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November 20, 2013 12:56 pm

Shiloh Altar: Biblical Archaeology Provides Evidence of Ancient Religious Center

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The Tel Shiloh dig. Photo: Courtesy of Tel Shiloh archaeological site.

JNS.org For decades archaeologists have been searching for evidence to support the hypothesis that Shiloh served as a religious center in ancient times. Now, a stone altar dated to the Iron Age—the period of Israelite kings—was accidentally exposed during a dig conducted by an archaeological staff officer of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria.

The altar was found amid the stones of a wall dated to the Byzantine period. Apparently, the Byzantines removed the altar from its original location in Tel Shiloh and used it to build a structure at the foot of the tel. The discovery is the first tangible evidence that Shiloh was a cultic center prior to and during the First Temple period. Previously, the only evidence for that theory were descriptions in the Bible about the Tabernacle at the time of Joshua and later in the time of Eli the high priest and the prophet Samuel.

Until today, archaeologists believed that after the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant, as described in the book of Samuel, they destroyed the city and Jewish settlement there ended. The altar’s discovery suggests that some Jewish settlement continued there even after the death of Eli the high priest.

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