Bull Site

The Bull Site in Samaria is one of two open air ancient cult installations[1] from 12th century BCE Canaan, and is the find spot for the Bull statuette.

Bull Site
The Bull Site on the Dhahrat et-Tawileh ridge
Shown within West Bank
LocationDhahrat et-Tawileh
RegionSamaria, West Bank
Coordinates32.409152°N 35.323578°E / 32.409152; 35.323578
Altitude455 m (1,493 ft)
TypeCult installation
Length23 metres
Width21 metres
Area380 sqr metres
Founded12th century BCE
Periods12th century BCE
Site notes
ArchaeologistsAmihai Mazar
ConditionIn ruins


The site is located on the Dhahrat et-Tawileh ridge in the hills of northern Samaria,[2] 75 meters above the ancient road[3][4] between Dothan and Tirzah.[5] It lies approximately 6 km south of Jenin, and 4 km east of Qabatiya. The site provides commanding views of other high points in northern Canaan including Mount Carmel, Mount Tabor, Mount Meron, Mount Gilboa, and Jebel Tamun.[6]


The site was discovered in 1977 by Ofer Broshi, a member of Kibbutz Shamir and soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, where he unearthed an ancient bull statuette. He brought the figurine back to his kibbutz where it was put on display with other antiquities owned by the kibbutz.[7][8] While on display it was spotted by archaeologist Amihai Mazar who arranged its transfer to the Israel Museum where it is now part of the permanent collection.[9] Based on Broshi's description Mazar was able to locate the find spot at Dhahrat et-Tawileh and begin excavations.[10]

Excavation history

Two short excavations were conducted by Mazar in 1978 and 1981 on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.[11] Results of the excavation show that the site was single-phase (Iron IA)[12][13] and was abandoned after only a short period of use.[6][14] The archaeological evidence indicates the site's use as a cultic installation[15] though the flint and pottery assemblage discovered potentially indicates domestic use.[16] A dating of the site to the Middle Bronze Age[17] is based on a misreading of the pottery evidence[18] and as such an early 12th century dating should be retained.[19]

Cult installation

Though there are a number of Iron Age I settlements in the area,[20] the Bull Site lacks any evidence of settlement. Instead it sits on the summit of Dhahrat et-Tawileh and is thought to have served as a cult site for the surrounding settlements due to its hilltop location.[6][21]

Built on bedrock in the 12th century, the site comprises a perimeter wall made from large boulders brought in from elsewhere,[22] and what is thought to be a standing stone or altar with a paved area in front of it next to the enclosure's eastern entrance.[23] Mazar, the excavation director, speculates that a sacred tree likely grew within the site's walls.[24][25]

There is no agreement on the ethnicity of the local settlers who used the site, with suggestions ranging from the Israelites due to the site's location in Mannaseh's tribal allotment,[1][26][27] the Canaanites,[28] or migrants from north of Canaan.[29]

Alternative views are that the site could have been a home for a family and their animals, or an enclosure for livestock.[28]

Bull statuette

The statuette, found close to the western wall of the site,[30] is of a Zebu bull measuring 17.5 cm long by 12.4 cm high and is made of bronze.[31] It is notable not only for its naturalistic ears and eyes,[31] but for being the largest such bull statuette found in Israel.[30] Though Mazar suggests it may be the product of a local Israelite craftsman,[21] other scholars such as Ahlström believe it came either from Galilee, or further north again above the land of Canaan.[29]

There is no consensus about which deity the statuette represents;[32] it could be an image of El,[33] Baal,[34] or Yahweh.[35][36]


