Abstract: The Sanctuary of the Paired Deities: What Cyprus tells us about Ancient Israelite Religion


At the site of Ancient Idalion, on Cyprus, we have found a continuously occupied, undisturbed sanctuary in use from the Proto-Geometric to the Roman periods. The sanctuary was dedicated to a male and a female aniconic deity. We hypothesize that they were the “Wanax” and “Wanasa” of Cyprus. The cult shows close relationships with the cult of Ancient Israel, especially the sanctuaries at Arad and Dan.  Of particular interest in the 2009 season’s excavations was the somewhat startling discovery of an almost perfectly square post-hole in a regular, oval pit in isolation. Presumably this was an Asherah pole. To our knowledge the find is unique on Cyprus, if not the Levant.

In addition, there was an outdoor sanctuary at Idalion dedicated to the primary male deity of this region of Cyprus. There are also some striking similarities to what we know about Israelite religion in the findings at that sanctuary.

All of this sheds light on what can be learned from the much-excavated but much-ignored remains of Levantine religion on Cyprus.

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