Tel Hazor, 2008
During June–July 2008, the nineteenth season of excavations was conducted at Tel Hazor (License No. G-21/2008). The ‘Selz Foundation Excavations at Hazor, in Memory of Yigael Yadin’, are undertaken in the Hazor National Park on behalf of the Hebrew University, under the direction of A. Ben-Tor and with the assistance of the Israel Exploration Society. The expedition team included R. Lavie (supervision Area A-3), S. Zuckerman (supervision Area M), S. Bechar (assistance in area supervision), D. Porotzky and V. Pirsky (surveying), O. Cohen (conservation), assisted by I. Strand, M. Cimadevilla (photography), A. Harosh (office supervision and finds registration), S. Yadid (administration) and I. Strand (administrative assistance). The expedition benefited from the assistance of the Antiqua Foundation (GenevaSwitzerland), the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund, the Late Reginald David Benjamin and Esme Benjamin of Perth, Western Australia and other individual donors. Students and volunteers from several countries participated in the excavation.
Area A-3. The excavation in this region, which was renewed in the 2007 season after a long hiatus, continued this year. Its purpose was to expose the western and southwestern parts of the pebble-paved courtyard that is located north of the palace (Fig. 1). At the beginning of the season, walls and floors from Iron II–III, which had been partly exposed during the 2007 season, were removed. At the northern end of the area, a pit from Iron III that contained numerous complete pottery vessels was uncovered.
A layer of mud-brick collapse was exposed and excavated below the Iron Age buildings. It could be attributed to the collapse of the palace’s northern wall in the southern part of the area. The level onto which the wall had collapsed was exposed and it seems to have been empty and without buildings. Below it and perpendicular to the palace was a meager wall, which may have been a retaining wall that served to stabilize the surface level. Below the mud-brick collapse of the palace layers, fills from the Late Bronze Age were excavated down to the level of the paved courtyard. The continuation of this pavement was not exposed in the southern part of the excavation area.
Sections of unevenly built stone walls that formed part of a building were discovered in the northern part of the area. Two habitation levels of tamped earth, which consisted of ovens and two semicircular stone structures that may have been open hearths, were exposed. The entire complex was covered with mud-brick collapse, which differed in its nature and color from the collapse of the palace walls, which was unlikely to have reached so far north. It therefore seems that the mud-brick collapse above the walls derived from a building that was positioned above the walls.
At this point, the dating of these walls remains an unanswered question; the few potsherds on top of the habitation levels are from Late Bronze II and hence, the entire complex probably represents the last phase before the destruction of Hazor. Evidence of such poor quality of construction in the last phase of the Late Bronze Age had previously been exposed in Hazor, namely in the palace itself and its immediate vicinity. Another possibility suggests that the walls date to Iron II. Poorly built walls from this period are known from elsewhere in Hazor. Still one more option is that the walls represent the remains of a temporary settlement during the hiatus that followed the destruction of Hazor’s Canaanite city. However, no remains from this period of time at Hazor have been located to date. Thus, based on the scant ceramic evidence, the first possibility seems plausible.
At the end of the season, a plaster floor was exposed below these levels. Its elevation matched that of the northern courtyard pavement discovered to its east and it seems to have been contemporary with it (Late Bronze I); this matter will be ascertained next season.
The entire area was disturbed by pits that could hardly be discerned during the excavation, which dated to Iron I and contained a meager amount of potsherds.
The work in this season continued in the squares that were excavated during the two previous seasons. The buildings, ascribed to the later phases of Iron II from the eighth century BCE (Fig. 2), continued to be exposed throughout the entire area.
All the structures attributed to these phases were private dwellings; their walls were relatively thin and they contained a variety of installations and ovens. At least three main phases that had sub-phases, involving the raising floors, blocking of openings and the construction of installations, were identified. The character of the area in this period was that of a residential neighborhood that included small individual buildings separated by narrow alleys. The exposed remains of the eighth century BCE formed a single plan with those excavated in the area in the 1990s. The most prominent characteristic of all the buildings in this phase was the extensive secondary use of columns, column sections and dressed architectural elements of limestone, which were typical of public buildings from the ninth century BCE at Hazor and at other sites.
The excavation continued around the ‘stone-lined pit’ in the center of the area that was exposed during the previous season and its upper part was incorporated in the Iron Age pavement, which was ascribed to the late phase in the area (HA-ESI119). It was ascertained in this season that the pit had an early phase when it was incorporated in the walls of a building from the early phase of the eighth century BCE and in the later phase, was free standing at the side of the open space where no building remains were discovered. All the area around the pit was filled with rich material that consisted of bones, mostly fish bones discovered through sampled wet sifting, worn potsherds and metal debris. The function of the pit during its two phases has not yet been determined.
It was proven this season that the destruction phase, which included mud-brick collapse and charred remains of wood, was concentrated only in the northwestern corner of the area. All other buildings attributed to this phase were abandoned without any signs of a violent destruction.
The exposure of two rows of dressed limestone columns that were oriented east–west continued. Based on their location and the relation between them it seems that they belonged to a public building that was sealed by the remains of the aforementioned later residential structures. The columns of the northern row in the middle of the area were leaning slightly northward, perhaps the result of settling or seismic activity. During the last week of the excavation, the top of a wall was exposed. It may be the closing wall of the building, which separated it from the public building that was uncovered during the 1990s in the northern part of the area. This assumption will be investigated next season.
The finds attributed to the Iron Age phases in Area M included mostly pottery vessels, some of which can be restored, as well as several clay figurines, bronze and iron objects and a fragment of a glass bottle.
Conservation and Reconstruction. The work was focused on treating the western wing of the palace (‘the bathroom’), its southern wing and the northern part of its front wall.
Several courses of mud bricks were added to the western wall in the bathroom, to prevent visitors from entering and exiting the palace by way of this room. The soil fill that we deposited in this room several years ago to protect its floor was removed. The installation adjacent to the southern wall of the room was cleaned and the northern wall that delimits it toward the interior of the room was reconstructed. The function of the room, which at the time was referred to as a bathtub, was not ascertained.
In the southern wing—the only wing of the palace that was severely damaged by Iron Age construction—the outer southern wall was stabilized and the corridor between the western and eastern rooms of the wing was rebuilt, using mud bricks.
The doorjambs of the main entrance at the front of the palace were reinforced on the inside with mud-brick construction. The northern part of the front wall, which slopes steeply outward to the east, was reinforced by inserting mud bricks and mortar into the recesses and cracks that were discovered in it. This activity will continue next season to prevent the entire facade from collapsing.
These works were carried out with the financial support of several foundations, among which are the Antiqua Foundation (Geneva) the Rosen Foundation (N.Y.), the Late Reginald David Benjamin and Esme Benjamin (Perth, Western Australia), and the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund (Israel).