The 14th season of excavations at Hazor (2003)

The fourteenth season of excavations at Hazor took place between 17/6 – 29/7/2003. The expedition numbered some 60 participants, including – in addition to the permanent staff – nearly 50 volunteers from abroad, among them a group of students of theology from Rumania (led by Traian Aldea), students of archaeology from the Hebrew university, volunteers from the U.S. and Europe (most of them Hazor “veterans”), and a few paid workers provided by the Employment Bureau

The excavations are sponsored by the Berman Center of Biblical Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and by the Israel Exploration Society. The expedition benefits from the assistance of the Antiqua Foundation (Geneva), the Israel Government Tourist Corporation, the Beracha Foundation, the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund, the Yad Hanadiv Foundation and individual donors.


Work was centered in three areas:

Area A-2, was excavated this year on a very small scale. The investigation of 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 – area A-5), which began in the previous season – was continued.

Part of the stone pavement, covering a large area to the north and east of the palace was lifted. This pavement is founded on a fill, which contains MBII sherds, and immediately below this fill – a fragmentary wall associated with MBI (EBIV) sherds came to light. Remnants of occupation of that same period were uncovered also in the other two areas A-4 and A-5.

In Area A-4, excavations expanded to the west, south and east, beyond the limits of the area investigated in previous seasons. This expansion was made in order to facilitate the investigation of the massive architectural elements ( “the massive structure”) which were partially uncovered in this area during the seasons of 2001-2.

Excavations in the western expansion, in the highest part of A-4, the northern edge of a building dated to the Mameluke period were encountered immediately below the surface. The greater portion of the building extends to the south, beyond the limits of the excavated area. The constructional style of this building is the same as that observed in another building of that same period, investigated in Area A-7 (season of 2001), located some 40 meters to the west. It appears the southern edge of the site was quite densely occupied during that period.

Immediately below this building, several phases of remnants of houses of the Iron Age (9th-8th centuries B.C.E.) were uncovered, and at least one additional phase of that period (Iron II-A?) is already visible. Excavations in this part of area A-4 have thus almost reached the Bronze Age strata, which will be investigated in the next season.

In the eastern, lower part of A-4, a badly damaged fragment of the Iron II-A casemate wall came to light. Slightly to the west, at a lower level, a huge stone built wall was exposed. By its constructional characteristics there is no doubt that it belongs to the “massive structure”, and – like the rest of its walls exposed so far – it was severely robbed in antiquity. This wall constitutes the eastern external wall of the building. Running up against its outer face, another building was exposed, and by the abundant ceramic assemblage collected from its floor it was clearly dated to the Middle Bronze Age (MBII). Thus, we can now, for the first time, date the “massive building” with certainty to MBII. By the size of its walls this is undoubtedly a building of great importance, and it probably constitutes an earlier palace, which went out of use and was succeeded by the Late Bronze Age palace, located to the west of it, at the center of Area A.

The walls of this structure extend, so its seems, to the west, under the large paved courtyard of the L.B.A. palace. Tests made by G.P.R. in order confirm this possibility were conducted, but the results have not yet been received.

The investigation of the cultic area, constituting of a group of standing stones (“masseboth”) accompanied by offering tables, was continued (send to the report in Notes&News of last year). A few additional masseboth were found, and the entire area was found to be covered by a thick layer of ashes and a large number of bones, all attesting to the cultic activity which took place here. Three small metal figurines found here also attest to the cultic nature of this area.

Area A-5, like area A-4, area A-5 was also expanded to the north and west, in order to facilitate the investigation of another huge architectural complex – the Bronze Age defensive (?) system, built of mud-brick resting on stone foundations. These walls are deeply buried under the remnants of dwellings dated to the Iron Age. Similar structures were encountered here during previous seasons of excavations. The houses include tabuns and various other domestic installations. The houses are built of field-stones, with ashlar stones incorporated here and there, especially forming part of door-jambs. Nicely cut lime stone pillars, were also found. These architectural features are typical of the Iron Age construction method at Hazor during the 9th-8th centuries B.C.E. Area A-5 is located outside of the line of fortifications of the 10th century (Iron II-A), thus the earliest Iron Age remains to be expected here are of the 9th century B.C.E.

The earliest phase of the Iron Age dwellings is founded right on top of the huge Bronze Age mud-brick walls – part of which were already exposed in previous seasons. (send to the report in Notes&News of last year).

The mud-brick walls are clearly to be dated to the Bronze Age, but it is not yet clear whether they were constructed in the Late Bronze Age, or earlier – that is in the Middle Bronze Age. By the end of the season, the excavation reached the top of the mud-brick walls in an almost the entire area, so the investigation of this system will be continued next season, with the main aim – to determine its date of construction.

In the western edge of area A-5 the excavations joined the flight of L.B.A. stairs, exposed by Yadin’s expedition in the fifty’s. The L.B.A. stone pavement associated with these stairs rests on a fill, and immediately below this fill, a corner of walls belonging to a dwelling was exposed. The walls and the floor associated

with them were nicely plastered, and two stone pillar bases were incorporated in the floor. The ceramic assemblage on this floor is clearly dated to Middle Bronze I (=E.B.IV). Together with the finds of that period made in Area A-2 and A-4, these finds clearly indicate that a rather substantial settlement was located, at least in this part at the center of the tel.

Preservation and restoration:

Work on the construction of a protective roof, spanning the L.B.A. palace, began immediately after the close of the season of 2002. The roof, measuring approximately 1,300 square meters, is a joint undertaking of the Hazor Expedition, the Government Tourist Corporation and the Nature and National Parks Authority.

Roof construction work was halted during the season of excavations, but is about to be resumed now, in order to finish the main part of the job before the beginning of the rainy season. Orna Cohen, the expedition restaurateur, supervises all this work.

During the season we continued work aimed at the preservation of the palace’s mud-brick walls. The wooden beams which originally separated and also joined the orthostat covered stone foundations and the mud-brick superstructure, were also partially re-inserted into the walls.

The Area supervisors were: Debbie Sandhouse assisted by Inbal Pisetzki (A-2), Doron Ben-Ami, assisted by Elizabeth Crowford and Bob Coltraine (A-4) and David Zigler, assited by Vladimir Avrutis and Nir Ortal (A-5). The team also included: Ruhama Bonfil assisted by Ina Strand (surveying and drafting), Shu’a Kiselevitch (registration of finds), Hanan Shafir (photography) and Shaul Yadid assisted by Motti ‘Atiya (administrators). The expedition was housed at the “ETAP Hotel” Yessud Ha-Maalah.

The excavations take place within the Hazor National Park, and receives full cooperation from the National Parks Authority.