New discoveries in Israel are always rewarding for any archaeologist. Most of the time, new “finds” comes as a result of a methodical and tedious process, often times after years and years of digging. The best example I can think of is the pereverance of the late Israeli archaeologist, Ehud Netzer, who after 35 years discovered the tomb of Herod the Great (Incidentally, an new reconstructed model of this tomb is now on display in the Hebrew Museum in Jerusalem). At other times, new finds come by accident, literally. The 2nd temple tomb on the slopes of Mt. Carmel come to mind. This tomb was found as a result of widening the road. Who would have ever thought it would be bulldozers that would unearth this tomb, one that is complete with a rolling stone.
The unique find (from this year’s season) at Tel Motza is exciting nonetheless, for what was uncovered was a temple structure dating from biblical days. In a way, this new discovery caught archaeologists by surprise. What was found was a cultic worship center and a cache of sacred vessels dating to about early helps present the context of the reforms of Israelite life in the Judean Kingdom 2,750 years ago.
According to excavation directors Anna Eirkh, Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz, “The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judea at the time of the First Temple.” This temple included a wide, east-facing entrance as well as a square structure serving as the courtyard. Perhaps an altar was located here. While an Israelite temple built in Arad (in the Negev) dating to a century later and built in similar proportions to the Solomonic temple in Jerusalem, could it be temples like the one here at Motza that Hezekiah destroyed as part of the Judean reform towards the end of the 8th century? Most likely so.
Amidst other public buildings, storehouses, and a number of silos, smaller figurines were also found within the temple complex, giving clear evidence that the 2nd Commandment of Moses was broken here. A nice cache of sacred vessels were also unearthed, with fragments of chalices (bowls for ritual use), and decorated ritual pedestals.
Although Motza is only mentioned once in the Hebrew Scriptures (Joshua 18:26, spelled Mozah), discoveries like this is like a kid finding candy in a store. Three cheers for the diligence of the archaeologists. What an exciting day it must have been to find all these goodies.