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Cult complex dating back to pre-Jesus era, unearthed in Israel

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Archeologists in Israel have discovered a 3,300 year old cult complex at the archeological site Tel Burna and their find offers hints on cultic ceremonies observed by worshippers thousands of years ago.

Although the cult complex has not yet been fully excavated, archeologists already have an idea of its massive size because the courtyard already measures 52 by 52 feet.

Finds recovered inside the complex included three connected cups, jars that are nearly of the same size as a person, fragments of face masks and burnt bones of animals that suggest the holding of sacrificial rituals.

Archeologists said it is not yet clear which god was worshipped at the cult complex but noted of the possibility that worshippers of the place had Baal, a Canaanite storm god, as their deity. Another deity that may have also been worshipped at the place was Anat, an ancient war goddess.

Ariel University professor Itzhaq Shai said that the letters of Ugarit, an ancient site in what is now Syria, indicates that Baal would have been the most likely deity of the place.

Among the items found in the ancient complex were fragments of two burna masks that were apparently designed to be worn although the archeologists have difficulty identifying what the masks were exactly depicting. Shai said that masks were generally used in cultic processions and ceremonies.

The archeologists also found sunken large storage jars known as "pithoi," some of which were nearly as big as a person and have smaller vessels inside of them. The designs of two of these vessels indicate that they have come from Cyprus.

Three connected cups found in the complex were also believed to have been imported from Cyprus although their use still remains a mystery.

Other finds included chalices, goblets, broken figurines of what appears to be a figure that is partly human and partly animal, a cylinder-shaped seal and an artifact that has an inscription of an Egyptian hieroglyphic.

Further analysis of the discovered items are still needed but the researchers said that the recovered artifacts already offer hints on some of the activities that took place in the complex thousands of years ago.

The goblets and large amount of animal bones, for instance, indicate the occurrence of feasts. Burnt animal bones also suggest there were sacrificial activities performed in the complex.

The pithoi vessels, on the other hand, indicate that tithes were collected. They may have also been used as storage for food meant for later use in cultic activities. As for the masks, they suggest the occurrence of ceremonial processions possibly before or after a feast.

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