Preliminary Report

Shlomit Bechar and Amnon Ben-Tor

The 27th season of the ‘Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin (License No. G-22/2016) took place during the months of June–July 2016. 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 2016 expedition benefited from the financial assistance of the Selz Foundation (New York), the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund (Israel), and individual donors. The excavations were directed by A. Ben-Tor and S. Bechar (Area M3 supervisor) assisted by B. Lhoyer (Area M3 assistant supervisor); as well as N. Terchov (registration), I. Strand (surveying and drafting), M. Cimadevilla (field photography), I. Strand and O. Cohen (restoration), Y. Sfez (wet sieving and picking) and S. Yadid and S. Engelman (administration). The expedition numbered some 50 participants from Canada, South Africa, the U.S., Europe, Australia and Israel. The excavations are conducted in the Tel Hazor National Park with the full cooperation of the National Parks Authority. The expedition was housed at Kibbutz Gonen.

Area M3 at the end of the excavation season, looking north

The main area of excavation was Area M3, which is the extension westwards of the excavations which were conducted in previous seasons.

Area M3

Two levels dating to the Iron Age and a one level dating to the Late Bronze Age were exposed.

Late Bronze Age

This is the main level excavated this season which mainly includes the destruction level of the administrative palace. Several walls which belong to this palace were exposed this season, comprising three halls. Some of these walls connect to the walls exposed in the east, in Area M2. It should be mentioned that in each of the rooms the destruction level reached above the top of the walls, accumulating more than 1.5 meters.

The south-western room and the large limestone slab in its north-western corner, looking north

The south-western room: All four walls which define this room were exposed. However, the entrance to this room has not yet been identified and it is possible that this was a subterranean room. A large limestone slab (approximately 1m long, 0.8m thick and 0.8m high, though we have not reached its bottom end) was exposed in the north-western corner of the room. The function of this stone is not clear. The western wall, the outer faces of the limestone slab and part of the northern wall were all covered with a thick layer of plaster made of light mudbrick material.

The destruction level in the south-eastern room; notice the burnt wooden beam in the western wall and fallen pithos in the middle; looking west

The south-eastern room : This room is the western extension of one of the rooms exposed in the 2012-2013 seasons in area M2. Several scoops, two basalt grinding bowls and a very large flask were found in that room. This room might have had an entrance in its northern wall which was blocked in a later phase by a very narrow mudbrick wall. The destruction level of this room was exposed this season and contained pottery sherds which were “smeared” on the western mudbrick wall. In addition, fragments of the ceiling of this room (made up of plaster layers, each about 5cm thick) were also found in the debris.

The northern wall in the northern room – the plastered mudbrick wall and a mudbrick collapse to its south; looking north

The southern wall in the northern room and the destruction level; notice the burnt wooden beam; looking south

The northern room (figs. 4-5): This is a wide room with a large and impressive opening in the north. A passage between this room and the south-eastern room most probably existed and this will be exposed next season.

To the north of this room, the northern face of mudbrick wall W16-307 was exposed. This wall might have had two pilasters attached to its northern face, though this will be further investigated next season.

Another room was excavated in the western part of the area. At least two phases of use were exposed in the northern wall of this room. These phases include an opening in the wall and its blocking. Inside the room a fragment of an Egyptian statue was exposed. This fragment most probably fell from one of the surrounding walls and was used as a building block or as an ornament to the wall.

10th Century BCE – The Complex of Standing Stones

The complex of standing stones was exposed in the 2011 season (see HA-ESI 124). The north-western corner of this complex as well as a basalt standing stone were exposed in the 2015 season (see HA-ESI-128).

In the 2016 season this corner was excavated. The foundations of the northern and western walls of this complex were built of large limestone boulders, similarly to the walls exposed in the east. However, the walls in the west were preserved to a higher level and thus their higher courses were exposed. These were made up of large limestones, though not as large as the boulders.

The continuation of the floor of this complex was also exposed and excavated.

The north-western corner of the complex of standing stones and the basalt standing stone, looking north

This part of the complex was built on the mudbrick collapse of the large mudbrick wall of the administrative LBA palace.

9th century BCE – The fortification system

In the 9th century BCE the city of Hazor was extended to the east. This extension comprised the building of at least two tripartite storage buildings and the solid fortification wall. Prior to this extension, the builders of the city laid a large fill above the destruction of the LBA administrative palace.

A section looking west; notice the mudbrick foundation wall built directly on top of the LBA destruction (arrow pointing to the mudbrick foundation)

As part of these constructive building activities, a large mudbrick wall was built on the northern slopes of the city. This mudbrick wall was exposed already in 2014 (see HA-ESI 127), built directly below the solid wall of the 9th century BCE. In 2016 the mudbrick wall was removed and it was clear that the wall was built directly on top of the LBA destruction level. Thus, this mudbrick wall is not an independent wall which stood on its own as part of the fortification of the city. The wall was rather a foundation for the stone wall built above it; the latter one was the only wall which functioned as a defensive wall.

The Hebrew University, Jerusalem