News Release

Find of the century in Yavneh sheds light on ancient religious cult in Palestine

Small pit contained 7,000 cult artifacts from the pre-Christian era; ancient population used different substances to induce hallucinations

Book Announcement

Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz


image: This is a cult stand from Yavneh. view more 

Credit: photo/©: Raz Kletter, Israel Antiquities Authority

This news release is available in German.

After several years of work, the second and final volume on the excavations at Yavneh, located about 20 kilometers south of Tel Aviv in Israel, has just been released. This covers what was probably one of the smallest digs ever performed as it was restricted to a repository pit that was only roughly 2 meters across and 1.5 meters deep. "Nevertheless, what was found here can truly be described as one of the finds of the century," said Professor Wolfgang Zwickel of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). A total of 7,000 cult items dating back to the 8th to 9th centuries BC were discovered, some of which have already been restored and are now held by various museums. "Absolutely unique are the approximately 120 small cult stands that were intended to imitate temples," added Zwickel, who was involved in publishing on the finds. Another unusual aspect described in the second volume is the fact that scientific analysis has shown that the vast number of vessels that were deposited as cult objects in the pit once contained substances that the ancient population of Yavneh would have used to induce hallucinations.

The excavation was commenced in 2002 by Dr. Raz Kletter, who at the time was working for the Israel Antiquities Authority. Even while the dig was still ongoing and the incredible significance of the finds was still emerging, an editorial committee consisting of Dr. Raz Kletter, Dr. Irit Ziffer of the Haaretz Museum in Tel Aviv, and Professor Wolfgang Zwickel of Mainz University was formed that would be responsible for further publication of the discoveries. Furthermore, international experts were also consulted with regard to specialized aspects. In addition to Professor Wolfgang Zwickel, doctoral candidate Nicole Straßburger and Dr. Reinhard Lehmann of the Faculty of Protestant Theology at JGU were also involved in producing the publication. "The newly published volume thus clearly demonstrates the extensive international links that the field of Biblical Archaeology in Mainz has already established, particularly with the Israel Antiquities Authority, with which we will soon be signing a cooperation agreement relating to further joint projects," concluded Wolfgang Zwickel, head of the Old Testament Studies and Biblical Archaeology section at Mainz University.


R. Kletter, I. Ziffer, W. Zwickel, Yavneh II: The "Temple Hill" Repository Pit, Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis. Series Archaeologica 36, Academic Press Fribourg/Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Göttingen, 2015

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