Children in Need: Evidence for a Children’s Cult from the Roman Temple of Omrit in Northern Israel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Excavations of the Roman temple at Horvat Omrit, situated in the foothills of Mount Hermon and the Golan, yielded terracotta figurines dated from the first century BC—first century AD. Some 100 fragments of figurines portray young children standing with arms lifted up from the sides and bent at the elbow, palm turned outward. Although this group is unique in its iconography, it fits in with nearby temples in Phoenicia, where numerous figurines and statues of children were consecrated. Images of children from temples around the Mediterranean are often associated with healing cults and rites of passage. The child figurines from Omrit are examined with regard to their gesture, age, and gender, in order to reconstruct the likely cult that took place in the temple. The picture emerging from the terracottas is of family rites celebrating a crucial threshold in life, when passing from infancy to childhood at around the age of three. This is a vulnerable stage in childhood, since mortality rate among young children was very high in ancient societies, and rites were performed to protect them. These rites have further significance in terms of socialization, in introducing the infant to the family, to the cult, and to society in general.

Original languageEnglish
Article number362
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Roman Phoenicia
  • Roman temple at Omrit
  • archaeology of children
  • healing cults
  • rites of passage
  • terracotta figurines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Children in Need: Evidence for a Children’s Cult from the Roman Temple of Omrit in Northern Israel'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this