The seventh season of excavations of the “Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin”, took place between June 23rd and August 2nd, 1996. This season was exceptionally rich in finds, including architectural as well as moveable artifacts. Work focused on two areas, Area A in the center of the site, and Area M, on its northern slope.

Area A

The uncovering and investigation of the earliest Israelite remnants present in this area, was continued. The latest Israelite strata, those dating to the 8th century, have been removed in most of the area in the previous season. Only in the southeastern section of Area A were remnants of the latest Israelite strata, already uncovered by the Yadin expedition during the 50’s, re-investigated and dismantled. This was done in order to check once again the stratigraphic sequence proposed by the previous excavations, and to tie in those remains with contemporary strata unearthed by the renewed excavations in the early 90’s. A few other late Israelite remnants unearthed by us during the previous season in the northwestern section of Area A, were also dismantled.

The majority of the Israelite remains uncovered during the 1996 season date however to the 10th-11th centuries BC. Most noteworthy among those are several solid, well built walls and a pebble paved floor, all belonging to a large architectural complex the limits of which have not yet been reached. The ceramic assemblage associated with this building dates to the 10th century BC. In the northwestern section of Area A, a well stratified sequence of walls, all cutting into and built against the northern wall of the Canaanite palace was encountered. These were associated with a rich ceramic assemblage, dating the buildings of which these walls formed part to the 8th-10th centuries BC

Yadin’s excavations in the 50’s uncovered a six chambered gate and a casemate wall, dated by him to the 10th century BC (known as the “Solomonic fortifications”) – a date verified by the renewed excavations (see Notes and News, IEJ 43, 1993:253; 45, 1995 : 65-6.) Beside these fortifications, Yadin’s excavations encountered only very meager remains of buildings of a private nature (dwellings) datable to the 10th century, giving the impression that Hazor may perhaps have been fortified in the 10th century, but was barely occupied. The architectural remains dated to the 10th century, encountered by the renewed excavations almost everywhere in Area A, below the strata dated to the 9th century, seem to change this picture.

The entire eastern part of Area A, east of the Canaanite palace facade, is scattered with pits. Similar pits were noted already by the Yadin excavations in the 50’s, and also by us in previous seasons (Notes and News, IEJ 45, 1995: 65; 283).The pits are usually circular, and measure approximately 1-1.5 meters in diameter, and are 1-1.5 meters deep. In the 1996 season we encountered, for the first time, such pits which have an amorphic plan and have a diameter double than that of the regular pits. The pits usually contain ashes and Iron I sherds, mostly belonging to bowls and cooking-pots. The pits cut into the latest remnants (walls, floors) of the Late Bronze Age occupation, and in more than one case they underlie walls dated to the 10th century BC The attribution of these pits to the Iron I period is thus ascertained both by their stratigraphic position and the ceramic assemblage found inside them. Whether the pits should be dated to the 12th or the 11th centuries BC (Yadin’s strata XII – XI), is not yet clear.

The main effort in Area A was focused on the expansion of the excavation of the Canaanite palace westwards. By the end of the season, most of the large hall, measuring 12 X 14 meters, termed by the excavators the “throne room”, was cleared. The lower part of its mud brick walls, preserved in some instances to a height of more than 2.5 meters, are lined with well cut orthostats all around. There are clear indications that the orthostats that lined the inner face of the room’s eastern wall were robbed in antiquity, before the huge fire in which the palace was destroyed. Several of these orthostats are still to be seen scattered in the room. Two sets of door sockets, on both sides of the main (so far the only known) eastern entrance, one higher than the other, indicate two architectural phases of the palace, a conclusion also encountered elsewhere in the palace. One of the most striking features of the throne room is that nowhere can a floor be clearly identified, and that most of the artifacts (pottery and other) were found below the level of the base of the orthostats lining the walls. The thick ash layer encountered everywhere, and a few charred wooden planks scattered here and there, may perhaps indicate that the floor of the throne room was made of wood! 3 inscribed clay tablets, a seated bronze figurine, and four bronze figurines depicting bulls, were among the finds in the throne room.

A door located in the northwestern corner of the throne room, gives access to a rectangular elongated room, which in turn leads into another room, almost identical in dimensions and proportions. No clear floor was encountered in these two rooms either and the thick ash layer may indicate a wooden floor here as well. These two rooms were exceptionally rich in finds: most of the floor of the eastern room of the two was already excavated in 1991, yielding a decorated ivory box, a large number of beads and 10 cylinder seals. Finds this year, in the western of the two rooms included: two bronze statues approximately 30 centimeters high each, a sickle sword, an Egyptian battle ax, more than one hundred pieces belonging to a coat of mail, several knives and a portion of an inscribed clay tablet.

