written by Adam Zertal

More surprises: a temenos, courtyards, and entrance

As the nature of the structure became increasingly clear, we began trying to solve the riddle of the enclosure. The thin enclosure wall was clearly not intended to provide a defense) against enemies, but rather to delimit a sacred area, entry into which was permitted only to priests and levites, and perhaps other eminent persons. Aside from the altar, no other structures were found inside the temenos (enclosure wall of a sanctified area). The entire area was laid out in the form of several courts. When we uncovered l, parts of them, it became clear that a considerablequantity of bones and potsherds lay scattered over the courts. However, unlike the bones found in the altar, they had not been burned and their flesh had been used for food. We called these courts the Maimuna area, for here the big feasts were held, as we read explicitly in Scriptures: "And thou shalt sacrifice peace- offerings, and shalt eat there; and thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God" (Deuteronomy 27:7).

The entrance to the enclosure was built in a broad depression in the natural rock, north of the site. Here three wide steps, paved with flat stones, were constructed between two parallel walls. This elaborate entrance is unparalleled in other sites of the settlement period. Both the width (approximately 26 feet) and the paving, at the entrance to such a small site, are indicative of what we call a processional gateway. Such gateways were generally built for cultic processions, carrying holy objects, to pass through.

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