High Place (Tel Dan)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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Following the division of the kingdom of Solomon in 930 BCE, Jeroboam son of Nebat established a cult at Dan as an alternative to the one at the Temple in Jerusalem. He placed a golden calf in the city and built a house of high places. In the Hellenistic period, the cultic precinct was surrounded by a wall that is visible to this day. A bilingual (Greek-Aramaic) inscription found at this site attests to the usage of this place.


The High Place was established in the 10th century BCE by Israelite King Jeroboam son of Nebat as an alternative worship site for Jerusalem. "...and the other put he in Dan. ...And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi" (1 Kings 12:28-31). Jeroboam, son of Nebat, divided the Kingdom after King Solomon’s death. The northern Israelite tribes revolted due to the high taxes levied by Rehoboam son of Solomon, and in 930 BCE they established a second Kingdom in parallel to the Kingdom of Judah, ruled by Kings of the house of David.

Brief History

circa 910 BCE

Israelite Period
In the Israelite period, the bamah had two stages. The first stage may be correlated with the reign of Jeroboam I: “And he made houses on high places, and appointed priests of the lowest of the people, who were not of the Levites,” (I Kings 12:31). A burnt layer, which covered the lower ashlars, contained pottery of the 10th century BCE. The area of the first Israelite bamah is tentatively estimated to be 6 by 18.4 m. (twenty by sixty-one feet). Of the second stage, the four corners of the bamah were preserved in addition to the square platform. No evidence of the destruction of this bamah could be traced.

circa 910 BCE

Hellenistic and Roman Periods
The ritual place was in use during the Hellenistic and the Roman periods, a thousand years after it was established. Animal bones were found near the reservoir, the remains of animal sacrifice. This attests to the continued practice during those times. This is a common practice in many sites – the ancient holy places were reused for hundreds of years and by different religions.


circa 910 BCE

The Bamah
The platform is known in the Bible as the "Bamah" – stage, or "high place". The raised platform measures 18.2 meters x 18.7 meter, and is made of elegantly cut ashlars, stone masonry utilizing dressed stones (inspect). An example of a Biblical reference of Bamah (2 Kings 23:9): "Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem". The central open-air platform of the Sacred Area went through three phases during the Israelite period.

circa 910 BCE

All the stones were dressed in the style characteristic of the period of the Israelite monarchy. The space enclosed by the four walls was filled with basalt stones, forming a wide, flat platform. The monumental steps belong to the second stage in the building of the bamah. In the 8th and 7th centuries BCE, perhaps after the Assyrian conquest, there was extensive rebuilding, and walls and structures were erected. The cult tradition was not forgotten in the following centuries, or even as late as the Hellenistic and Roman periods, when the area of the bamah was further enlarged by extending the enclosure.

circa 910 BCE

The large flat structure of the Israelite period was uncovered on the north-western part of the mound in 1968 CE. Subsequent excavations concluded that it was most likely the bamah, or High Place, possibly an open air sanctuary. The ritual precinct borders with the northern walls of Dan, with a great panorama of Mount Hermon and the valley to the north of Dan.

circa 910 BCE

Outer Walls
The outer walls of the High Place were built with dressed limestone, with the exception of the northern side which was built in part of large basalt blocks. The width of the walls varied between 1.5 meters. and 2.3 meters. The building method was uniform—the lower two courses were of headers while the upper courses were laid in alternating headers and stretchers.

circa 910 BCE

The fine masonry, laid in headers and stretchers, resembles the monumental Israelite constructions found in Samaria and Megiddo.

circa 910 BCE

Southern Monumental Stairs
On the southern edge of the bamah, facing the town, a monumental flight of steps eight meters, or twenty-seven feet, wide was uncovered, built directly against the outer wall of the bamah; this stairway is in part superimposed over the earlier masonry. Pottery collected from the steps points to a date in the mid-9th century BCE. A number of soundings carried out on the bamah, as well as remains of an earlier flight of steps apparently built before the construction of the ramparts, indicate that some structure, perhaps of a cult nature, existed here already in the Middle Bronze II age.


See Also


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