The ninth season of excavations of the “Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin” took place between June 23th and August 4th, 1998. As in previous seasons, work focused on two areas, Area A in the center of the site, and Area M on its northern slope.
An attempt was made to uncover the two rooms situated to the south of the throne-room, the entrance to which was located in the southern wall of the throne room in the previous season. These two rooms correspond to the two rooms located to the north of the throne room excavated in previous seasons, in which very significant finds were made. It turned out that the two southern rooms were severely damaged by later, deeply founded Iron Age structures. Despite of this disturbance, most of the floor plan of the eastern of the two rooms could be traced and cleared, and a large amount of Late Bronze Age pottery was found. In the doorway connecting what is left of the western of the two rooms and the throne room, part of an ivory box depicting a woman in relief, executed in very high quality in an Egyptianizing style, was found. In the next season the area to the south of the throne room will be expanded in order to locate the southern wall of the palace, the only one of the palace walls not yet known.
A new area of excavation was opened to the north of the throne room in order to determine whether a northern annex to the palace does indeed exist in this part. Ground penetrating radar (G.P.R.) tests conducted during the 1997 season indicated the presence of massively built walls in this area. Another indication for the existence of architectural remains at this spot was the fallen mud bricks clearly seen in the test sections. The excavations revealed two sets of Iron Age walls (9th – 8th. cent. B.C.E.), belonging to private buildings. Underneath the lowermost of these, fallen mud-bricks were observed covering the entire excavated area. The most significant find in this area was an Egyptian amulet, made of a semi precious stone, depicting a sphinx. In the next season, excavation will continue here in order to determine the nature of the fallen mud-bricks, and to find out whether they indeed belong to a northern annex of the palace. It should be noted that the G.P.R. tests, at least in this area, were a total failure: there was no resemblance between the walls indicated by the G.P.R. tests and the walls actually found during excavations.
In the northern part of the palace courtyard the excavation was deepened below the level of the Late Bronze Age pebble floor. A large drain, which drained the courtyard towards the north, was uncovered. Next to it, a few walls dating either to the beginning of the Late Bronze Age or to the end of the Middle Bronze Age were encountered. The exact chronological and architectural attribution of these walls will be possible only after the excavated area is expanded during the next season. The most noteworthy find in this area is a large ceramic assemblage dated to the Middle Bronze I (=Intermediate EB-MB), a period so far represented at Hazor by only a handful of sherds. The ceramic assemblage may perhaps be related to architectural remains of a monumental nature; if this turns out to be the case, one can hardly overestimate the significance of this discovery, which intimately connects Hazor with occupational phenomena known so far only in Syria. This issue too will be clarified further during the next season.
Excavations in the eastern extremity of the palace courtyard were conducted in a spot where we suspect that the main entrance to the palace is located. The area was covered by a massive accumulation of Iron Age buildings, which gave us a welcome opportunity to reexamine meticulously the sequence of Iron Age strata at Hazor. After removing the few walls dated to the 8th century B.C.E. still preserved in the area, the excavations encountered a continuous sequence of Iron Age walls floors, dated by the associated pottery to the 9th – 10th centuries B.C.E. The most noteworthy finds in this area were two handles of a cooking pot, possibly of the 9th century B.C.E., both bearing
impressions of stamp seals. One of these impressions includes writing, which at first glance seems to be Neo-Hittite, an issue requiring further study.
Underneath the earliest Iron Age walls a very thick wall, clearly part of the eastern wall of the palace courtyard, was encountered. Its course and the nature of the eastern entrance to the palace will have to be investigated during the next season.
During the 1958 season, Yadin’s expedition sunk a deep test trench running east-west, beginning a few meters east of the casemate wall, east of the “pillared building” ( this is “section 500” – see Hazor III-IV). A thick mud brick wall more than 7 meters wide, still standing to a height of more than 4 meters and dated by Yadin to the Middle Bronze Age , was encountered in this section.
In the present season an area measuring 10 x 10 meters was opened to the north of “section 500” (area A5 of the renewed excavations), in order to locate this mud-brick wall once again, and to try to determine the date and nature of the architectural elements associated with it.
The excavations were carried out to a depth of 6 meters without encountering a single wall or floor. Nor was the thick mud brick wall found. The entire area was apparently disturbed in the Hellenistic period, entirely obliterating all previous elements: Persian and Hellenistic pottery was encountered down to the very bottom of the excavated area. The most significant find was a Late Bronze Age clay figurine, probably of a ruler, wearing a conical headdress. Another attempt to locate the massive mud brick wall and to determine the date of its construction and destruction will be carried out during the next season.
Excavations continued in Area M on the northern edge of the site. In the southern part (=M1), a large rectangular building, covering almost the entire area of excavation was unearthed. The structure, which most probably forms part of the Late Bronze Age fortifications of Hazor, is connected by its outer, northern wall to the cultic podium built of basalt slabs, excavated during previous seasons. The structure was destroyed in a huge fire, just like the one observed in the adjacent podium: a thick layer of ash and burnt wooden beams covers the entire area. The expansion of the excavated area to the west planned for the next season may enable a better understanding of the structure and the elements related to it.
In the north (=M2), the uncovering of the Iron Age architectural elements which originally covered the entire area, and were mostly excavated during the previous seasons, was completed. We have thus gathered all the available data with regard to the nature and date of the Iron Age occupation in this part of the site. In the eastern part of area M2 two sets of stairs were uncovered during the last season. Together with the massive staircase uncovered in previous seasons in area M1, these 3 sets of stairs, each belonging to a different phase of the Late Bronze Age, constitute part of the system connecting the two parts, the upper and lower city of Bronze Age Hazor. The most significant single find in this area during the 1998 season is a fragment of a leg, made of greenish stone of an Egyptian statue. This brings the number of Egyptian royal statues so far found at Hazor to five.
Withregard to conservation, the main effort this year was directed towards the preservation of the mud-brick walls of the palace, which have continued to deteriorate since they were exposed, although the are covered during the winter. Mud bricks were made out of the crumbled mud-bricks encountered throughout the palace. These bricks, identical in texture, size and color to the original mud-bricks, were placed in the gaps and other parts of the walls were danger of collapse was evident so as to strengthen the original walls. In order to protect the upper part of the walls, these were covered by tar-paper, which was in turn by mud brick material mix with water and straw. The entire area of the palace was covered bgeo-technic cloth and nylon sheets. A small part, however, was left uncovered, in order to examine the resistance of the mud-brick and tar coverage of the walls to the winter elements.
The 130 participants in the 1998 season included groups from Complutense University, Madrid (directed by Maria Teresa Rubiato), the Southeastern Baptist Seminary of North Carolina (directed by J. Yodel), the Northwestern Baptist College in British Columbia (directed by P. Schafran), and the Indiana Wesleyan University (directed by Wilbur Williams), a group of archaeology students from Umea University, Sweden (directed by B. Werbart), a group of volunteers from Germany (directed by Winifred Horst), 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, C. Rubio, D. Sandhouse, B. Villegas and D. Zigler (Area A), M.Cimadevilla and S. Zuckerman (Area M). The staff also included C. Melero and S. Moran, (assistant area supervisors, Area A) and P. Cinquini and A. Prats (assistant area supervisors Area M). The excavation surveyors were R. Bonfil, I. Strand, and M.T. Rubiato. Restoration work, sponsored by the National Geographic Society, was carried out under the supervision of O. Cohen, who was aided by M. Lufan.
A. Kochavi and M. Shalvin were responsible for recording the finds. S. Yedid, aided by I. Paritzki, was the expedition’s administrator.
The excavations, 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 The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Complutense University 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