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7 August 2004
Bronze Age temple discovered in Jordan

A 3,500 year old temple from the Late Bronze Age has been discovered at Tall al-Umayri just south of Amman (Jordan). The walls and cultic shrine of a temple dating from about 1,500 BCE were uncovered at the end of July at the Bronze and Iron Age archaeological site by excavators working for the Madaba Plains Project and the Jordan Department of Antiquities.
     Towering 3 meters above the heads of the excavators, the walls of the temple created four rooms. In the largest room, about 5 by 8 meters in size, was a whitewashed niche with a smooth, dome-shaped standing stone in the center flanked by four smaller stones, two on each side. The excavators also found an antechamber east of the large main room. Two other rooms were attached on the southern side.
     In the main room the bottom of the cultic niche was over a meter above the floor of the room, forcing worshippers to look upward, the common stance of prayer in antiquity, as depicted in ancient artwork on seals and in tombs. According to the excavators, the smooth stones of the niche are unlike any other stones at the site and probably represented deities in the ancient world. The large central stone likely indicates the main deity of the temple, while the four other stones suggest associated, but minor deities, perhaps the children of the main god.
     The major deity of the region at that time was a god named Il (or El). It is the same word as the Arabic word for God, Allah. To an ancient, Il was the father of the gods, but, stress the excavators, "we do not know for certain who the standing stones represent or the beliefs associated with them."
     The discovery is particularly exciting because the Late Bronze Age has yielded few structures of any kind in the central hills of Jordan and because it is one of the best preserved buildings and areas of worship that has been found. It contributes to the belief that there were more settled inhabitants in the area at the time than previously thought.

Source: The Daily Star (5 August 2004)

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