Tel Hazor, 2005

During June–August 2005 the 16th season of excavations was conducted at Tel Hazor, in the Hazor National Park (License No. G-35/2005). The excavation, on behalf of the HebrewUniversity and under the auspices of the Israel Exploration Society, was directed by A. Ben-Tor. Participating in the excavation were D. Ben-Ami, assisted by S. Kisilevitz (supervision Area A4), D. Zigler, assisted by V. Euvrutis and A. Melamed (supervision Area A5), R. Bonfil (surveying), O. Cohen, assisted by I. Strand (conservation), M. Cimadevilla (photography), R. Elitzur (office management and finds registration) and S. Yadid (administration). Students and volunteers from numerous countries participated, including a group from the Associates for Biblical Research from the United States (led by A. Fuller and G. Franz), a group of students from the Southern Adventist University in Tennessee (led by M. Hazel), a group of students from Romania (led by T. Aldea), as well as volunteers from the United States, Canada, Europe (England, Belgium, Germany, France, Denmark and Sweden) and students of archaeology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Hazor was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in June of this year.

Area A4 (Fig. 1)

The southern part.  The earliest Iron Age remains (tenth century BCE) in this part of the area, excavated during the 2004 season, were now removed. It became clear that these remains penetrated deep into the older remains, damaging them, in addition to the destruction of the older remains by the Late Bronze Age buildings, which was already evident in previous seasons. Sections of walls built of very large stones, which probably belonged to the public building from the Middle Bronze Age whose exposure had begun in the 2002 season, were uncovered. Two orthostat-like basalt slabs, in secondary use, were incorporated in the foundation of one of the walls. The extreme depth of the excavation precluded the determination whether these were indeed orthostats similar to those widely used in the buildings on the acropolis and in the lower city of Hazor during the LBA. This matter will be clarified in the next season and if it can be established that these are orthostats, they will be the earliest of their kind ever discovered in the country and among the earliest in the entire Levant.

Area A4, walls of a public building (the Middle Bronze II palace?) below the courtyard of the Late Bronze Age palace, looking west.

 

 

A plaster floor overlaid with fragments of pottery vessels, among them an almost complete jar from Early Bronze Age IV (Middle Bronze Age I) was exposed in the northern side of the southern part. This find joins the evidence accumulated in recent excavation seasons, pointing to the relatively dense settlement of the acropolis’ eastern slope at this period.

A small room (installation?) dating to Early Bronze Age III was revealed below the EB IV remains. Its walls and a square niche in its western wall were plastered. An intact Khirbet Kerak vessel was found on the floor.

The northern part of the area consisted of excavated Iron Age remains, which were removed mainly from a section of the ‘Pillared House’ foundations that belonged to Stratum VIII of Yadin’s excavation. The building had been removed in its entirety for conservation during the excavations of the 1990s and was re-established nearby.

Massive stone walls that were a foundation for a mud-brick superstructure, which was not preserved, were exposed below those remains. These walls were part of the MB II public building (a palace?) that was excavated in the southern part of Area A4. They were connected in the north to the ‘Southern Temple’, which had initially been exposed by the Yadin expedition in 1958 and completely excavated by us in the 1990s. The walls were all related to each other and built in a similar manner, using the same stone. Undoubtedly, they constituted part of an overall plan for the acropolis during a relatively later phase of MB II. Since the stone walls extended beneath the courtyard of the LBA palace, it would be impossible to determine the complete plan of the structure (Fig. 2).

It seems that the MBA building was still visible when the LBA palace was being constructed. It was apparently decided at this point to use the walls of the earlier building as a foundation for the later palace courtyard. The floors, one of which consisted of finely plastered pebbles, were cleared of all artifacts, the mud-brick superstructure was dismantled and its material was used as fill spread between the walls and tamped down. Overlying this foundation was the pavement of the broad courtyard, which extended east of the later palace. A similar procedure was discerned in the ‘Southern Temple’, which was an integral part of the MB II architectural complex. During the LBA the temple’s floor was cleaned, the mud-brick superstructure was dismantled, the temple’s inner space was entirely filled with material brought there and a floor was laid above it.

While exposing the northern wall of the earlier building a small complex was discovered on top of it. It extended down to the top of the earlier wall and contained pottery from Iron I. The complex included a typical ‘settlement pit’, many of which were revealed nearby, primarily in the courtyard of the Late Bronze palace, and a rather large basalt standing stone (mazzevā). A circle of small basalt mazzevot was located nearby.

 

Area A5
The southern part
, which was the extension of the area excavated in 2004, revealed  a large hall built of mud-brick walls atop a stone foundation that survived more than 4 m high (Fig. 3). The entire length of the hall’s northern wall (more than 10 m) was exposed, yet no doorway was discovered. The eastern and western walls were only partially uncovered. Extending the area southward intended to expose the entire length of the walls on all four sides and to find a doorway to the hall. The line of the hall’s southern wall was detected and found to be severely damaged. The excavation did not go deep enough to reach the bottom of the wall and consequently, it can not be yet established if this wall had an entrance; this matter will be resolved in the next season. If an entrance is not found the required conclusion will be that the hall is an underground chamber.

 

The Northern Part. The northern wall of the southern hall was the southern wall of another hall, whose dimensions, preserved height and nature were identical to those of the southern hall. During the 2004 season only a small portion of the northern hall was excavated and the size of the excavation area was doubled this season. The floors of both the northern and southern halls consisted of a thick yellowish plaster layer applied to a thin fill layer that contained numerous fragments of the Early Bronze Age and a few Middle Bronze Age potsherds. The fill layer was deposited directly over bedrock.

