Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)
Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books
1. Historical and Biblical References
Later from the fourteenth century three letters from Abdi-Tirshi, king of Hazor, appear in the Amarna archive in Egypt and other references to the city occur in records of military campaigns conducted by Egyptian pharaohs in Canaan in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries BCE.
According to the biblical account in Joshua 11:1-15 a coalition of northern kings headed by Jabin king of Hazor was defeated by Joshua at the Waters of Merom (Lake Huleh). The account makes clear that Hazor was singled out for special attention by the victorious Israelites, who killed the king, captured the city and burned it to the ground (Joshua 11:10-11). This victory opened the way for the completion of the Israelite conquest of Canaan and Hazor was subsequently included in the territory of Naphtali (Joshua 19:32-36).
A second account is found in Judges 4 where the Israelites come under the influence of Jabin of Hazor [dynastic name] and his army commander Sisera (Judges 4:2). They were delivered from the oppression by Deborah and Barak and Jabin was subdued and later destroyed (Judges 4:24; see also 1 Sam 12:9).
Later in the tenth century Hazor was built up by Solomon along with Jerusalem -- Gezer and Megiddo (1 Kings 9:15). The city is referred to only once more in the Bible, in 2 Kings 15:29, where it is listed as one of the cities conquered by Tiglath-Pileser III in the year 732 BCE.
Following a small excavation by J. Garstang in 1928, Hazor has hosted two major projects. The first was the J. A. de Rothschild Expedition which conducted excavations there from 1956 to 1959 and in 1968 and was directed by Yigael Yadin on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association and the Anglo-Israel Exploration Society. It uncovered twenty-one strata dating from the Early Bronze Age in the third millennium to the Hellenistic Period of the second century BCE and revealed for the first time the magnificence of the archaeological record of the site. The richness and excellent preservation of architecture and finds at Hazor complemented the historical and biblical record of the city’s size, wealth and influence in the ancient Near East. In 1990 the Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin resumed excavations at the site under the direction of Amnon Ben-Tor on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Complutense University of Madrid and the Israel Exploration Society. The project, which is ongoing at the time of writing, has confined its excavations to the acropolis and has continued to reveal the splendor of both the Canaanite and Israelite cities.
3. Middle Bronze Age (circa 1800/1750-1550 BCE)
The Canaanite city of the Middle Bronze Age is characterised by monumental architectural features that betray the northern influences from the Syro-Mesopotamian cultural sphere. The most prominent of these were the massive rampart and moat surrounding the lower city, particularly in the west and north, and two city gates. However it is the number and variety of temples that most emphatically indicate the cosmopolitan character of the city. Their different designs and features suggest that a variety of ethnic and religious traditions existed side-by-side at Hazor throughout the Middle and Late Bronze Ages.
At the far northern edge of the lower city the first of a series of four successive temples was built in Area H. The earliest structure, dated to the last phase of the Middle Bronze Age in the late seventeenth and early sixteenth centuries, was a freestanding symmetrical building oriented to the northwest. Built on an artificial platform to raise its profile, the temple was entered from a spacious courtyard through a small lobby flanked by two rooms into a main hall with a small niche opposite the entrance. The building bears some resemblance to the tower temples of the same period at Shechem and Megiddo, though at both of these the central hall was a long room, while at Hazor there was a broad room design. It bears rather more resemblance to the temples at Alalakh in Syria.
A rectangular double temple dating to the same period was found in Area F, also on the lower tell. The entrance on the long western side was reached via an enclosed porch room, and led to two nearly identical almost square shrines situated side by side. Yadin related the design to the Sin-Shamash double temple at Asshur, stressing again the influence from the north (Yadin l972:97).
On the acropolis two separate temples were erected almost side by side in the area of the royal court in Area A. The first, slightly to the north of the second, was exposed below the Solomonic gate by Yadin in 1968. It consisted of a single long hall entered from the east through a narrow entrance lined and paved with basalt orthostats. Opposite the entrance against the west wall was a plastered brick platform. Close by was a second temple of similar design. Yadin exposed a corner of this building in the 1950s and suggested it was the Middle Bronze Age palace. Now excavated more completely by the current expedition, the building is also rectangular with a recessed niche in the center of the western wall. In the middle of the floor was a circular pit that served as a favissa and contained a large number of votive bowls, chalices and incense-burner fragments. Both temples were abandoned at the end of the first phase Late Bronze Age and filled in.
