One isn’t usually grateful for an overpass over one’s head. But if this accoutrement to the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway hadn’t been erected, we might never have seen the huge early ninth-century B.C.E. temple at Motza, contemporary with the First Temple in Jerusalem just 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) away. And the archaeologists wouldn’t be able to peacefully and meticulously excavate in the shadow of the bridge as traffic roars by overhead.
Shua Kisilevitz of Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority and Prof. Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University are leading the 2021 summer dig of the temple at Motza (alternatively spelled Moza). But who exactly was worshipped there is quite the question.
On Monday, the archaeologists unearthed a rather weatherbeaten horse figurine. Another one, that is. The coarsely depicted quadruped was apparently one of many figurines that had squatted on a shelf inside the temple, which was built in exactly the same format as the First Temple (reportedly built by Solomon), according to the biblical account of what that edifice had been like.
And possibly also like Solomon’s temple, this one may have served to worship various deities, including Yahweh.
Among the other finds at the site are silos. A lot of silos. Dozens of them. They probably served to store grain. And lo, in contrast to the great temple in Jerusalem, this one survived the ages, and may survive many more thanks to the shelter provided by Route 1. Here are some of the latest discoveries at the Summer 2021 excavation of the great temple at Motza.
Who exactly was worshiped there is not clear.
The temple had a whole shelf of figurines. Asked it could have been a donkey, Lipschits says, No.
Yes, the pillars supporting the bridge "trample" part of the ancient temple. Supervisor Vanessa Linares (sitting) documenting finds while Assistant Area Supervisor Nicole Callaway from TAU and Julian Meyer from Osnabruck University remove buckets of earth from the square and Jana Krizova (below) from Charles University in Prague articulates the various floor layers of the temple courtyard as seen in a section remaining from the 2012 season.
Area Supervisor Jocelyn Burney of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill exposes yet another early silo north of the temple
A field of silos that predate the temple is exposed to its north, indicating that the site was first and foremost an economic center for the storage of agricultural produce during the early first millennium BCE
If it hadn't been, we wouldn't know about the temple, Oded Lifschits points out.
The First Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. This one wasn't
Via a human chain passing pails of debris down the line
Yehud stamp impressions were used for about a century during the Persian and Hellenistic periods
Just one of many pottery vessels the professor retrieved from the collapse of a structure south of the temple courtyard
Talisa Gross from Osnabruck University in Germany, happy with the discovery of the rim of a late Iron Age holemouth storage jar
Linda Buhmann of Osnabruck University shows the base of a juglet from the late phase of the temple courtyard