Archaeologists have discovered a symbolic toilet from the eighth century B.C. in Jerusalem that could be a clue to religious reforms in the Kingdom of Judah. Religious reforms, in this case, is a euphemism for quite literally defecating on the holy places one wishes to drive out of business.
The stone toilet sits in Tel Lachish, a sprawling Iron Age city and the Kingdom of Judah's most important one after the capitol, Jerusalem. It was found in what the archaeologists believe to be a gate-shrine within Israel's largest ancient city gate. The ruler at that time, King Hezekiah, enacted campaigns of religious worship and reform that made their way into the Hebrew Bible on multiple occasions.
In one corner of the shrine sits a stone seat with a hole in the center. The archaeologists believe that not only is it definitely a toilet, it’s a toilet that was installed for the express purpose of literally desecrating the shrine. Hezekiah, it seems, was just following instructions against idol worship in the scriptures:
“Then they demolished the pillar of Baal, and destroyed the temple of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day” (2 Kings 10:27).
Sa’ar Ganor and Igor Kreimerman, the archaeologists who conducted the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), described their work in the article “Going to the Bathroom at Lachish” in the November/December 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
“The cult worship was eradicated, here’s the evidence, smashing the altar horns. But not only was it annulled, in Lachish they put in a throne, the same stone you see here,” Ganor told Times of Israel while pointing to the stone toilet.
An eighth century B.C. symbolic toilet found at Lachish during the 2016 excavation by Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists. Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel staff
Discovered on-site at the gate complex, which measures 80 square feet, were storage jars belonging to Hezekiah that could be indicative of his preparations for siege by Assyrian rivals. Tel Lachish was ultimately destroyed in 701 B.C.
Alters within the shrine had been deliberately desecrated. The archaeologists believe the damage lines up with the Biblical references to Hezekiah’s campaigns to concentrate all religious worship (only of Yahweh) in Jerusalem and outlaw it everywhere else, Lachish included.
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Hezekiah's behavior basically stemmed from his belief that his ancestors hadn't worshipped piously enough by turning to other gods, a lapse he apparently intended to remedy by both literally and figuratively defecating on holy places set up to worship those gods.
According to Biblical Archaeology, Hezekiah's religious cleansing campaign is discussed in multiple verses including 2 Kings 18:4, which reads that he "removed the high places (bamot), broke down the pillars (masseboth), and cut down the sacred pole (asherah).”
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