4. Late Bronze Age (circa 1550-1200 BCE)
4.1. Late Bronze Age Temples
The temple in Area H also continued into the Late Bronze Age with some alterations but the changes at the end of the fifteenth century were considerably more significant. The entire building was rebuilt on a revised, tripartite design, which was copied when it was rebuilt again in the thirteenth century. The entrance lobby was enlarged into a hall and the rooms that flanked it were transformed into massive towers with staircases. The main hall was entered from the smaller hall by descending two steps and a revised niche with a bench was set into the back wall. Outside an entry porch, probably unroofed, was added to the front of the facade. Two pillars with no structural function stood at the entrance to the porch.
The orthostats found in the final phase of the temple can be assigned with certainty to this phase although they probably originated even earlier, in the Middle Bronze Age. In addition to the finely worked rectangular basalt orthostats, two others shaped like crouching lions flanked the entrance. Their heads are carved in the round, while the bodies are in relief. One was found by Yadin in the ruins of the temple, the other by Ben-Tor on the acropolis, where it had been used as construction material in an Israelite building. Among the finds and cultic paraphernalia found in the temple were altars and figurines carved with the symbol of the Anatolian-north Syrian god Hadad.
In its design, the use of orthostats, the presence of lion orthostats, and in the artifacts representing the storm god Hadad, the temple in Area II shows strong influence from the Syro-Hittite regions to the north and suggests that a proportion of the people living there brought these traditions with them to Hazor.
The double temple in Area F was replaced in the first phase of the Late Bronze Age with a square building of unusual design. Its closest parallels are at Tananir on Mount Gerizim to the south from the sixteenth century and from Amman across the Jordan in the thirteenth century. It was replaced in the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries by an open cult area with a paved piazza dominated by a massive carved stone altar that was 2.4 meters long, 0.85 meters high and 1.2 meters long, and weighed nearly five tons.
In Area C, a residential area in the southwest part of the lower city, just below the western acropolis, a small shrine was built in the fourteenth century against the inner slope of the rampart. In the niche opposite the entrance were ten basalt stelae, a small seated male figurine, a small crouching lion statuette and a small stone offering table. On the central stela was a carving in relief of two hands stretching upward to a crescent moon. Likewise, the figurine had a carved image of an inverted crescent moon on its chest. Both indicate that the deity of this shrine was the moon god Sin.
4.2. The Late Bronze Age Palace
The walls of the palace are built of mudbrick on stone foundations and are massive. The eastern facade is nearly 5 meters wide and the rest of the walls are 1.5 meters wide. The porch, the outer walls on the north, south and west and the inner walls of the main hall are all lined with carved basalt orthostats similar to those from the Area H and Area A temples. The main hall, identified by the excavator as a throne room (Ben-Tor and Rubiato 1999:29), had a pebble surface but charred plank fragments of cedar of Lebanon indicate that it was originally covered with a wooden floor. Cedar planks were also set into the mudbrick walls for support.
Once again, the closest parallel for the Hazor palace comes from the contemporary palace in stratum IV at Alalakh in Syria, although the Hazor structure is more than twice the size of its northern counterpart. The same Syro-Babylonian unit of measurement that divides every length into sixty centimeter multiples was used in both buildings. The wooden beams, the orthostats and indeed the plan itself are also indicative of a shared tradition.
Finds in the palace that reinforce its importance include a hoard of decorated ivories second only to one from Megiddo --- also from the thirteenth century BCE --- several cylinder seals, a large statue of a deity, two basalt statue heads and several Egyptian statue fragments. Near the entrance were the broken remains of a basalt human statue, originally nearly 1 metre tall and the largest Canaanite statue ever found in Israel. It was decorated with images of the sun and the moon on its chest.
The palace is dated to the second half of the Late Bronze Age, at least from after the decommissioning of the Area A temples at the end of the fifteenth century BCE. It continued into the thirteenth century BCE, when it was destroyed with the rest of the city. Beneath the eastern part of the courtyard, evidence has emerged of an earlier palace, less well preserved, dating to the Middle Bronze Age, with even larger walls.
