Hazor Excavations: 2004 Season

The fifteenth season of of the ‘Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin’ took place between 22 June and 3 August 2004. The excavations are sponsored by the Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and by the Israel Exploration Society. The expedition benefits from the assistance of the Antiqua Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland), the Israel Government Tourist Office, the Beracha Foundation, the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund, the Rothschild (Yad Hanadiv) Foundation and individual donors. The excavations take place within the Hazor National Park and receive full cooperation from the Nature and National Parks Authority.

The expedition numbered some 80 participants. In addition to the permanent staff, these included nearly 60 volunteers from abroad, among them a group of students from the Southern Adventist University in Tennessee (led by M. Hasel), a group of volunteers of the Associates for Biblical Research from the U.S. (led by W. Pasedag and G. Franz) and a group of students from the Adventist Theological Institute at Cernica, Romania (led by T. Aldea). Volunteers from the U.S. and Europe—most of them Hazor ‘veterans’—and students of archaeology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem also took part in the excavations.

Area supervisors were: M. Cimadevilla and K. Josephson (Area A-1); D. Ben-Ami, assisted by E. Crowford and B. Coltraine (Area A-4); and D. Zigler, assisted by V. Avrutis and A. Melamed (Area A-5). The team also included: A. Yamim (surveying and drafting); S. Kiselevitch (find registration); H. Shafir (photography); and S. Yadid assisted by M. ‘Atiya (administrations). O. Cohen, assisted by I. Strand, was in charge of restoration and preservation. The expedition was housed at the ETAP Hotel, Yessud Ha-Ma‘alah.

The Excavations

Work focused on three areas: A-1, A-4 and A-5 (fig. 1).

Area A-1. A relatively small-scale excavation of this area was carried out in 2004. The south-western corner of the palace was the only one not yet exposed, as it was covered by a thick accumulation of later—Iron Age—dwellings. Our aim this season was to expose and remove the Iron Age remnants, in order to facilitate the work related to the conservation and restoration of the palace. Due to the limited extent of the excavated area, the main part of the Iron Age dwellings is located beyond the area of excavation. Nevertheless, we managed to identify three distinct architectural strata, dated by ceramic finds, to the ninth–eighth centuries BCE.

Below the earliest Iron Age dwellings, the south-western corner of the palace came to light, as expected. It is built in a stepped line, in exactly the same way as the parallel north-western corner. Six basalt orthostats were discovered fallen at the foot of the south-western corner’s stone foundation. These had originally stood on top of the stone foundation, supporting the mudbrick superstructure. A burnt wooden beam was found lying on top of the fallen orthostats. Similar beams were located on top of the orthostats throughout the walls of the palace, wherever the orthostats were preserved in situ.

Area A-4. Work continued in the western—highest—part of the area, where a sequence of Iron Age strata (ninth–eighth centuries BCE) was exposed in the previous season. The accumulation of the Iron Age remains in this area of the excavation is exceptionally thick. The earliest stratum, uncovered this year, is the best preserved, consisting of an alley, with houses on both sides. The walls of some of these houses are preserved to a height of 1.5–2 m., and a window was preserved in one of them. The Iron Age remains here cut deep into the earlier strata to such an extent that the Iron Age floors are at the same elevation, and in some cases even lower, than that of the adjacent Middle Bronze Age floors. This earliest of our Iron Age strata is dated to the second half of the tenth century BCE, or the first part of the ninth at the latest, on the basis of the rich ceramic assemblage found on the floors.

Other noteworthy finds here include an almost complete incense burner and a clay tablet inscribed in cuneiform, the date and content of which are not yet known, because the cleaning and conservation of the object is still underway.

Exposure of the cultic area also continued. Some additional masseboth were uncovered, as well as a large stone basin (almost 1 m. in diameter), clearly connected with the cultic activity that took place here. The cultic nature of the area is further supported by a large layer of ash, the upper half of a silver female figurine (similar to those found here in the previous season) and many beads.

