ISRAELITE AND PRE-ISRAELITE HORNED ALTARS

Photo of a reconstructed Israelite horned altar on display at Tel Beersheva (Beersheba).  This altar was discovered by archaeologists excavating the ancient ruins of Beersheba.  This type of altar was used for sacrificial offering.  The altar may have been been in use as late as the 8th or 7th centuries BC until it was destroyed by the reforms of King Josiah or the Assyrian army.  Ancient horned altars were also found at Ekron, Megiddo, and Tel Dan in both Israelite and Philistine controlled areas.    

In Exodus 30 of the Hebrew Bible Moses was instructed to make a horned altar of acacia wood covered with gold leaf in order for the Israelites to burn incense on it.  The earliest known use of the written word 'Israel' is from a conquest list recorded by the administration of Pharaoh Merneptah (1212-1202 BC) discovered by archaeologist Sir William M. F. Petrie (1853-1942).  Israel was declared to be a people no later than about 1200 BC.  

Archaeologists found evidence of horned altars pre-dating Israelite civilization in Crete, Cyprus, Mycenae, and Santorini.  A wall mural of a horned altar found at Akrotiri, Santorini (Greek Island) was covered by that ash and debris of a catastrophic volcanic eruption is estimated to have occurred before 1600 BC.   A photo of this mural from House Xestes 3, Akrotiri in the archaeological area was found at:  http://tinyurl.com/3su2v6r

In 1901 archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans published findings from his excavation of Knossos, Crete and also a drawing of a horned altar found in a grave at Mycenae, Greece by Schliemann.  The final destruction of Knossos was dated by Evans to about 1400 BC, but others dated the destruction as late to 1200 BC or later.  Mycenae was likely destroyed close to 1200 BC as well.   



Etching on a pyxis found in the ruins of Knossos showing a horned altar 
From:  MYCENAEAN TREE AND PILLAR CULT, Sir Arthur Evans, 1901, Macmillan and Co, LTD,  New York, London



A gold covered horned incense altar (?) found in a grave on the acropolis ruins of Mycenae
From:  MYCENAEAN TREE AND PILLAR CULT, Sir Arthur Evans, 1901, Macmillan and Co, LTD,  New York, London

There are lists of sacrifices, burnt offerings, and peace offerings of bulls, pigeons, etc  from records recorded on clay at Ras Shamra (Ugarit) on the Syrian Mediterranean coast.  The destruction of Ugarit also occurred close to 1180 BC during a time of upheaval in the Eastern Med. resulting in the destruction and abandonment of cities.  These religious sacrificial  practices predated the establishment of Israel.

David Q. Hall websites:  http://dqhall.com/