Stone Toilet Suggests Biblical Tale Is True
The limestone toilet in the ancient city of Tel Lachish was installed in a symbolic act of desecration.
A stone toilet unearthed at a 2,800-year-old shrine in Israel has provided compelling evidence for the Biblical tale of King Hezekiah, according to archaeologists at the Israeli Antiquities Authority.
One of the most prominent kings of Judah, Hezekiah is known for the religious reforms he carried out in the Eighth century B.C., when he centralized all worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem, banishing cult sites of other deities.
According to the account in the book of Kings, King Hezekiah "removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles."
The limestone toilet, fashioned in the shape of a chair with a hole in its center, was found inside one of the six chambers of the monumental gate in the ancient city of Tel Lachish, some 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem.
The gate served as a shrine and the toilet was installed there in a symbolic act of desecration.
The practice of destroying cult locations by installing a toilet in them is documented in the Bible, particularly in the case of King Jehu's fight against worshippers of the pagan god Baal.
"And they demolished the pillar of Baʽal, and demolished the house of Baʽal, and made it a latrine to this day," the Book of Kings reads.
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According to the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), this is the first time archaeological evidence has been found for the practice of desecrating a site in this way.
The gate-shrine in Tel Lachish National Park was uncovered decades ago, but the current excavation has now completely exposed the massive structure.
Preserved at a height of 13 feet, the portal featured six chambers, three on either side of the main street that passed between them.
Benches with armrests were found in the first chamber.
"According to the biblical narrative, the cities' gates were the place where 'everything took place': the city elders, judges, governors, kings and officials -- everyone would sit on these benches," Sa'ar Ganor, the IAA's excavation director, said.
His team also uncovered jars, scoops for loading grain, terracotta lamps and stamped pot handles.
The seal impressions bear Hezekiah's royal mark and the name of a senior official during Hezekiah's reign, evidence of the military and administrative preparations of the Kingdom of Judah in the war against Sennacherib, king of Assyria.
Ganor also unearthed a large room housing a bench upon which offerings were placed.
"An opening was exposed in the corner of the room that led to the holy of holies; to our great excitement, we found two four-horned altars," Ganor said.
Although it is not known which deities were venerated at the gate-shrine, it is clear that the cult was eradicated as the altar horns were intentionally smashed. To make the point clear, a stone toilet was installed.
Laboratory tests revealed the toilet was never used, prompting the archaeologists to conclude that its placement had been symbolic.
The gate was destroyed by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, in 701 BC. The excavation revealed arrow heads and sling stones, suggesting that hand-to-hand combat occurred there.
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style="text-align: left;">Egypt will likely offer promising finds in 2016. King Tutankhamun's tomb will be under the spotlight as a recent investigation suggests the western and northern walls of the 3,300-year-old burial may hide two secret chambers. According to Egypt's Minister of Antiquity Mamdouh al-Damaty there is a 90 percent chance the tomb of King Tut contains such chambers.
Damaty made the announcement last November at the end of a radar-based investigation. The non-invasive search followed a claim by Nicholas Reeves, a British Egyptologist at the University of Arizona, who first speculated the existence of the chambers, arguing that one contains the remains, and possibly the intact grave goods, from queen Nefertiti.
She was the wife of the "heretic" monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaten, Tutankhamun's father. Will archaeologists try to access the hidden chambers? Their attempt may lead to what Damaty called "one of the most important finds of the century."
style="text-align: left;">The noninvasive technologies applied to King Tut's tomb will be widely used this year in another ambitious project. Called Scan Pyramid, the investigation is carried out by a team from Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering and the Paris-based organization Heritage, Innovation and Preservation under the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. The project aims to scan the largest pyramids of Egypt in order to detect the presence of any unknown internal structures and cavities.
The technique could lead to a better understanding of the pyramids' structure and how they were built. The project uses a mix of technologies such as infrared thermography, muon radiography, and 3D reconstruction to look at the inside of four pyramids, which are more than 4,500 years old. They include Khufu, or Cheops, Khafre or Chephren at Giza, the Bent pyramid and the Red pyramid at Dahshur. One particularly remarkable anomaly has been already detected on the eastern side of the Great Pyramid, also known as Khufu or Cheops, at the ground level. Much more is to come -- the first results are expected in the first months of the year.
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style="text-align: left;"> "We think we have the most likely spot. We may find something big in 2016," Kate Welham, of Bournemouth University, said.
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