Tel Dan Canaanite Gate

Tel Dan Canaanite Gate (restored). By Hanay – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

A discussion that started in BAR escalates in the scholarly world

In an article in the September/October 1981 issue of BAR (“The Remarkable Discoveries at Tel Dan,” BAR 07-05), John Laughlin identified an unusual installation at Tel Dan, in northern Israel, as an Israelite cult installation associated with a water libation ceremony. In explaining the installation as having been used in a religious water libation ceremony, Laughlin adopted the interpretation of Tel Dan’s excavator, Avraham Biran. The installation is dated to the tenth or ninth century B.C.

The unusual installation consists of three parts. In the center is a sunken basin whose rim is at ground level. The plastered sides of the basin slope inward. Flagstones cover the bottom of the basin. At ground level, the basin is flanked on either side with a basalt slab. Each of these basalt slabs slopes toward the third element of the installation—an open-mouth pottery storage jar sunken up to its mouth at the end of each basalt slab. Each jar is plastered around its open mouth.

In their discussions, Biran and Laughlin were not sure just how the installation was used in the water libation ceremony. Laughlin wrote- “Probably the water was ladled from the basin and poured onto the basalt slabs and flowed from there into the jars. But more than this we do not know.”

Read the rest of Is the Cultic Installation at Dan Really an Olive Press? in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.