 

The unusually large area raised three questions:
1) What is the interpretation of the exposed remains? Ten meters south of the area excavated this season, the Yadin expedition discovered, in 1958, a segment of a mud-brick wall (thickness c. 7 m) on top of a stone foundation, which was preserved more than 4 m high. Yadin concluded that this was a section of the acropolis’ city wall from the Middle Bronze Age. He thought the city wall was seriously disrupted by the moat dug by the builders of the Iron Age IIA casemate city wall, c. 10 m to the west (Yadin, Y. et al. Hazor III-IV [Text] {A. Ben-Tor, ed.}, Jerusalem 1989, p. 53). The remains from this season resembled the construction of the Yadin expedition’s city wall, which was built of brown mud bricks or poured brown mud-brick material and lined with light-colored mud bricks on the interior and exterior that protected the walls from humidity and moisture. Nevertheless, the thickness of this season walls was not c. 7 m, but rather 2 m; furthermore, it was not a single wall that could be considered a city wall, but a complex of walls that connected into at least three halls: the southern hall was almost entirely excavated, approximately one third was exposed of the northern hall and another hall in the east was only partly excavated. Unfortunately, the area with the thick city wall excavated by Yadin can not be linked with the current area where the halls were excavated because the space separating the two areas is severely disturbed, precluding a continued sequence.
Was the fortification wall from Yadin’s excavation connected to a structure of a defensive nature, possibly a citadel? The difficulty in identifying the building stems from the absence of entrances in any of the walls that delineated the halls. At this point it seems that the southern hall had no entrance and this is probably the case with the other halls. In this case, these were subterranean halls entered from above. The high-quality floors in the halls negate the likelihood that they served as a podium, supporting a large building above them. At this stage, the function of these subterranean halls is unclear.

 

2) What is the date of the complex? Judging by the thin stone walls and several installations from the Late Bronze Age built atop the mud-brick walls, as well as Middle Bronze Age potsherds, which were the latest in the fill below the floor and in the foundation trench of the mud-brick wall separating the two halls, the complex is dated to Middle Bronze Age II. Another less likely option is to assign the complex to the Late Bronze Age, built at the beginning of the period and going out of use at its end.

 

3) How did the mud-brick walls survive undamaged until the halls were filled up in the Iron Age? It was ascertained in the previous excavation seasons (2003–2004) that the halls were replete with a fill, containing thousands of Iron II potsherds. The fill was deposited on the floor of the halls, leaning against the mud-bricks walls. Residential structures with installations from the Iron Age superimposed the halls. The fill settled toward the center of the halls, causing the walls and floors of the upper dwellings to slant toward the center of the filled-in area, which necessitated the occasional rebuilding and repair of the walls and renewal of the floors, some of which were plastered. The Yadin expedition encountered a similar phenomenon of an Iron Age fill that contained Iron IIB potsherds and rested up against Middle Bronze Age mud-brick walls; the fill was intended to support additional dwelling construction. He proposed that this was the Iron moat fill from the time the city expanded eastward in Iron Age IIB, beyond the casemate wall and the moat below it, which were the eastern boundary of Hazor in Iron Age IIA. This implausible explanation has been accepted in the absence of a more solid one. It is remarkable, yet unclear, how the mud-brick walls survived to their original full height for close to 1000 years (!!!). Even if the halls were originally subterranean, it is inconceivable that their ceilings remained intact for such an extended period of time. At this point, however, this phenomenon can not be explained.

 

Area A1: Conservation

During the season numerous conservation measures were undertaken, particularly in the Late Bronze Age palace (Fig. 4). These mainly included the following:

  • The installation of thick water-resistant awnings to protect the northern and western walls of the palace. These awnings can be rolled up in the summer to expose the walls and rolled down and secured in the winter.   
  • Conservation and restoration of the bema in the center of the courtyard: the missing stones from the outer frame were replaced, the missing stones from the center of the bema were filled in and it was covered with a protective bitumen layer.
  • Reconstruction of the missing steps in the main entrance on the east.
  • Two tree trunks (diam. c. 1 m, height c. 1.6 m) were set in place on top of column bases at the entrance to the palace.
  • Restoration of the steps and the original approach to the palace from the north.
  • Commencing restoration of the mud-brick walls that enclosed the courtyard near the entrance in the north, as well as restoring the stone wall that enclosed the entrance to the palace from the south.
  • The orthostats lining the palace’s northern and western walls, which until now were revealed to half of their height, were completely exposed.
  • Retaining walls were constructed west of the palace to facilitate the establishment of a tour path around the palace.
  • Partial renovation of the mud-bricks in the passage between the throne room and the northwestern room.
  • Installation of permanent gutters to drain the rain water from the roof of the palace that replaced the temporary gutters installed at the end of the previous season.
  • Construction of retaining walls on the eastern side of the courtyard, outside the palace, to prevent the collapse of the courtyard into the area excavated to its east.
  • A retaining wall was erected to protect the complex of matzzevot in Area A4.
Area A5, the mud-brick walls of a monumental building (fortification?) from Middle Bronze II, looking south.
Area A1, the Late Bronze Age palace: the steps and columns in the entrance that were restored during the 2005 excavation season, looking west.