Digging near the ancient city of Lachish, a team of Israeli researchers have found a mysterious building—which they believe to be either a palace or a temple—dating approximately to the 3rd century BCE. The site has been connected to the Idumeans or Edomites, who, according to tradition, were descended from the biblical Esau. Daniel Eisenbud writes:
[D]uring the Persian period in the 5th century BCE, the Idumeans—a Semitic people originating in [what is now] southern Jordan—settled in the Judean foothills. After the area was conquered by the Hasmoneans in 112 BCE, the Idumeans converted [to Judaism] and assimilated into the Judean population. . . .
“If this was indeed an Idumean palace or temple, it is a rare and exciting find,” [the archaeologists] said in a joint statement. “Similar structures in this country can be counted on the fingers of one hand. It seems that the building was intentionally dismantled, possibly during the Hasmonean conquest of the region.”
Two well-preserved stone incense altars were discovered in one of the rooms. One of them, bearing the carved image of a bull, is depicted as standing in what is apparently the façade of a temple adorned with prominent columns. . . . In addition to the incense altar, delicate pottery vessels were also uncovered, including painted bowls, juglets, and oil lamps.
[Besides the Idumean structure and artifacts], also found at the site were numerous underground spaces used as quarries, or to house ritual baths (mikva’ot), oil presses, and dovecotes. Additionally, hiding tunnels from the time of the Jewish revolts against the Romans were discovered, with one containing an intact cooking pot from the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–135 CE).
Sign Up For Our E-Mail List Get the latest from Mosaic right in your inbox
Sign up now for unlimited access