Tel Hazor, 2005


The sixteenth season of the ‘Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin’ took place between 21 June and 2 August 2005. 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 expedition benefitted from the financial assistance of the Antiqua Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland), the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund, the late Reginald David Benjamin and Esme Marion Benjamin of Perth, Western Australia, and individual donors. The excavations take place in the Hazor National Park and receive full cooperation from the National Parks Authority.


            The expedition numbered some 60 participants. In addition to the permanent staff, these included groups from the Associates for Biblical Research from the U.S. (led by A.L. Fuller and G. Franz), the Adventist Theological Institute at Cernica, Romania (let by T. Aldea) and from the Southern Adventist University in Tennessee (led by M. Hasel). Volunteers from the U.S., Canada and Europe (Belgium, England, France, Germany and Sweden) and students of archaeology from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem also took part in the excavations.


            Area supervisors were: D. Ben-Ami, assisted by S. Kiselevitz (Area A-4), and D. Zigler, assisted by V. Avrutis and A. Melamed (Area A-5). The team also included: R. Bonfil (surveying and drafting); M. Cimadevilla (photography); R. Elitzur; O. Cohen, assisted by I. Strand (restoration and preservation); and S. Yadid and I. Strand (administration). The expedition was housed at the ETAP hotel, Yessud Ha-Mavalah.


            In June 2005, UNESCO declared Hazor a ‘World Heritage’ site.


The Excavations

Work focused on two areas: A-4 and A-5



Area A-4



Walls of Middle Bronze Age structure (palace?)



This area is divided into two sections: a southern and a northern one.


Southern section.—The Iron Age (tenth century BCE) remains uncovered in 2004 were removed. These were sunk to a great depth, causing severe damage to the earlier, Bronze Age, remains. Walls built of huge stones, extending over the entire excavated area, were uncovered; these belong to the public structure which we began to excavate in 2002. Two smoothly worked basalt slabs were found incorporated—most probably in secondary use—into the foundations of one of these walls. Due to their great depth, we were unable to ascertain whether these are indeed orthostats, similar to the ones commonly found at Hazor in Late Bronze Age public buildings. This will be clarified in the next season of excavations. If they indeed turn out to be regular orthostats, they will be the earliest of their kind ever found in the Levant.


            In the northern part of the southern section we uncovered a plastered floor with EB IV (= MB I) pottery. This find joins the accumulating evidence, emerging from different areas of the excavation, testifying that at least the eastern slope in the centre of the Upper City of Hazor was rather densely inhabited during this period.


            Below these remains a small EB III room (an installation?) was uncovered. The walls of this room, including a square niche in the centre of its western wall, are covered by a thick layer of yellowish plaster. A vessel of the Khirbert Kerak family was found on the floor.


Northern section.—In the northern section of Area A-4, remnants of Iron Age walls were removed. These belonged mainly to the foundations of the ‘pillared house’ excavated by Yadin’s expedition in the 1950s. We relocated the building in its entirety in the 1990s.


            Under the Iron Age remains, massive stone walls came to light. These were the foundations of the mudbrick superstructure, belonging to the huge public structure (a palace?) of the Middle Bronze Age II, uncovered in previous seasons in the southern section of Area A-4. These walls also form an integral part of the ‘Southern Temple’, the excavation of which was begun by Yadin’s expedition in 1958 and completed by us in the mid-1990s. There is no doubt that the public building and the palace belong to one complex, planned and constructed in the Middle Bronze Age II in the centre of the acropolis of Hazor.


            The walls uncovered this season, like some of those uncovered in the previous season, continue under the floor of the courtyard of the Late Bronze Age palace. We shall therefore be unable to uncover the building—only a small portion of which has come to light—in its entirety.


            It seems that the MB public structure was still standing when work on the construction of the LB palace began. At this stage, a decision was probably taken to use the walls of the earlier structure as a foundation for the courtyard of the later structure. The floors of the MB structure (one made of pebbles and nicely plastered) were cleared, the mudbrick superstructure was dismantled and the material spread between the stone foundations, was well packed, and served as a fill. On top of this fill, the LB floor of the courtyard was placed. A similar procedure was observed in the ‘Southern Temple’, which, as noted above, was an integral part of the complex: its floor was cleared and the mudbrick superstructure dismantled. Since the floor here was much larger than that of the rooms of the public structure to its south, the mudbrick material of the temple was insufficient to fill the entire space. Additional material (containing a great quantity of EB III pottery) had to be brought from elsewhere at the site, the entire space was filled and an LB floor was placed on top.


