Kuntillet ‘ajrud, sacred trees and the asherah

Nadav Na’aman, Nurit Lissovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The point of departure for the article is the contrast between the abundance of unique artefacts, religious inscriptions and drawings unearthed at Kuntillet 'Ajrud and the absence of remains associated with cultic activity at the site. It is proposed that this discrepancy in the finding may be accounted for by a tradition of a sacred tree and a cult site around it. The discussion first explores the importance of the cult of sacred trees in the history of the Levant. Several ancient Levantine cult sites developed around prominent trees that drew sanctity to their vicinity. In this light, it is conjectured that at the site of Kuntillet 'Ajrud the actual cultic activity took place around a sacred tree (or sacred grove) and a nearby altar, while the main building served as a storehouse for the sancta of the goddess Asherata, her dedications and treasures. Such a building could also have served as an inn for pilgrims travelling along the Darb el-Ghazza, but its function as a caravanserai was secondary to its main purpose as the goddess' treasury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-208
Number of pages23
JournalTel Aviv
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2008


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