Shlomit Bechar and Amnon Ben-Tor
The 29th season of the ‘Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin (License No. G-46/2018) took place during the months of June–July 2018. 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 2018 expedition benefited from the financial assistance of the Selz Foundation (New York), the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund (Israel), Stevan B. Dana Archaeology Fund and individual donors. The excavations were directed by A. Ben-Tor and S. Bechar assisted by S. Greenberg (Area M4 supervisor) and L. Gonen (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 R. Jenkins (administration). The expedition numbered some 70 participants from Canada, the U.S., France, England, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Italy, Germany, Australia, South Africa, South Korea, 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.
Three areas were excavated: Area M3, which is the extension westwards of the excavations conducted in previous seasons; it’s southern extension was termed Area M4; and Area M68, which is the continued excavation to the west of the Iron Age casemate walls (see Figure 1).
The aim 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). This goal was achieved this season.
The following will describe both stratigraphic phases exposed in 2017, dating to the Late Bronze Age, followed by the later phase, dated to the Iron I (which will be mentioned in passing).
In the previous seasons we have uncovered some of the walls of the administrative palace. During the 2018 season we were able to comprehend the magnitude of their preservation. Most of the walls of this palace were preserved to about 3 meters high. Some of the walls were partly covered with a layer of light mudbrick material or plaster.
We concentrated our efforts on exposing the floor of the “entrance hall”.
The entrance to this hall was through two steps made of basalt, to the threshold of the hall. This threshold was made of large stones covered with plaster and possibly decorated with sea-shells. Behind this threshold a large, plastered, burnt wooden beam was found. This wooden beam could have been either another threshold or part of the burnt door of the hall (See Figure 2).
Inside this hall, over 30 pithoi were found, shattered to pieces; their bases turned upside down which indicated that the pithoi were stored on the second story of this hall and fell down when the wooden floor collapsed as the palace was burnt. It is most likely that these pithoi contained liquids such as oil (as indicated by black traces of the burning oil left of some of the sherds), wine and possibly even water. Sherds of these pithoi have been sampled for residue analysis.
This room, together with the room to its south, probably functioned as the storerooms of the palace and its workshops. This conclusion is substantiated by the numerous pieces of raw materials found within these rooms, including: hippopotamus tusks, horns (possibly of cows), basalt blocs, sea-shells as well as uniquely large vessels (such as about five large flasks, measuring ca. 1 meter each, still awaiting to be restored). In addition to these we also found about 10 basalt bowls (three of which are more than 50 cm. in diameter) as well as two handles of a jug with a seal impression of an Egyptian king (possibly Ramses II).
Two identical objects made of glass were also found, their function is still unclear though it is suggested these functioned as door handles.
To the north of the storage-rooms, a wide cobblestone paved courtyard was exposed this season. This courtyard measures, as of yet, 12 meters by 15 meters, though it continues further to the west. Several Iron Age pits were dug into this courtyard, sealed by large stones.
The courtyard was entered both from the east (through the Podium Complex) as well as from the north, through an entrance in a wall, possibly used to allow wagons and beasts to come through (see Figure 3). Three sets of stairs were found in this courtyard. The first leads to it from the Podium Complex. The second leads to the south, entering the storage-rooms, as mentioned above. The third, is a grand and monumental staircase which leads further to the west (see Figure 4). This staircase numbers, so far, seven stairs, each measuring about 4.50 m wide. It is made of basalt slabs, cut precisely for this staircase (see Figure 5). We hope to continue exposing this staircase in the upcoming season.
This area is a southern expansion of Area M3, in an attempt to expose the southern wall of the administrative palace, a wall which has been already uncovered in the area to the east (termed M2).
Two phases were defined in this area this season, both are dated to the 8thcentury BCE.
The earlier phase was exposed mainly in the western part of the area. This is the southern part of a room partially exposed in 2014. The remains of this room consist of the destruction level caused following the military campaign of Tiglath Pileser III against the northern kingdom of Israel in the year 732 BCE. This destruction level contained several storage jars, kraters, cooking pots, juglets as well as a complete basalt bowl (see Figures 6 and 7).
The later phase exposed in this area is the “post-destruction” phase, when a settlement dating to the 8thcentury BCE was built above the destruction layer. In the center of the acropolis (in Area A), this phase is characterized by large pits containing numerous ceramic vessels. On the northern slopes of the tel (in Area M), we have uncovered in previous seasons a large paved courtyard with several installations. This season we identified a large wall which continued to the north (excavated in 2013). Several installations and pavements were found in relation to this wall. One of these is a stone-built round installation where remains of a metallurgy industry were found (see Figure 8). In addition several objects made of stone were also found, such as a roof-roller, basalt bowls and a fragment of a cosmetic bowl.
Remains of the Persian period were also uncovered in this area, though these are not architectural remains. A batch of eight weights made of stone, bronze and iron were found in this context.
This area was opened for excavations after a hiatus of about 23 years (it was last excavated in the years 1994 and 1995). Excavations in this area took place only during the last two weeks of excavations. During this time, we uncovered finds of the Iron Age which can be divided to two main phases:
10th– 9thCenturies BCE
A square room, which was most likely part of a larger building, was dated to this period. A paved street or piazza was found to the east of it, which probably ran parallel to the casemate wall located to the east and north of the room (see Figure 9).
The area was further expanded to the south. After removing the top soil and not far below it, several stone surfaces and meager walls were found, dated to the 8thcentury (see Figure 10). These surfaces and walls can be attributed to the “post-destruction” phase of Hazor, as was mentioned above. This settlement was of short duration.
Aims and Goals for the 2019 Season
In the upcoming season we expect to continue excavating the Iron Age strata in both Areas M4 and M68.
We hope to continue excavating the area of the grand staircase further to the west, below the Iron Age fortification walls, where burnt mudbricks of the palace have already been uncovered in previous seasons.