A Canaanite Massebah Or Stele Found At Khirbet El-Maqatir? -- By: Titus Kennedy

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 24:1 (Winter 2011)
Article: A Canaanite Massebah Or Stele Found At Khirbet El-Maqatir?
Author: Titus Kennedy

A Canaanite Massebah Or Stele Found At Khirbet El-Maqatir?

Titus Kennedy

Finding The Stone

During the 2009 season at Khirbet el-Maqatir, near the town of Deir Dibwan in the West Bank, a large, worked, semi-upright stone was discovered inside the southwest area of the 2.5 acre (10 dunam) walled fortress. The specific location was Field A, Square C17, just inside what is believed to be the wall of the fortress.1 The stone came from Locus 5, which was a rough pavement of limestone packed with earth approximately 12 in (30 cm) deep, with pavement stones measuring generally about 1.5 to 2.5 in (4 to 6 cm) in diameter. The stone was found wedged into the pavement, 12 in (30 cm) at its deepest point (the lower right corner), and leaning to the northwest as if knocked over, with the flat, worked face of the stone facing away from the wall, towards the center of the fortress.

The stone, appearing to be a massebah (standing stone) or a stele (decorated commemorative stone) because of its shape and context, is a carved limestone slab, tan in color, measuring 31 in (79 cm) high, 16 in (40 cm) wide, and 7 in (18 cm) thick, with a flat base and a pointed top.2 In Canaan, important stones such as orthostats and stelae are often made out of basalt, but two prominent stelae from Ugarit, displayed in the Louvre Museum, are also limestone. The stone was well-balanced stone appeared to be extremely weathered, it appears that some type of figure on the main face of the stone was originally carved in bas-relief, and the figure rises from the face 0.6 in (1.5 cm) high in an even plane. The type of weathering displayed by the stone is a result of exposure to acidic liquids, such as rainwater or even crushed grapes. Because severe weathering is present on both sides, this suggests that the stone was exposed to the elements while standing upright, rather than as a piece in a wall or a floor slab, all of which would display different weathering patterns.

Michael Luddeni

This is the heavy and mysterious stone, interpreted to be a stele with a weathered depiction of a face, discovered at Khirbet el-Maqatir in 2009. It is currently in the storage of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Dating Considerations

Pottery from the pavement was sparse, likely due to the nature of the site.3 The sherds found in the immediate context of the stone date predominantly to Late Bronze I, with a minority of Late Hellenistic- Early Roman sherds. The entire locus contained sherds mostly from LB I, ...

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