Israel highway dig uncovers ancient temple

Dec. 31, 2012 at 1:07 PM

JERUSALEM, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Excavations for a highway renovation in Israel have uncovered rare remains of ritual objects and a 3,000-year-old temple, archaeologists say.

Israel's Antiquities Authority said ruins of a structure were found at Tel Motza west of Jerusalem, including massive walls and an east-facing entrance suggesting the building was a temple, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Aligning the entrance with the sun's rays to illuminate a ritual object placed within the temple would "symbolizing the divine presence within," archaeologist Ann Eirikh said.

A square structure believed to be an altar was discovered along with a nearby cache of objects including decorated pedestals, pottery vessels, fragments of chalices and clay figures of humans and domesticated animals, researchers said.

"The finds recently discovered at Tel Motza provide rare archaeological evidence for the existence of temples and ritual enclosures in the Kingdom of Judah in general ... prior to the religious reforms throughout the kingdom," Eirikh said.

Around the time of Hezekiah and Isaiah, known as the First Temple Period, Judaism abolished many ritual sites in order to conduct ritual practices solely at the Temple in Jerusalem, she said.

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