Ritual threads : cultic evidence related to household textile production at Iron Age Tell Halif.


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During the seasons of 2007–2009, the Lahav Research Project unearthed the textile workshop from Stratum VIB at Field V. The textile workshop, attributed to the end of the eighth century B.C.E., yielded numerous burned loom weights and a few cult objects, such as a Judean horse and rider figurine fragment, a kernos oil lamp vessels fragment, a painted zoomorphic vessel fragment, and a rectangular limestone incense altar. While the archaeological remains from the textile workshop do not clearly relate textile production to certain cultic activities, broad ancient Near Eastern culture, biblical texts, and contemporary Iron Age Levantine textile industries are informative to retrieve cultic evidence related to household textile production at Iron Age Tell Halif. Ancient Near Eastern textual and circumstantial evidence points to an association of high quality textiles with cults and deities. Despite the Deuteronomistic conformist effort, the Hebrew Bible also indicates cultic involvement of textiles and in their production in the Exodus accounts. While the quantity of the cult objects recovered from the Tell Halif textile workshop is meager, the overall occurrence of the diagnostic cult objects was prominent in association with work places during the Iron Age II Levant. From this synchronic observation between the Tell Halif textile workshop and several other Iron Age Levantine sites, a pattern of the occurrence of non-utilitarian and utilitarian objects can be retrieved in relation to household textile industry in the Iron Age Levant. The recovered cult objects and the contextual places indicate that the cult probably involved votive/libation offerings and/or the veneration of a patron deity relating to textile production, most likely ensuring economic success. A clear association between textile production and food preparation/consumption suggests that Judahite women took prominent and even initial roles in these household economic and religious activities. The cult related to household production activities would have not necessarily disavowed the Yahwistic centralized cult, but would have been perceived as the same in continuation with YHWH veneration in the larger ancient Israelite religion.



Cult. Eighth century B.C.E.. Household. Iron Age. Asherah. Southern Levant. Tell Halif. Textiles. Weaving.