The ‘Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin’ which began in 1990 take place annually during the months of June-July. 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 project benefits from the financial support of the Selz Foundation (New York), the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund (Israel), the Steven B. Dana Archaeology Fund (Las Vegas) and individual donors.
The excavations are directed by Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor and Shlomit Bechar of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Additional members of the Hazor team are Ina Strand (surveying, drafting and restoration), Manuel Cimadevilla (field photography), Orna Cohen (restoration), and Shaul Yadid (administration). Participating volunteers come from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. The excavations are conducted in the Tel Hazor National Park with the full cooperation of the National Parks Authority.
Hazor is the largest biblical-era site in Israel, covering some 200 acres. The population of Hazor in the second millennium BCE is estimated to have been about 20,000, making it the largest and most important city in the entire region. Its size and strategic location on the route connecting Egypt and Babylon made it “the head of all those kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10). Hazor’s conquest by the Israelites opened the way to the conquest and settlement of the Israelites in Canaan. The city was rebuilt and fortified by King Solomon (1 Kings 9:15) and prospered in the days of Ahab and Jeroboam II, until its final destruction by the Assyrians (2 Kings 15:29) in 732 BCE Hazor is presently one of Israel’s national parks.
Hazor comprises of two distinct sections: The upper city (the acropolis) and the lower city (the fortified enclosure) lying close to the north. Hazor was the largest site of the Biblical period of Israel. It was approximately 10 times the size of Jerusalem in the days of David and Solomon.
The first settlement of Hazor, in the third millennium BCE (Early Bronze Age), was confined to the upper city. The lower city was founded in approximately the 18th century BCE (Middle Bronze Age) and continued to be settled until the 13th century (the end of the Late Bronze Age) when both the upper and lower city were violently destroyed.
Canaanite Hazor is mentioned on several occasions in external records: it is first mentioned in the 19th century BCE in the Egyptian Execration texts. Hazor is the only Canaanite site mentioned in the archive discovered in Mari (18th century BCE). The Mari documents clearly demonstrate the importance, wealth and far-reaching commercial ties of Hazor. In the archive discovered at El-Amarna, Egypt, (14th century BCE) there are several references to Hazor, as well as in records of the military campaigns conducted by the Egyptian Pharaohs, during the 15th – 14th centuries BCE
According to the Biblical narrative, Jabin, the King of Hazor, headed a coalition of Canaanite cities against the advancing Israelites, led by Joshua. The Israelites won the battle and Joshua burned and ravaged the city (Jos. 11:1 – 12).
And Joshua turned back at that time, and took Hazor, and smote its king with the sword: for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anything that breathed, and he burned up Hazor itself .. Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds – except Hazor.” (Jos 11:10-12)
Evidence of this violent destruction by burning was discovered in various areas of excavation of the site. Another Israelite battle, this time against a Canaanite army led by Sisera, Jabin’s general, is described in the Book of Judges, Chapter 4.
The Israelite settlement was again limited to the upper city. Meager remains, the most noteworthy of which is a cultic high-place, represent sporadic occupation during the time of the Judges. A six chambered gate and casemate wall of the 10th century BCE can most probably be attributed to King Solomon (Kings 1, 9:15), during whose reign only the western part of the upper city was occupied. In the 9th century BCE, most probably under King Ahab, the city expanded. The eastern part of the upper city was fortified by a solid wall and various important buildings, such as a store house, citadel and a water system, were added.
Hazor suffered repeated destruction, as a result of both the Aramean and Assyrian invasions. It was finally destroyed by the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pilesser III, who, in 732 BCE conquered the entire area of Galilee (Kings II, 15:29), in a campaign that marked the beginning of the end of the independence of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Hazor was never again to regain its importance. During the 7th – 2nd century BCE settlement was confined only to the citadels which were erected in the western extremity of the upper city.
The last historical reference to Hazor is to be found in the book of Macabees (I Macc. 11:67). Here we are told that Jonathan fought against Demetrius (147 BCE) in the “plain of Hazor”.