In the Bible, the ‘ark of the Covenant’ is a chest containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments – and it was memorably sought by the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
But the real ark might also have held pagan idols thousands of years old, according to researchers from Tel Aviv University.
Researchers have been excavating the town of Kiriath Jearim, where the Bible says the Ark was kept for 20 years before moving to Jerusalem, according to Haaretz.
The researchers unearthed a wall believed to date from 8th or 7th century BC – which may have been associated with a temple big enough to rival the Temple in Jerusalem.
The researchers now believe that the Ark may have been carried to Jerusalem by Josiah, not David, 400 years later than thought – and may have been associated with pagan idol-worship.
Previous research has suggested that polytheist nomads often carried their ‘Gods’ in boxes – like the Ark.
Professor Thomas Römer of the College de France says, ‘It is possible that the ark stayed much longer at Kiriath Jearim, and it was only Josiah who brought it to Jerusalem when he wanted to centralize all cultic and political activity there, and his scribes justified it by writing the story about David taking the ark.’