Tel Hazor – 2017
Shlomit Bechar and Amnon Ben-Tor
The 28th season of the ‘Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin (License No. G-26/2017) took place during the months of June–July 2017. 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), Steven B. Dana Archaeology Fund and individual donors. The excavations weredirected by A. Ben-Tor and S. Bechar (who was also the Area M3 supervisor) assisted by S. Greenberg (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 E. Hoffman (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.
The main area of excavation was Area M3, which is the extension westwards of the excavations conducted in previous seasons (Fig. 1).
The aim of this season was to unearth the floors of the administrative palace and the courtyard which spans to the north of it, while connecting to these layers which were previously exposed in areas M1 and M2 (to the north and east).
The following will describe both stratigraphic phases exposed in 2017, beginning in the two earlier ones, dating to the Late Bronze Age, followed by the later phase, dated to the Iron II.
Late Bronze Age
This is the main excavated level this season which mainly includes the destruction level of the administrative palace. The finds dating to the Late Bronze Age can be divided into two sub-phases:
The construction phase
In this phase the administrative palace was built. The large courtyard and the monumental staircase leading to the entrance of the palace (not yet fully uncovered) could also be attributed to this phase. At the end of the excavation season a basalt staircase was exposed. This stair was also used as a threshold to the entrance hall of the palace (Fig. 2). It is much wider than the basalt stairs exposed in the podium complex to the north-east in the 1990’s (Area M1). The stair exposed this year was made of two basalt slabs, its dimensions do not fit the entrance to the building exactly, but this might have been due to the location of the base of the staircase, which is yet unknown.
This phase includes the monumental walls of the building as well as the northern walls, which were the northern limits of the courtyard extending to the north of the building. Two halls are known from this phase:
The entrance hall: is defined by walls W.3381, W16-307, W16-305, W16-302 and W13-318. The entrance to this hall was from the north, by the monumental staircase (see above). All walls of this hall, apart from the eastern wall W13-318 and W.3381 in the north, were lines with a layer of light plaster. The entrance to this hall and the exit from it to the southern hall, are not fixed on the same axis.
The southern hall: is defined by walls W10-307, W11-309, W16-302 and W15-314. It is possible that the mudbrick wall W11-302 was also built in this phase, but it might be a later addition and thus attributed to the next phase.
The northern courtyard: this courtyard is known so far only from its excavation in area M1, to the north and east. It was built during the first phase of the palace. Though this courtyard was not exposed in 2017, in the destruction layer above it, a concentration of large stones was found in the west, its function yet unclear.
Deterioration and destruction
At the final phase of the building a few walls were built, indicating a crisis took placed prior to its destruction. All the Late Bronze Age finds from the current season could be attributed to this phase. Several samples were taken from contexts attributed to this phase (from the entrance hall, the southern hall as well as the installations).
The entrance hall: the destruction of this hall was partly exposed in the 2016 season, when mainly burnt and fallen mudbricks were unearthed. Excavations in the 2017 season exposed the vast magnitude of this destruction level, whose depth is at least 3 m. It comprised of complete burnt wooden beams (some measuring 1.5 m long, see Figs. 3-4) and even a partially preserved burnt wooden pillar in situ(Fig. 5). This destruction level also consisted of enormous amounts of pottery sherds belonging to pithoi (Fig. 6). Due to the fact that the pithoi sherds were found below the mudbrick material and within the burnt wooden beams, it is possible to suggest that originally the pithoi were placed on the upper level of the building or on the roof of the entrance hall. It is more reasonable that the pithoi were placed on the floor of a second level, which itself was roofed, based on the fact that burnt wooden beams were found above and below the pithoi sherd. Accordingly, the wooden beams found above the pithoi were part of the roofing of the upper level and those found below them were part of the floor of the upper level as well as the roof of the entrance hall itself. During the destruction of the palace, the wooden beams collapsed into the entrance hall, carrying the pithoi with them. These were, consequently shattered one on top of the other and found within the destruction layer of the entrance hall.
The southern hall: the destruction level of this room was also exposed already in 2016, immediately below the complex of standing stones dated to the 10thcentury BCE. In the 2017 excavation season the destruction level was further exposed (Fig. 7), in the northern part of this hall, including mainly burnt mudbricks in the north-western part of the room and ash and burnt wooden beams in the north-eastern part of the room (the entire eastern part of the room was fully exposed in the 2012-2013 season while the south-western part of the room has not been unearthed yet).
Excavations in this room and the exposure of the eastern face of wall W16-306 has revealed that this wall should be attributed to the deterioration phase of the building. It is built in an unorganized manner – the lower part of the wall is made up of stones that seem to have been “thrown” on top of each other and not built in a systematic manner (Fig. 8). As in 2016, against this wall, several pottery sherds as well as broken basalt vessels were found.
Of the finds in this room, noteworthy are a complete rectangular basalt bowl, a broken basalt bowl as well as several basalt objects whose character is unclear (of them, for example, is a broken orthostat). Two very large shattered basalt grinding bowls were found in the eastern part of this room (unearthed in 2013), adding to the large amount of basalt objects found in this room. Some of the objects might have been partly worked, allowing to suggest that this room functioned as a storage room for theworkshops of the palace. To these we can add three commercial storage jars filled with yellowish material, a large number of seashells, scoops as well as a pithoi-like flask.
The entrance to this room from the entrance hall was through wall W16-302. In the last days of the palace, this entrance was reduced in its size by the building of a very narrow mudbrick wall (its width was a single mudbrick). This narrow wall was attached to a large rectangular limestone (Fig. 9), which is similar in character to the large rectangular limestone uncovered in 2016 in the south-western room (see 2016 report). The function of these stones is still unclear.
The entrance space: as aforementioned, the entrance to the palace was through a large staircase, whose only upper stair was exposed as of yet. Four oval installations were exposed in the 2017 season. These were made out of stones, built of several rows, abutting walls W16-307 in the west and W.3381 in the east. The function of these installations has not been fully understood (see Fig. 2). A fifth installation was previously exposed in area M1.
Installations attached to wall W16-307:In the western-most installation, a complete, burnt antler of a fallow deer was found (which crumbled as soon as it was removed). Flat stone slabs were found beneath the antler, most likely part of the drain channel found in the eastern installation.
Installations attached to wall W.3381: the function of these two installations is even less clear than those mentioned above. In the western installation, two layers of stone paving were found. The top one was made of loosely fitted stones whereas the bottom one was made of tightly laid stones and might have been part of the paving of the courtyard, used as foundation for the installation. Loosely fitted stones were also found in the eastern installation.
9thcentury BCE – The fortification system
In the 9thcentury BCE the city of Hazor was extended to the east. This extension, in area M, comprised the building of at least two tripartite storage buildings and the solid fortification wall (see HA-ESI 122, 128).
A fragment of a wall was exposed in the beginning of the season, which could not be related to any other architectural elements. Due to the elevation of the wall (which is similar to that of the foundation stones of the solid fortification wall), it seems that it was also part of the fortification system of the 9thcentury BCE.
This fragmentary wall was preserved only three courses high, similarly to a fragmentary wall found in the west, which aligned to one of the “towers” of the solid wall. The bad preservation of these walls stands in stark contrast to the pristine preservation of the other elements of the fortification system. It is possible that the fragmentary walls were the top of the rampart which was laid to the north of the fortification system in this part of the city.
It should be noted that the ceramic assemblage found in the loci related to this wall all date to the Iron II (no sherds were attributed to the 8thcentury BCE). The rampart has not been fully removed this year and continues at least another 1.5 m below the elevation of the fragmentary wall.