Tel Hazor, 2008


 

The nineteenth season of the ‘Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin’ took place between June 22 and August 1, 2008. 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 assistance of the Antiqua Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland), the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund, the Late Reginald David Benjamin and Esme Benjamin of Perth, Western Australia and other individual donors. The excavations are conducted in the Hazor National Park and receive full cooperation from the National Parks Authority.

The expedition numbered some 40 participants, from the U.S., Canada, Europe and Israel. Area supervisors were R. Lavi (Area A-3) and S. Zuckerman, assisted by S. Bechar (Area M). The team also included: D. Porotzki and S. Pirski (surveying and drafting); M. Cimadevilla (photography); O. Harosch (registration); O. Cohen, assisted by I. Strand (restoration and preservation); S. Yadid and I. Strand (administration). The expedition was housed at Kibbutz Mahanayim.

 


 

The Excavations (fig. 1)

Excavations took place in two areas this season: areas A-3 and M.


Area A-3 

The goal of the excavations here this season was to uncover the western part of the pebble-paved courtyard extending to the north of the palace, the eastern part of which was uncovered in 2007.1 A deep pit containing a considerable number of complete clay vessels dating from the Iron Age III, was found in the northern part of the area.

A layer of fallen mudbricks was encountered below the foundations of the Iron Age structures. In the southern part of the area, these fallen bricks clearly constitute the collapse of the northern wall of the ceremonial palace. The level on top of which these bricks fell was well defined, and it seems that the entire area lacks any architectural features. Several layers of fill containing LB sherds were encountered below the fallen mudbricks, and a thin stone wall, oriented north–south, apparently functioned as one of several support walls to that fill. The pebble pavement encountered in the eastern part of the area did not extend to its western part.

A series of walls forming parts of structures, two packed earth floors, tabuns and two semi-circular stone installations were encountered in the northern part of the area. All these were covered by fallen mudbricks, although of a different colour and texture than the bricks uncovered in the southern part of the area. Furthermore, these walls and installations are far from the northern wall of the palace; thus, the fallen mudbricks could not have come from the palace walls. It therefore seems that the collapsed mudbricks constituted the superstructure of the stone walls on which they fell.

The date of these walls and installations remains unknown. The very few sherds found on the floors date from the Late Bronze Age, suggesting that the walls are part of a series of poorly constructed walls built during the last phase of LB Hazor, just before its final destruction. Similar remnants have been found throughout Hazor, including in the ceremonial palace and its vicinity. Another possibility is that the entire assemblage dates from the Iron Age II, as similar poorly constructed walls of that period are also known in other parts of Hazor’s Upper City. In this case, the few LB sherds found here may be the result of disturbance to the area. A third possibility is that the assemblage belongs to squatters living on the ruins of Hazor following its destruction, a possibility that is unlikely, given that such a phenomenon has not been noted anywhere else at Hazor. Of all three possibilities, it seems that the first option—that the assemblage dates from the last phase of occupation at Hazor, shortly before its final destruction—is most probable.

A plaster floor encountered under the aforementioned poorly constructed walls and installations and at a level corresponding to that of the pebble-paved floor found further east seems to belong to the same LB I courtyard. This issue, however, requires further investigation, which will be carried out in the 2009 season.

The entire area was dotted by Iron I pits, which were very difficult to discern during excavations and which contained a meagre amount of pottery.


Area M (fig. 3)

Work in area M continued in the squares that were opened last year. The remains uncovered this year belong mostly to the last phases of the Iron Age settlement during the eighth century BCE.

All the structures are domestic in nature, characterised by thin walls, several installations and tabuns. Three major phases and several sub-phases were identified (consisting of floor raising, the sealing of entryways and the erection of new installations in the various rooms and courtyards). This is a residential area, including several domestic units and small alleys separating them.

This year, the area connecting these remains to those excavated in area M in 1990–1993 was cleared; all these remains now form part of the same residential complex. A noteworthy architectural feature of this period is the secondary use of limestone pillars and other architectural features, which most probably originated in the underlying, ninth century BCE, administrative structures in the area.

In the centre of area M, excavation continued around the bell-shaped stone-walled pit exposed last season, which was free standing in an open space in the centre of the aforementioned residential complex. Apparently, this pit, whose function remains unknown, had an earlier phase when it was incorporated in an eighth-century wall. The area around the pit was filled with layers of greyish material, rich in bones (mainly fish bones), small pottery sherds and iron objects.

The excavation this year showed that the evidence of destruction, attributed to the Assyrian campaign of 732 BCE, is limited to the north-western corner of the area. The other structures were abandoned with no sign of violent destruction.

Two rows of worked limestone pillars, oriented west–east, were further excavated this season. On the basis of their location and relation to one another, it appears that they belong to an early (probably ninth-century BCE) administrative structure, which was sealed and reused by the later domestic buildings. The pillars of the northern row are tilted northward, perhaps the result of seismic activity. In the final week of the season, the top of a wall—possibly the northern external wall of the structure—was exposed. This possibility will be further investigated in the 2009 season.

The main finds attributed to the Iron Age phases in the area are pottery sherds and some restorable vessels. In addition, several clay figurines, iron and bronze objects and a fragment of a glass bottle were found.


 

Restoration and Conservation

The western unit of the ceremonial palace (the ‘Bathroom’), the southern unit and the northern section of the palace façade were treated this year.

Two layers of mudbricks were placed on the outer (western) wall of the western unit, in order to prevent entrance or exit into the palace through that room. The protective earth fill placed several years ago on the floor of the room was removed, and the floor and the installation built against the southern wall of the room were treated. The northern wall of the installation—whose function remains unclear—was restored.

In the southern unit, the only one that suffered considerable damage from the Iron Age building activity, the inner face of the southern (outer) wall, was slightly restored. The passageway between the western and eastern rooms of the unit was rebuilt with bricks.

Both door jambs of the main entrance to the building were strengthened by placing retaining mudbricks on their inner side. The northern section of the façade, which tilts dangerously outwards (to the east), was supported by the insertion of bricks and mortar into the crevices. This procedure needs to be completed in 2009.

These works were carried out with the financial support of several foundations, including the Antiqua Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland), the Rosen Foundation (N.Y.), the Late Reginald David Benjamin and Esme Benjamin (Perth, Western Australia), and the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund (Israel).


 

AMNON BEN-TOR AND SHARON ZUCKERMAN


 

 

 

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