BAR has just published a nice little piece by my former grad assistant Jonathan Greer. Do go and give it a read! (Jim will appreciate the presence of the word “deviant” in the title.)
Archaeologically speaking, very little is known of the ancient Israelite cult as it was practiced by the kings and priests of Biblical Israel. While evidence for “folk religion” e.g., the ubiquitous pillar figurines is well known, evidence of royal or elite religion is harder to come by. One reason for this is that the center of official Israelite religion, at least according to the Bible, was Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, a site that cannot be excavated in the current political climate.
The Jerusalem Temple was not ancient Israel’s only royal sanctuary, however. According to the Bible 1 Kings 12, the infamous Jeroboam, first king of the northern kingdom of Israel, established a sanctuary at Dan intended to rival the Temple in Jerusalem. Over the past four decades, archaeologists working at Tel Dan, especially the late Avraham Biran,a have uncovered a treasure trove of cultic material from the site’s so-called “sacred precinct.”