Kuntillet ‘Ajrud is a 9th-8th century b.c.e. Israelite archaeological site in the southern Negev. Excavators there uncovered a unique one period building that is variously described as a shrine or a caravanserai. The paintings and inscriptions found at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud are particularly important for the study of Israelite religious traditions. One pithos bears the inscription, “I hereby bless you by Yahweh of Samaria and his A/asherah,” alongside an ink drawing of Bes, Bestet, and a seated lyre player (see photo). The meaning of ‘A/asherah’ is debated; it may refer to the goddess herself or wooden image of her that stood next to the altar at Samaria. In any case, this inscription suggests that Yahweh had a consort during the monarchical period, an idea only vaguely hinted at in the biblical text.
Kuntillet ‘Ajrud was frequented by both Israelites and Judeans. The inscriptions contain both northern and southern personal names and the pottery assemblage contains both northern and southern vessels. This mixture probably stems from a shared commercial and religious interest in the Sinai Peninsula.
King, Philip J. and Lawrence Stager. Life in Biblical Israel. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.
Mazar, Amihai. Archaeology of the Land of the Biblical 10,000-586 b.c.e. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.