            It should be noted that the MB public building served as an independent structure (an earlier palace?): this is clearly demonstrated by the structures built against its walls on the east and by the fact that the rooms have well-executed floors.


            A small complex dating from the Iron Age I (as indicated by its ceramic assemblage) was encountered while uncovering the northern wall of the MB structure. It included a ‘settlement pit’ of a type well known at Hazor, several of which, dug into the paved floor of the LB palace, were encountered nearby. A medium-sized basalt maccebah and a circle of smaller macceboth were located next to it.


Area A-5



Looking to the south. Middle Bronze mudbrick structure



This area was also divided into two sections: a southern and a northern one.


Southern section.—This is a southward extension of the area excavated in 2004, when a large hall was exposed, consisting of mudbrick walls, still standing to a height of over 4 m., on a stone foundation. Only the northern wall of that hall was exposed to its full length (over 10 m.); the western and eastern walls were only partially uncovered. No doorway was found in any of the exposed walls. The extension of the area to the south aimed to uncover the southern wall and the full length of the eastern and western walls in order to determine whether a door led into the hall. If no such entrance is found, the inevitable conclusion will be that we are dealing with a subterranean structure. The line of the southern wall in the southern extension was revealed this season. However, because of its very damaged state and the later deep fill leaning against it, the wall was not exposed to its entire height, a task which will be completed in the 2006 season.


Northern section.—The northern wall of the southern hall also constitutes the southern wall of another hall, of similar nature and dimensions, extending towards the north. Only a small part of this hall was excavated in 2004; almost half of its space was uncovered in 2005. The floors of both halls are made of a thick layer of yellowish plaster, placed on top of a fill with many EB and a few MB sherds. This fill lies on top of the natural rock.


The remains exposed in Area A-5 raise three main issues: 1) the nature of the exposed hall, 2) the date of the structure, and 3) the question how the mudbrick walls survived to almost their original height of over 4 m., until the halls were filled in the Iron Age II.


1. The nature of the halls.—In 1958 Yadin’s expedition exposed, 10 m. south of our Area A-5 (Yadin’s ‘Trench 500’), part of a 7 m. thick mudbrick wall, preserved to a height of over 4 m., which Yadin dated to the Middle Bronze Age II. This wall, made of mudbrick placed on a stone foundation, is identical in construction to the walls exposed by us in Area A-5. In fact, the excavation in our Area A-5 was an attempt to discover the same fortification wall in an undisturbed environment, in order to determine its date.


            Unlike Yadin’s ‘Trench 500’ walls, our walls are only 2 m.—and not 7 m.—in thickness. Furthermore, in Area A-5 an entire complex of walls was uncovered—not only one, which could perhaps be viewed as an element of fortification. This complex consists of at least three large halls: a southern hall, exposed almost in its entirety, a northern hall, approximately one-half of which has been exposed to date, and a very damaged hall, to the east, only partly excavated. Unfortunately, the area excavated by Yadin, in which the fortification wall was exposed, and our Area A-5 with its three halls cannot be connected, since the space between the two areas is severely damaged. We are thus faced with the question whether we have a fortification wall (Yadin’s) joining a structure of defensive nature (a citadel?) in our Area A-5. We cannot resolve this question at present, since no entrance to any of the Area A-5 halls has yet been located. We hope to resolve this issue in 2006, when at least one of the halls (the southern one) is exposed in its entirety. If no entrance is found, we shall have to conclude that we are dealing with subterranean halls, entered from above. The fact that two of the halls have well-made floors suggests that the halls were in use as such, and cannot be interpreted as only a kind of a ‘podium’ which carried a structure on top.


