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19 February 2015
Stones discovered in Israel suggest ancient fertility cult

Prehistoric sites are generally known for the representation of female fertility symbols - male fertility objects are far more unusual.
     In one area in the arid Eilat Mountains of the Negev Desert, archaeologists discovered 44 such ancient cult sites. According to their report: "Taking in[to] consideration the topography, environmental conditions and the small number of known Neolithic habitations in the general southern Negev, the density of cult sites in this region is phenomenal."
     Theories of what was happening there include death and fertility rituals, and "Combinations of both are actually well-known in anthropological studies as relating to ancestral cult," according to the archaeologists.
     Death is "signified by the burial of stone objects and by setting them upside down," according to one of the team. A human-shaped stone carving was found interred "with only the very top visible on the surface."
     It's believed there are many more sites remaining to be investigated in the area. According to Uzi Avner, a researcher with the Arava-Dead Sea Science Center and the Arava Institute, a survey of a larger area yielded to date 349 cult sites, and "Many more may be found on the mountains of the Negev, southern Jordan and Sinai."
     Archaeologists are working on theories of "a vast phenomenon, of hundreds of mountain cult sites in the desert."

Edited from International Business Times (10 February 2015)

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