In the eastern—lower—part of the area, efforts to trace the huge eastern wall of the earlier palace—thoroughly robbed in antiquity—continued. A series of floors, some plastered, run up against what remains of this wall or are associated with its robbed line. All these floors are dated to the Middle Bronze Age II on account of the large ceramic assemblages found on them.

Several fragments of MB I (= EB IV) vessels were also found here, out of any stratigraphic context. These, together with fragments of floors and walls of the same period uncovered in previous seasons in Areas A-2, A-3 and A-5, clearly indicate that the entire eastern slope of the excavated area in the centre of the acropolis was inhabited during that period.

In parts of Area A-4, where the excavation penetrated the deepest, the existence of Early Bronze III remnants was noted.

Area A-5. In the higher, eastern and northern parts of Area A-5, exposure of Iron Age dwellings, investigated in previous seasons, continued. These houses were built on top of the filled-in moat of the tenth–early ninth century (as is consistent with our working hypothesis since the beginning of our excavation here). Almost all the walls, pavements and installations associated with these houses tilt steeply towards the deeper part of the filled-in moat. Three architectural strata were identified here, dated by the ceramic repertoire to the ninth–eighth centuries BCE. A Phoenician seal, depicting a worshipper and bearing the letters shin and tav, was found here.

In the southern part of the area, the Iron Age fill was removed in its entirety. A large hall was exposed, bordered by three walls on the north, east and west. The walls, preserved to a height of over 4 m.(!), are built of mudbricks resting on a stone foundation. The hall is over 10 m. long, and its width is not yet known, as its fourth—southern—wall, which lies beyond the excavated area, has not yet been exposed. We plan to uncover it during the next season.

A similar hall is found adjacent to it in the north. The northern wall of the previously discussed, southern, hall serves as the southern wall of this other hall. The floor of the southern hall is made of a layer of yellowish plaster. The meagre amount of pottery found on the floor does not permit an accurate dating of the structure: it is not possible to determine whether it dates from the Late or the Middle Bronze Age. In two places, in the eastern and western edge of the complex, poor remains of Late Bronze Age walls and stone pavements were found superimposed over the mudbrick walls. This suggests that at least part of this huge complex went out of use in the latest phase of the Late Bronze Age. This corresponds well with the findings in other parts of the excavations, as well as in the excavations of Yigael Yadin, which clearly indicate that Hazor is in decline towards the end of the Late Bronze Age. It thus appears that the complex was founded during the Middle Bronze Age and continued in use during most of the subsequent period. This issue, however, requires further investigation, which will take place next season.

There is no sign of any entrance into the southern hall in any of the walls uncovered to date. If no entrance is uncovered in the fourth wall either, the inevitable conclusion will be that these are subterranean halls. Such a conclusion would help account for two phenomena: the unusual state of preservation of the walls and the fact that they were still standing and visible in the Iron Age. The fill of the moat, which contains a great amount of Iron Age pottery, leans against the face of the Bronze Age walls.

Bedrock was exposed immediately under the stone levelling of the floor of the southern hall. The stone levelling rests on a fill, intended to even out the rough surface of the natural rock. The fill included a large amount of Early Bronze III pottery and a Mesopotamian cylinder seal of the Jemdet-Nasr style, the first to be discovered in Israel. The seal was already approximately one thousand years old when it was placed in the fill.

Preservation and Restoration

In the year that elapsed since the 2003 season, the construction of the palace’s protective roof was completed. The work was coordinated by the Nature and National Parks Authority with the support of the Israel Government Tourist Office, and was supervised by O. Cohen, the expedition restorer. The twentieth anniversary of the death of Yigael Yadin, the excavator of Hazor in the 1950s and 1960s, occurred during the season; a ceremony was held by the Nature and National Parks Authority and the Hazor Expedition to commemorate that date, as well as to celebrate the completion of the roof.

Now that the roof has been completed, further restoration and preservation work of the palace can take place. Most of the restoration work during the 2004 season was conducted in the palace courtyard and in the southern and western walls of the building.