
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Welcome! Step through the entrance gate.
See the stone benches here and along the base of the far wall?
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The temple was found empty.
Where were the cult objects they made and used for generation after generation?
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It has been proposed that the priests of that temple assembled the temple's objects at a time of approaching danger and hid them in a cave for safekeeping. The fate of the Chalcolithic inhabitants is not known. They may have fled or been killed, leaving the hoard behind.
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And in 1960-61, in a cave not far away, in Nachal Mishmar, Israeli archaeologists discovered the fabulous hidden hoard!!
Tools, mace heads, standards, crowns.
Look what beauty from a time when people here in the region were only first beginning to use copper!
And so many--442 objects, most made of copper.
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More about the Cave of the Treasure at the Foreign Ministry website (from which these two photos are taken) and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art website.
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(When I moved to Israel in 1968, I devoured the books and legends about the archaeological expeditions in the desert. That crown shown above always fascinated me. Tears came to my eyes when I first saw it before me in the museum in Jerusalem in 2006.)
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About a hundred standards (tubular scepters) were wrapped in the straw mat in the cave. Traces of wood or reed hafts were preserved on some standards and suggest they may have been carried on poles, perhaps in sacred processions.
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On the temple's central altar animal bones and ash were found, testifying to its use as a sacrificial altar.
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Hoping that the pagan gods of the 4th millennium BCE were no longer around, I dared myself and my hiking companion to stand in the high place.

Neither she nor I was struck down by fire from above.
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22 comments:

√ Abraham Lincoln said...

I just loved this post. I watch these kinds of shows on television every time they are on.

Petrea said...

So glad you weren't struck down, because you wouldn't have posted this and I wouldn't be sitting here enjoying it so much. I know what you mean about the crown.

Sara said...

Ancient artifacts like these bring tears to my eyes too...just amazed to be in the presence of objects that others made (and how? they are so beautiful) and used thousands of years ago...it's usually the commonplace items that get me...the beads, combs, hair ornaments, etc....

Dina, you look like you have a rock sitting on top of your head in that photo! Like you are bursting forth from the earth, with a bit of it still stuck to your head, like a chick from an egg!!

Kris said...

It looks warm.

Rambling Round said...

What a find! You have such an interesting job!

Nadege said...

Dina, was the vegetation on the hills different 5,000 years ago? (maybe a bit greener?). It is so bare now that I wonder how people survived then. Generally, the reanimation I watch on "National geographic" always show the bare hills. Please forgive my ignorance!

JM said...

This is fascinating, Dina! I would love to be there and feel the atmosphere.

Suzanne said...

Nice post Dina, and great that you could make all of those connections. Glad you were'nt sacrificed.

Eki said...

A marvellous story and photographs, Dina. Those brass artifacts are absolutely works of wonder. I also like the part of the story where you described your feeling when you first saw the crown. That's how a dedicated archeologist you are.

FA said...

I'm left speechless.

moneythoughts said...

Loved this post too. Enjoyed what you wrote and the photos.

As for old objects, yes they can create strong emotions and feelings.

VP said...

My readings at the time (late 60s) went no further than Michener's The Source but my first interest for Israel as a place, came with the fictional story of Tell Makor...

Hilda said...

Whew! Thank goodness, or we might not have gotten this very interesting and fascinating post.

Whatever their reason for doing so, I'm sure we're all glad the priests stashed this hoard in the cave, preserving them so well!

Louis la Vache said...

As Petrea wrote, we're glad you weren't struck down!
We need you, otherwise we wouldn't have these very interesting posts to read!

Amazing workmanship on the copper given the technology of the time.

jewwishes said...

What fantastic photographs of time and place.

I will check out the links.

LOL, you came, you stood, you wrote! Aren't we lucky!!!

RuneE said...

I'm afraid that we can't match anything like this - 5500 years! They looked down on you...

PS You had better watch out for a while :-)

Indrani said...

Great post Dina. I have never seen something so old before. Mine is a similar post but from 15th century.

Jo said...

Hi Dina;) I popped in here through Julie's post today and am I glad I did. What a wonderful post. I'll be back for more.

Dick said...

Wonderful objects, you said 5500 years ago, I can't believe it is that old but of course I believe you.
I'm glad you both are not struck down by fire.

Jørgen Carlsen said...

Interesting to see what can be found when hiking. Was the tour before the serious amount of rain you told about some times ago?

Marina said...

what a wonderful "adventure"! Thanks

Dina said...

Thank you for all your thoughts, everyone So glad you feel the place.

Jo, welcome. You are in Africa? Wow.

Jorgen shalom. Yes, we were there just 4 days before the flash floods.