A very large assemblage of pottery was recovered, coming mostly from the northern end of the throne room and from the two rooms to the north of it. Various Late Bronze Age ceramic types are represented, the vast majority however belongs to bowls and pithoi. Dozens of complete bowls were found in the two northern rooms, as well as fragments of thousands (!) of bowls probably used as fill material (below the wooden floor?) The entire range of types of LB bowls is represented.

A dozen pithoi, of the well known “Hazor type” were also recovered. Similar pithoi were found by Yadin in the 50’s, and by the renewed excavations during previous seasons. Within the group however, three of the pithoi deserve special notice: these carry bans in relief, in one case undulating, and belong to a type not previously found at Hazor, probably of Aegean or Tyrian origin. Similar pithoi are known from other sites in Israel exposed to northern influence, such as Tel-Dan and Tel Dor.

In spite of the rich Late Bronze ceramic assemblage recovered this year, a more precise date within that period will have to await further study. The scarcity of imported ware, Cypriote or Mycenaean, in the Hazor assemblage is noteworthy.

Area M

Excavations in area M continued both inside, to the south, (“Area M – South”) as well asoutside of the Israelite city wall (“Area M – North”), which was dismantled in the excavated area, in order to enable the study of the underlying Late Bronze Age strata. A huge Late Iron Age pit, in the south eastern section of Area M – South, caused a lot of damage to the Late Bronze Age remains. A large mud brick surface, two brick courses high, covers most of the excavated area here. A white plastered sloping surface, connects to the northern edge of this mud brick surface, the nature of which is not yet understood. It should be noted however that this surface covers the Late Bronze Age remnants, including the huge staircase and massive walls which might be part of a fortification system uncovered during the previous seasons. Similar massive walls were uncovered in Area M – South also in the present season. The excavated area which will be expanded next season, is too narrow to enable at present further study of these impressive remains.

In the eastern part of Area M – North work continued in an effort to disentangle and thereby understand the stratigraphic sequence of several superimposed massive walls, all connected with a large architectural unit of an apparently defensive nature. Several drainage systems, belonging to different stratigraphic phases were encountered here. The main objective in Area M – North, was to expand the excavation of the paved area surrounding the podium westwards (Notes and News, IEJ 45, 1995:285-7). A flight of 5 basalt steps ascending westward, connects the basalt paved area with a large space of which only the northern and eastern walls are so far known. This space is paved by a pebble floor. The floor is cut by what appears to be a drain, the eastern extension of which was encountered, cutting the basalt paved area, in the previous season. In the next season we plan to expand the excavation here to the west and south – in order to further the study of this paved space, which, together with the podium and basalt paved area, constitutes one of the most interesting architectural features, of a civic and/or cultic function, yet known at Hazor

The work on conservation and restoration of various architectural elements unearthed at Hazor, was continued this year. The basalt slabs – orthostats, stairs and the like (such as the walls and cover stone of the podium in Area M- North) – crack as a result of changes in temperature and moisture conditions as soon as they are exposed. These cracks were dealt with swiftly in order to prevent further damage. Such work centered this year on the orthostats lining the walls of the throne room, the steps leading into the palace and the podium in Area M – North. The early Iron Age Israelite(?) “high-place”, uncovered by the Yadin expedition in the 50’s in Area B, suffered extensive damage due to exposure to the elements over the past 40 years. This damage was also repaired during the 1996 season. O. Cohen, the expedition’s conservator, aided by M. Lufan and a group of Druze workers, carried out these works.

The 100 participants in the 1996 season included groups from Complutense University Madrid, (directed by Prof. Maria Teresa Rubiato), the Southeastern Baptist Seminary of North Carolina (directed by Prof. Stephen J. Andrews), a group of volunteers from Germany (directed by Winifred Hurst), and a group of archaeology students from the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Volunteers from several countries in Europe, the U.S. and Australia also participated.

The “Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin” are directed by Amnon Ben-Tor of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University. The Hazor Expedition also included: A. Zarzecki-Peleg (field archaeologist), and area supervisors: D.Ben-Ami, S. Cohen, N. Ish-Shalom, B. Villegas (Area A), M.Cimadevilla and S. Zuckerman (Area M). The staff also included S. Andrews, M. Fernandez, M. Giron, S. Moran, C. Rubio, , (assistant area supervisors, Area A) and J. Ebeling (assistant area supervisor Area M). The excavation surveyors were R.Bonfil, I.Strand, and M.T. Rubiato . T. Boaz and I. Shmila were responsible for recording the finds. S. Yedid, aided by L.Gur and O. Jakobson, was the expedition’s administrator.

The excavations are sponsored by the Israel Exploration Society and the Selz Foundation, are a joint project of the Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew University and Complutense University in Madrid. The project also receives financial support from the Selz Foundation in New York and the Rothschild (Yad Hanadiv) Foundation. The excavations are carried out within the Hazor National Park, and benefit from the full cooperation of the National Parks Authority