May 28, 2020

Judean Pillar Figurines

One of the presentations made for the Temple Mount Sifting Project Symposium (see here) was by Aaron Greener on “The Characteristics of the Terracotta Figurines from the Temple Mount Soil.” Greener provided a good overview of these terracotta pillar figurines. When I was first exposed to these figurines, I was told without equivocation that these were fertility idols. And they very well may be. But some good work has been done on these figurines since then and rather than confirming this identification, more questions have been raised. Here is slightly modified version of bulleted information from Greener’s presentation.

  • Local Goddess (Ashtoreth, Asherah, Astarte)
  • A human female figure
  • Biblical “Teraphim” (idols or household gods)?
  • Religious/Cultic (in private homes, mostly by women) – As part of the official religion or as idol worship
  • For fertility and birth
  • Eroticism
  • Apotropaic talismans against the evil eye
  • Toys
Why are they found broken?
  • Broke Naturally
  • Were broken intentionally as part of the ritual
  • Were broken as part of the religious reforms of kings Hezekiah and Josiah (2 Kgs 23; 2 Chr 34)
Here is an article from Greener on this topic in 2016.

Here is a picture of two styles of figurines from the Biblical Archaeology Society. 

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