A cuneiform inscribed clay tablet that might have come from the archives of the Canaanite kings of Hazor has been found in archaeological excavations this year at Tel Hazor in the Galilee.
The rare discovery was made by an archaeological team sponsored by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology, the Israel Exploration Society, Complutense University of Madrid and Ambassador College of Pasadena, California., with support also from the Rothschild Foundation. Taking part in the project were some 90 people, including students from Israel and Spain, volunteers from the U.S., Canada and Europe and new immigrants from Ethiopia.
The Hazor tablet, dating from the Old Babylonian period in the first half of the second millennium B.C.E., has particular importance, since few inscriptions have been found in the land of Israel until now from that period.
The archaeologists believe that the inscription, which scholars are currently working to decipher, deals with financial matters, similar to documents that were discovered in the city of Mari on the Euphrates River in Syria and which described the widespread commercial activity of Hazor. According to Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, Yigael Yadin Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University, who heads the Hazor dig, the new inscription may provide the Canaanite complement to the inscriptions found in Mari.
Another discovery at Hazor has been the uncovering of a level of destruction by fire from the late Canaanite period, testimony to the final destruction of the Canaanite city of Hazor, which may be ascribed to the tribes of Israel who were settling in the land under the leadership of Joshua.
The year marked the second season of renewed excavations at Hazor, a project dedicated to the memory of Prof. Yigael Yadin, famed Hebrew University archaeologist, who headed the original excavations at the site in the 1950s and '60s. Prof. Ben-Tor, a student of Prof. Yadin, took part in those digs.
The Hazor dig was one the main research projects of Prof. Yadin, who felt many years ago that there was a good chance of discovering the archives of the Canaanite kings there. The current discovery of the cuneiform tablet only serves to strengthen that supposition, and the archaeological team is hopeful that the archives will indeed be found in coming seasons.
Hazor is known as one of the most important cities of Canaan, situated at a strategic point along the route connecting Egypt with Babylonia and Syria. It is the largest archaeological site from the Biblical period in Israel, covering some 200 acres, only a small portion of which have been excavated.
The excavations this year focused on two areas in the upper city, work on which began last year. The digs have uncovered remains from both the late Canaanite and Israelite periods. Excavations also have been undertaken east of the tel (archaeological mound), outside the boundaries of the fortified city.
In one of the open areas of the city, slightly beneath the surface, the excavators have found a large brick structure from the late Canaanite period that appears to have been a public building. Since only a small part of the building has been uncovered, it is difficult at this stage to determine its dimensions or function, but in those sections that have been excavated, the investigators have found storage vessels that were standing and intact beneath a thick layer of collapsed and burnt debris. This burnt layer represents the final destruction of Canaanite Hazor, which apparently occurred in the 13th century B.C.E. There is great interest in determining the date of this destruction, the reasons for it and its extent because it can nearly certainly be ascribed to the Israelites who were settling in the land at the time.
City Wall From Israelite Period Also discovered was a portion of the city wall dating from the Israelite period, which appears to have been built during the reign of King Ahab. Alongside were residential buildings that were destroyed in a huge fire. On the basis of the wealth of objects found in them, the archaeologists believe that this testifies to the destruction of the Israelite city of Hazor by the Assyrians in 732 B.C.E. Following this conquest, Hazor declined in importance, but continued to exist until the Hellenistic period in the 2nd century B.C.E.
In excavations conducted east of the tel, it would seem that a community existed outside the fortified city in the Israelite period, and that a Canaanite community had also existed earlier in the same area. This would indicate that the area of Hazor - the largest of the ancient cities in the land of Israel - was even larger than thought earlier.
In this area, the researchers have also discovered a small cemetery of some 20 graves. Those buried there were cremated after their deaths and their remains placed in clay vessels and interred. A plain stone was erected to mark each grave. Along with the ashes of the deceased, burial jpgts were placed, such as arrowheads, beads, earrings and other items. It is not yet clear to which population group these people belonged. The types of vessels in which they were buried indicates that the cemetery dates from the 9th or 8th century B.C.E.
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