Tel Hazor 2002

The thirteenth season of excavations of the ‘Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin’ took place between 26 June and 6 August 2002. The excavations are sponsored by the Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Israel Exploration Society and Selz Foundation, New York. The expedition benefits from the financial aid of the Antiqua Foundation, Geneva, Switzerland, the Rothschild (Yad Hanadiv) Foundation and the Israel Government Tourist Office. The excavations take place within the Hazor National Park, and receives full cooperation from the National Parks Authority.

This year the expedition numbered some 60 participants, close to half the number participating in earlier seasons. These included 25 students of archaeology from the Hebrew University, a group of students of theology from Romania (led by T. Aldea), some 20 volunteers from the U.S. and Europe (most of them Hazor ‘veterans’) and a group of unemployed labourers.

The ‘Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin’ are directed by Amnon Ben-Tor (Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem). Area supervisors were: D. Sandhouse (Area A-2), assisted by P. Kampik; D. Ben-Ami (Area A-4), assisted by E. Crawford and R. Coltraine; and D. Zigler (Area A-5), assisted by N. Ortal. The expedition also included: R. Bonfil, assisted by I. Strand (surveying and drafting); R. Luppo (find registration); H. Shafir (photography); and S. Yadid (administration). The expedition was housed in the Gesher guest-house in Safed.

The Excavations

Work focused on three areas: A-2, A-4 and A-5

Area A-2. The connection between the Late Bronze Age palace and the street coming up to it from the east (most probably from the Bronze Age gate in Area A-5) was investigated and will continue to be studied in the next season of excavations. Remnants of private dwellings of the Iron Age (ninth–eighth centuries BCE), located along the northern and north-western flank of the palace, were also investigated. Only the southern edge of these large houses was uncovered; the dwellings extend towards the north, an area not yet excavated. This chain of houses, surrounding the palace to the north and west but from a distance, suggests a deliberate intention to avoid touching any of the palace walls, which were still visible in the Iron Age at the time of the construction of the dwellings.

One of the noteworthy finds in this area is a fragment of a stone statuette depicting a seated figure (a deity or a worshipper?). The statuette, dating from the Late Bronze Age, is quite similar to two others discovered by the Yadin expedition in the lower city of Hazor.

Area A-4. The eastern approach to the palace was investigated, and an attempt was made to date the massive architectural elements partially uncovered in this area during the 2001 season. It is not yet clear whether these elements are indeed part of the approach to the Late Bronze Age palace, or whether they—in full or in part—should be dated to an earlier palace. A threshold and a large pillar base (1.8 m. in diameter, identical in shape and dimensions to the pair of pillar bases situated at the palace entrance) were discovered here. The location of the missing pillar base, which was robbed in antiquity, was determined by the gravel foundation on which it originally stood.

A group of standing stones (masseboth), most probably of cultic significance, were uncovered in what is likely to have been the center of the palace approach.

The massive walls unearthed in Area A-4 were severely damaged due to having been turned into a ‘stone quarry’ by the builders of Hazor in later periods; thus, the dating of all these architectural elements, as well as that of the masseboth, is a difficult issue, to be pursued further in 2003.

Area A-5. Remains of the late Iron Age, investigated in this area, belong to the late ninth and mainly to the eighth century BCE, the last before the Assyrian conquest. These Iron Age dwellings were built upon the fill of the moat which had originally protected the tenth-century casemate wall on the east. When, in the ninth century, the city was expanded eastwards, the moat—now within the city’s confines—was filled and houses built upon that fill.

Huge mud-brick walls—partly exposed in previous seasons (see IEJ 50 [2000]: 247–248)—were encountered underneath the Iron Age houses. These walls, preserved to a considerable height, are most probably part of a fortification system. This is apparently the location of the Bronze Age city gate leading to Hazor’s acropolis. Indeed, the approach to the upper city throughout the Iron Age (as well as today) was from the east, a location dictated by the site’s topography.

The moat and the Iron Age dwellings penetrated to a great depth, causing damage to the earlier strata. Although the mud-brick walls are clearly dated to the Bronze Age, it is not year clear whether they were constructed in the Late Bronze Age, or earlier—in the Middle Bronze Age. This issue will be further investigated in the next season, following the removal of all the superimposed Iron Age remains.

Preservation and Restoration

As in all previous seasons, work continued on the preservation and restoration of the palace, focusing on the restoration of the decayed mud-brick walls of the throne room. Additional work has been undertaken in preparation for the erection of a protective roof, to span the entire palace. This roof will ensure the preservation of the palace and will enable the site to be opened to the public after completion of all the restoration work. We plan to complete the construction of the roof within six months after the end of the present season.