  1. Bloch-Smith & Nakhai 1999, p. 76.
  2. Mazar 1982, pp. 32-33.
  3. Dorsey 1991, pp. 144-145.
  4. Miller II 2003, p. 161.
  5. Nakhai 2001, p. 170.
  6. Mazar 1982, p. 33.
  7. Mazar 1982, p. 41.
  8. Mazar 1983, p. 34.
  9. "Israel Museum Collection - Bull Statuette". www.imj.org.il.
  10. Mazar 1983, pp. 34-35.
  11. Mazar 1993, pp. 266-267.
  12. Mullins 2012, pp. 590-592.
  13. Faust 2006, p. 119.
  14. Ahlström 1990, pp. 80-81.
  15. Mazar 1983, pp. 35-36.
  16. Miller II 2005, p. 46.
  17. Finkelstein 1998, pp. 94-98.
  18. Na'aman 1994, pp. 167-169.
  19. Mazar 1999, pp. 144-148.
  20. Khirbet Abu Ghamam, Khirbet Tanin, Khirbet Anahum, Khirbet esh-Sheik Seffrin, and esh-Zababde. See Mazar 1983, p. 36.
  21. Mazar 1983, p. 39.
  22. Zevit 2003, p. 233.
  23. Mazar 1982, p. 34.
  24. Mazar 1982, p. 35.
  25. Mazar 1983, p. 37.
  26. Mazar 1982, p. 38.
  27. Joshua 17:1–13
  28. Coogan 1987, p. 1.
  29. Ahlström 1990, p. 81.
  30. Ahlström 1990, p. 79.
  31. Mazar 1982, p. 27.
  32. Ahlström 1990, p. 80.
  33. KTU 1.14:2:22–24 "Raise your hands toward the sky. Sacrifice to Bull El, your Father." Smith & Parker 1997, p. 14.
  34. Miller 2000, p. 32.
  35. Smith 2002, pp. 83-84.
  36. Bloch-Smith & Nakhai 1999, pp. 76-77.


  • Ahlström, Gösta W. (November 1990). "The Bull Figurine from Dhahrat et-Tawileh". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 280. doi:10.2307/1357311. JSTOR 1357311.
  • Bloch-Smith, Elizabeth; Nakhai, Beth Alpert (1999). "A Landscape Comes to Life". Near Eastern Archaeology. 62 (2). JSTOR 3210703.
  • Coogan, Michael David (1987). "Of Cults and Cultures: Reflections on the Interpretation of Archaeological Evidence". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 119 (1). doi:10.1179/peq.1987.119.1.1.
  • Dorsey, David A. (1991). The Roads and Highways of Ancient Israel. The ASOR Library of Biblical and Near Eastern Archaeology. Wipf and Stock. ISBN 978-1-5326-6089-4.
  • Faust, Avraham (2006). Israel's Ethnogenesis: Settlement, Interaction, Expansion and Resistance. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781845534561.
  • Finkelstein, Israel (1998). "Two notes on Northern Samaria: the 'Einun Pottery' and the date of the 'Bull Site'". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 130 (2). doi:10.1179/peq.1998.130.2.94.
  • Mazar, Amihai (Summer 1982). "The "Bull Site": An Iron Age I Open Cult Place". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (247). doi:10.2307/1356477. JSTOR 1356477.
  • Mazar, Amihai (September–October 1983). "Bronze Bull Found in Israelite "High Place" from the Time of the Judges". Biblical Archaeology Review. 9 (5).
  • Mazar, Amihai (1993). "'Bull' Site". In Stern, Ephraim (ed.). The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. 1. Carta. ISBN 0-13-276296-X.
  • Mazar, Amihai (1999). "The 'Bull Site' and the 'Einun Pottery' Reconsidered". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 131 (2). doi:10.1179/peq.1999.131.2.144.
  • Miller, Patrick D. (2000). Israelite Religion and Biblical Theology: Collected Essays. Journal for the study of the Old Testament Supplement Series. 267. Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 9781841271422.
  • Miller II, Robert (2003). "Gazeteer of Iron I Sites in the North-Central Highlands". In Lapp, Nancy (ed.). Preliminary Excavation Reports and other Archaeological Excavations, Tell Qarqur; Iron I Sites in the North-Central Highlands of Palestine. The Annual of The American Schools of Oriental Research. 56. Boston, MA: American Schools of Oriental Research. ISBN 0-89757-026-X.
  • Miller II, Robert D. (2005). Chieftains of the Highland Clans: A History of Israel in the Twelfth and Eleventh Centuries B.C. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0802809889.
  • Mullins, Robert (2012). "The Bull Site". Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception. 4. De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3110183559.
  • Na'aman, Nadav (1994). "The 'Conquest of Canaan' in the Book of Joshua and in History". In Finkestein, Israel; Na'aman, Nadav (eds.). From Nomadism to Monarchy. Israel Exploration Society. ISBN 965-217-117-4.
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  • Zevit, Ziony (2003). "False Dichotomies in Descriptions of Israelite Religion: A Problem, Its Origin, and a Proposed Solution". In Dever, William; Gitin, Seymour (eds.). Symbiosis, Symbolism, and the Power of the Past: Canaan, Ancient Israel, and Their Neighbors from the Late Bronze Age through Roman Palaestina. Eisenbrauns Book Publishers. ISBN 978-1575060811.
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