2. The date of the structure.—Fragmentary walls and several installations and pebble-paved floors, all dating from the Late Bronze Age, were uncovered on top of the halls’ mudbrick walls. Furthermore, the latest sherds found in the fill under the floors and in the foundation trench of the partition wall between the southern and northern halls date from the Middle Bronze Age. All this clearly indicates that our structure should be dated to the Middle Bronze Age (like the similarly-built wall uncovered by Yadin in ‘Trench 500’). Another possibility is that our structure was built at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age (LB I) and went out of use toward the end of that period. At present we prefer the former possibility.


3. How did the mudbrick walls survive to almost their original height of over 4 m., until the halls were filled in the Iron Age II?—The fact that the halls were completely filled in the Iron Age by a fill containing thousands of Iron II sherds was noted during the 2003 and 2004 excavation seasons. This fill rests immediately on top of the floor of the two halls and leans against the faces of the mudbrick walls. Several dwellings and installations (such as tabuns), all dating from the Iron Age, were built on top of this fill. As a result of the subsequent sinking of the fill, all the walls and the floors—many of them plastered—lean in a sharp angle toward the centre of the filled area. This necessitated frequent renewals and the building of retaining walls to the various Iron Age houses.


            Yadin concluded that his MB defensive wall was severely disturbed by an Iron IIA moat, which ran along the contemporary casemate wall (Yadin’s Stratum X), some 10 m. to the west. This is how he explained the large amount of Iron Age sherds found abutting the mudbrick wall (these conclusions were published as ‘Trench 500’ in Hazor III–IV).


            Following Yadin’s reasoning and turning to Area A-5, one may claim that when the city expanded eastwards in the ninth century (Yadin’s Stratum VIII), it was necessary to fill the moat, which by now was located in the centre of the city, in order to create space for the construction of houses. This fill leans against the mudbrick part of the MB walls, which must have been exposed by those who constructed the tenth-century moat.


            No better solution can be suggested at present to account for the strange phenomenon of Iron Age sherds placed on the floor and leaning against walls centuries later in date. This solution, however, does not answer the crucial question how the mudbrick walls survived almost intact during a period of close to 1,000 years, which would have been necessary to account for the fact that the Iron Age sherds rest against them. This is difficult even if one assumes that the halls were subterranean. The possibility the walls were accidentally exposed in the tenth century and reused by the Iron Age people also seems unlikely. We are thus unable to propose any solution to this problem at present.




Various conservation and restoration activities were undertaken during the 2005 season, especially in the LB palace and its vicinity. These included mainly the following:



 Restored wooden pillars leading into steeps to the LB Palace


•           The preparation of covers, made out of thick water-resistant material ‘tailored’ to fit the palace’s northern and western mudbrick walls, since these walls are endangered by the strong winter winds and rains. These protective covers can be rolled up in summer to expose the walls and rolled down in winter to protect them.

•           Conservation and restoration of the cultic platform, in the centre of the courtyard. The missing stones were replaced, the area defined by the walls was filled in, and the surface was covered by protective sheets of bitumen, which were covered by mud plaster.

•           The missing steps leading from the courtyard to the palace’s porch were replaced by new ones.

•           Two wooden trunks (1.6 m. tall, 1 m. in diameter) were placed on top of the basalt bases on the porch of the palace. These replace the original pillars which stood on these bases and which were most probably wooden too.

•           Restoration of the steps and the original approach to the palace courtyard from the north.

•           Restoration began on the mudbrick wall delimiting the courtyard from the north. The restoration of the stone wall near the southern entrance to the courtyard was completed.

•           The orthostats covering the lower part of the palace’s northern and western walls were exposed to their original height.

•           Retaining walls were constructed along the western wall of the palace in order to facilitate the tour around the palace.

•           Partial restoration of the bricks in the passage between the throne room and the north-western side room was undertaken.

•           The pipes draining the palace’s roof will be installed during September 2005.

•           Outside the palace, a retaining wall supporting the eastern limit of the courtyard and a retaining wall supporting the complex of macceboth in Area A-4 were constructed.




Hazor III–IV       Yadin, Y. et al., The James A. de Rothschild Expedition at Hazor. An Acount of the Third and Fourt Seasons of Excavations, 1957–1958, Jerusalem, Plates, 1961, Text, 1989 


Amnon Ben-Tor



* Cf. IEJ 54 (2004): 230–235.



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