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The Never-Before-Found Evidence of A•shᵊr•âh "Sacred Groves"

(A•shᵊr•âh); fem. counterpart goddess, and perhaps consort, of A•shur; ancient Canaanite and Mesopotamian "goddess of heaven".

Though documents a strong association between and "sacred groves," implying the widespread activity of Ιεροϛ γαμοϛ by goy•im (as at ), bountiful written documentation of "sacred groves"of is seemingly contradicted by a complete lack of physical archeological evidence of any "sacred groves" or any surviving "sacred tree". This conundrum has always perplexed archeologists and historians – and led to all manner of wild speculations attempting to explain the association.

In the 5th century C.E., Ta•lᵊmud (Mishᵊnâh Ma•sëkët Avod•âh Zâr•âh 48), for example, attempts to define an as a sacred tree (sing.) of a•vod•âh zâr•âh, contradicting multiple Biblical accounts that seem to describe groves (plural) of "sacred trees" (also plural).

Iron Age house shrine of Asherah with palmiform columns (BAR)
Click to enlargeHouse shrine of (center top), flanked by Astarte and Tanit, in the tops of stone date palms – palmiform columns (Iron Age – B.C.E. 1200-500, BAR, Ardon Bar Hama)
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There is, however, a far more plausible explanation that satisfies both existing archeological evidence corroborating the many written accounts that suggest groves of "sacred trees" and the (apparent) lack of evidence.

Early temples were constructed of wood, including the columns. Practically no remaining archeological evidence of them has survived. These temples were replaced by stone temples; and the stone palmiform columns from temple ruins, found all over the Middle East from Egypt to Iraq, should tell us that these are dressed and carved stone elaborations of the living palm tree columns of their earlier sacred garden sanctuaries—palm-tree groves compromising living temples; typically accompanied by a mi•zᵊbeiakh.

"The Egyptian temple was conceived essentially as a stone model of the creation landscape. The orders of columns, however, were designed not as direct representations of plant life (the palm, lotus, and papyrus bundle), but as stone reproductions of idealized landscape features." (Sacred Places, Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe, Professor, Department of Art History, Sweet Briar College, Virginia; http://witcombe.sbc.edu/sacredplaces/trees.html; 2013.07.30).

Stone ''Grove'' of palmiform columns
Click to enlargeTemple of Horus with palmiform columns – grove of stone "sacred trees" – at Edfu, Egypt

Armed with this association, we immediately recognize the grid of palmiform columns in ancient temples as the stone representations of the grove of wooden columns in earlier temples – "sacred groves" housing their idols of (and other gods and goddesses), reproduced all over the Middle East in Canaanite and Mesopotamian cultures. Immediately, the archeological evidence for groves of "sacred trees" appears all over the Middle East. The "grove of sacred trees" is, then, a euphemism for their temples that modeled creation, their own rival versions of the Tree of Life, Tree of Good and Evil, etc.

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