Season Report – Tel Hazor 1995
Previous excavations at Tel Hazor uncovered building from the 8th century B.C.E. At the end of that century, in 732 B.C.E., the city was captured and destroyed, with the rest of Galilee, in an onslaught led by the Assyrian king Tiglath ?Pilesser III (II Kings 15:29).
Israelite Hazor was at its most prosperous in the 9th century B.C.E., probably during the reign of King Ahab, who was the most important of Israel’s kings. While the city was much smaller in the 10th century B.C.E., during the reigns of David and Solomon, buildings and other finds have provided important information for the general study of the period.
Remnants of the 11th-12th centuries B.C.E., known also as the “Israelite period”, are of a poor nature and consist mainly of shallow pits and a limited ceramic assemblage. The identity of Hazor’s inhabitants during this period – were they really Israelites? – cannot be determined.
Excavations at the Canaanite palace, which is a huge building, began several seasons ago when it was uncovered beneath structures from the Israelite period. The palace is expected to be the focus of future work.
During this season, the archaeologists uncovered the large palace courtyard, measuring 30m by 30m. In the centre of the courtyard they found an ashlar podium whose purpose is unknown, but which may have been used for civic occasions or ritual ceremonies. Also uncovered in the courtyard area were bronze figurines of a deity and a cobra, and a large deity statue.
As indicated by finds from previous seasons, the palace was destroyed in a huge fire in which its mud-brick walls melted and its basalt foundations underwent extensive cracking. Decorated ivories found among the fire debris indicate that the palace occupants were wealthy, say the archaeologists.
At the northern slope of the tel, archaeologists uncovered three steps which are the continuation of steps uncovered in last year’s excavations. The steps suggest that the area may have comprised a staircase, and possibly gate, which connected upper and lower Hazor during the Canaanite period.
An area uncovered near the three steps during this season’s excavations is paved in finely cut blocks of basalt; at it centre is a podium covered by a huge block of basalt which is estimated to weight close to 2 tons. The archaeologists believe that the four depressions in the centre of the block may have supported a chair or throne. A flight of stairs leading westwards from the paved area will be studied during the next season of excavations.
As with the Canaanite palace, this area was also destroyed in a huge fire. The archaeologists hope that their future excavations will help them determine the cause and date of Hazor’s final destruction.
The 120 participants in this season’s excavations included groups from Complutense University, Madrid (led by Prof Maria Teresa Rubiato); the South-eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Caroline (led by Prof. Steven Andrews); the Ambassador University in Texas (led by Rodrigo Silva). Also participating were a group of volunteers from Germany (led by Winnie Horst), archaeology students from the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, individual volunteers from overseas, and workers enrolled on a Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs labor program.
The excavation at Hazor is a joint project of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Complutense University, Madrid, in co-operation with the Israel Exploration Society and the Ambassador University, Texas. The project is also supported by the Selz Foundation in New York, the Rothschild (Yad Hanadiv) Foundation and the Philip and Muriel Berman Centre for Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The excavations are carried out at the Hazor National Parks, in cooperation with the National Parks Authority.