Substantial ruins of public buildings and private dwellings from the period of the kings of Israel, the 9th and 8th centuries B.C.E., as well as many artefacts from that period and earlier ones – including the head of a basalt statue that apparently was a Canaanite deity – have been uncovered in the recently concluded third season of the Yigael Yadin Memorial excavations at Tel Hazor.
Large-scale archaeological excavations were carried out a Tel Hazor in the 1950s and 1960s by the late Prof. Yadin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The current renewed excavations were initiated in 1990 under the direction of Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, who is Yigael Yadin Professor of Archaeology in the Hebrew University.
Hazor, located north of the Sea of Galilee near Rosh Pina, was one of the most important cities of Canaan and ancient city, Tel Hazor, is Babylonia and Syria. The remains of that ancient city, Tel Hazor, is the largest archaeological site from the Biblical period in Israel, covering some 200 acres.
At the northern end of the acropolis of the city, the excavators have revealed a segment of the city wall some 30 metres long and three metres thick as well as two towers, built, it is believed, in the days of the Israelite King Ahab. Some 100 years later, the wall was reinforced and thickened, presumably to withstand the Assyrian onslaught. The Assyrians under King Tiglath Pilesser III did indeed capture and burn the city in 732. Traces of this destruction can be seen in a number of places in the excavations.
In the first-ever operation of its sort in Israel, the remains of an Israelite building dating from the 9th century B.C.E. were dismantled this season, stone by stone, and rebuilt nearby. This was done in order to be able to dig down to earlier levels while at the same time preserving the buildings, which will be partially restored. The same process will be carried out with another building in coming seasons, the intention being to enhance the preservation of noteworthy structures and to attract visitors to the site.
Underneath the Israelite structures in the centre of the upper city, the archaeologists are uncovering the ruins of a palace and what appears to be a temple dating from the Canaanite period. These structures, the remains of which reach in places to a height of two metres, appear to have been on a very large scale, as testified to y two basalt column bases that were discovered, each of which is 1.85 metres in diameters. These bases are the largest ever found in an archaeological excavation in Israel.
Traces of the destruction of these structures by a huge conflagration may be attributed to the conquest of the Canaanite city by the tribes of Israel under the leadership of Joshua. Impressive finds in this area include numerous clay vessels, the basalt head of a statue the presumably was a deity, and a large number of various kinds of beads. Because these Canaanite ruins are buried under later buildings that have collapsed atop them, it will take a number of seasons to complete the excavations in this area.
The archaeologists are hopeful that they will discover in these palace ruins the archives of the Canaanite kings of Hazor. A promising indication in this direction was the discovery this season of a 3,700 year old letter written on a clay tablet in cuneiform letters that is directed in Jabin, the Canaanite King of Hazor. This is the first time the name Jabin was found in any kind of document in the Hazor excavations.
The two centimetre tablet found this year – which is less than half the original document – dates from the 18th-17th centuries B.C.E. (the time of Abraham and of Hammurabi, King of Babylonia), and the inscription on it is written in Old Babylonian.
Prof. Aaron Shaffer and Dr. Wayne Horowitz, of the Department of Assyriology of the Hebrew University, said that the document is addressed to someone named “Ibni,” a name similar in linguistic derivation to Jabin. Jabin, King of Hazor, is mentioned in the books of Joshua and Judges in the Bible as one of the kings who fought against the Israelite tribes. The king mentioned in the fragment just uncovered, however, predates the Jabin of the Bible by some 600 years.
Prof. Ben-Tor pointed out that “Ibni-Addu, King of Hazor,” is mentioned by name in the royal archive discovered at the site of the ancient city of Mari on the Euphrates River in Syria. The newly discovered document at Hazor may have been addressed to the same person.
In last year’s dig at Hazor, a clay tablet from the same period was found which dealt with the division of silver payments to about 20 people, whose names are listed. The document is apparently connected with financial transactions in the court of Canaanite Hazor. The style and quality of the writing in that document are far inferior to that of the documents discovered this year, which obviously was written by a skill scribe and which can be identified as a royal document.
The excavation at Hazor is a joint project of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Complutense University, Madrid, in cooperation with Ambassador College, Big Sandy, Texas, and the Israel Exploration Society. Prof Maria-Teresa Rubiato of Complutense University headed the Spanish team, and Prof. M. P. Germano headed the Ambassador contingent. The project is also supported by the Rothschild Foundation, the Jesselson Foundation, the J. P. Rosen Fund and the Philip Muriel Berman Centre for Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.