Ivory hand

Canaanite, about 1400-1200 BC
From Lachish (modern Tell ed-Duweir), Israel

Perhaps from a cult statue

This hand, which is almost three-quarters life-size, may have formed part of a cult figure in the so-called Fosse Temple at Lachish. This was a small sanctuary which had been constructed on the debris which had accumulated in the disused defensive ditch (fosse) of the early second millennium BC city of Lachish. The Fosse Temple, which went through three phases, is an important source of information about Canaanite cult practices.

Many examples of Canaanite temples are known, but in very few cases has enough evidence survived to reconstruct the cult practices. The Fosse Temple is an important exception. It's final phase was destroyed suddenly and violently in about 1200 BC. This destruction left the contents in position in the building.

Against the south wall stood the shrine or altar, consisting of a mud brick bench with three projections. On and around were found objects associated with the cult. These included large numbers of pottery vessels and other containers. They were laid out in rows on the benches of the sanctuary, and often contained animal, bird and fish bones. Leaving such offerings was obviously a major part of cult activity in the temple.

The only other possible remnant of the cult statue was the inlay of an eye, also about three-quarters life-size.

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Ivory hand

View showing back of hand

  • View showing palm of hand

    View showing palm of hand


More information


J.N. Tubb, Canaanites (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)


Length: 22.700 cm
Width: 6.600 cm (max.)

Museum number

ME 1980-12-14, 12036


Excavated by J.L. Starkey, Wellcome-Marston Research Expedition.


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