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Ancient cult complex discovered in Israel: Ritual sacrifices for storm god?

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An awesome ancient cult complex was discovered recently in Israel, shedding some new light on how people practiced religion 3,000 years ago. Archaeologists believe this discovery may be a place where ancient Canaanites once may have made religious sacrifices.

The cult complex was discovered in Tel Burna, the site of an ongoing excavation project in Israel. The Tel Burna Archaeological Project is directed by Itzhaq Shai, who works at Ariel University. The excavation site is located in the Shephelah region of Israel. The team began excavating the site in 2009.

Excavation on the newly discovered cult complex has only just begun, but archaeologists revealed that the area was very large. The courtyard of the complex was 52 feet by 52 feet. The team released a photo of the aerial view of the complex which shows just how large the site is.

The archaeologists found three connected cups, which likely came from Cyprus. They found jars that are nearly the size of humans. The very large jars the team found are called pithoi jars.

"The pithoi were likely used as storage for tithes brought to the cultic complex, although this is also being further analyzed through residue analysis," Shai said.

They also found remains of burnt animal bones that look likely to have been used in religious sacrifices. The religion of the people who worshipped here is still unknown, but Shai has his money on Baal, the Canaanite storm god. Shai said that his team found letters in the complex from a language called Ugarit, discovered in another ancient site in Syria, which suggests that the people were likely worshipping Baal.

The researchers also found fragments of masks at the complex.

"The burna mask fragments, both of noses, are quite interesting, because they are quite large, although as seen in [a photo], they were clearly meant to be worn. It is difficult to determine exactly who the masks are depicting and whether it is a specific image. In general, masks are known to have been used in cultic ceremonies and processions," Shai said.

Among other things discovered, the team also found an object with Egyptian writing in hieroglyphs on it. This sheds some light on the ways that ancient people were able to travel and communicate with each other, as well as how they traded.

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