cult stand with musicians

Ashdod, Israel
Israelite period, late 11th-early 10th century BCE
H: 34.7 cm; Diam at base: 14.2 cm
Israel Antiquities Authority
IAA number : 68-1182

Photo © IMJ, by David Harris

This unusual pottery stand, found in the excavations of Ashdod, consists of a deep carinated bowl mounted on a tall, cylindrical pedestal. Five figures of musicians stand in rectangular "windows" cut into the pedestal. Four of the figures are modeled in the round, with the lower parts of their bodies merging into the vessel. The fifth figure, larger than the others, is cut out of the wall of the pedestal. Each of the figures plays a musical instrument - one strikes the cymbals, two play double pipes, a fourth performs on a stringed instrument (probably a lyre), and a fifth shakes a tambourine. Above the row of musicians runs a procession of three crudely executed animals, partly incised and partly worked in relief. The stand bears traces of white slip, and a lattice pattern in red and black is visible on the bowl. This reflects a mixture of Mycenaean and Canaanite decorative traditions, characteristic of Philistine ceramics. Musicians played an important role both in court life and in cultic ceremonies throughout the ancient Near East. Although the depiction of musicians was common in the Levant, this is the only known instance of an orchestra modeled in the round.

The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005
Zalmona, Yigal, ed., The Israel Museum at 40: Masterworks of Beauty and Sanctity, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2005