4.3. Access from the Lower City to the Acropolis
4.4 The Destruction of Canaanite Hazor
5. Iron Age I (circa 1200-1000 BCE)
In the west of the acropolis evidence was found of a subsequent smaller settlement whose most important feature was a small building identified as a shrine. Remains of five broken incense stands were found nearby and a pot containing metal objects, including a bronze deity figurine, was excavated below the floor. Yadin concluded that the jar and its contents were a foundation offering placed beneath the floor and the building itself served as an Israelite high place (Yadin 1972: 132-34). However doubt has been cast on this identification, most notably by O. Negbi, who noted that the items in the jar were in poor condition and were probably collected from the ruins of the Canaanite city to be melted down as scrap (Negbi 360-61). Ben-Tor has proposed that a basalt pillar that Yadin identified as a bench served instead as a standing stone in the building (Ben-Tor 1996: 267) and if so, then it rather than the metal hoard offers a more plausible reason for interpreting the building as a shrine.
6. Iron Age II (circa 1000-732 BCE)
6.1. Strata X-IX (Tenth to Early Ninth Centuries BCE)
The Solomonic city was built from scratch on the acropolis. A casemate wall encircled the settlement, which was entered through a monumental six-chambered gate. Gates similar in plan and size from the same period were excavated at Megiddo and Gezer and the design continued to be appropriated at other cities in Israel in the ninth and eighth centuries BCE.
The Solomonic city only covered an area of some 40 dunams/10 acres/4 hectares in the western half of the acropolis. Few domestic remains were found, though a large building with an area of over 200 square meters was excavated just inside and across a pebbled street from the casemate wall, to the south of the six-chambered gate.
Hazor functioned as a royal citadel in this level. Its impressive and intimidating fortifications, large buildings and limited size, perhaps augmented by a garrison of soldiers, served to remind the population of the new political reality in the land and that although power was centralized in the south its influence extended as far north as Hazor.
Minor changes in stratum IX followed the death of Solomon and the level ended in an early-ninth-century destruction attributed to Ben Hadad of Damascus (1 Kings 15:18-20; 2 Chron 16:4).
6.2. Strata VIII-VII (Ninth Century BCE)
Among the new buildings in this level was a massive citadel in the west of the acropolis. It was a rectangular building with an area of over five hundred square meters. Separated from the rest of the city and entered through an elaborate gate, its walls were between 1.4 and 2 meters thick and it had at least two stories. Additional buildings constructed in the compound alongside the citadel are identical in plan to royal administrative buildings at Samaria.
Two more public buildings excavated just inside the casemate wall were characterized by two rows of monolithic pillars that divided the space into three long rooms. The design is well known from Iron Age Israel and appears to have had a number of different functions. At Hazor however the pottery and other finds found on the floors indicate they served as storerooms.
The most impressive new building project at Hazor during the ninth century was the water system. A wide shaft was cut from the surface through ten meters of earlier strata until it came to bedrock. The edges of the cut were supported with large holding walls to prevent them from collapsing. A further nineteen meters of bedrock was removed until the shaft was flattened out and a staircase for access was carved around its wall. From the surface of the shaft, a stepped tunnel with a vaulted ceiling extended down another twenty-five meters into the bedrock, to an additional depth of about ten meters. At the bottom of the tunnel was ground water.
The water system greatly increased security as it obviated the need to leave the city to obtain water in a time of siege. It is one of several similar systems that were constructed around the country during the ninth century BCE.
6.3. Strata VI -- V and IV (Eighth Century BCE)
Following an earthquake the city was quickly restored but this level, stratum V, was destroyed by Tiglath-Pileser III in 732 BCE in the campaign that saw the conquest and annexation of the northern part of the kingdom of Israel by Assyria (2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chron 5:26). An indication of the pending doom is the military guardhouse built on the western slope of the acropolis, alongside the citadel. Following the destruction of the city a squatter settlement arose in the ruins. The pottery used in this level, stratum IV, is identical to that from the destroyed stratum V, indicating that it was survivors that returned to the site soon after the Assyrian destruction.
Hazor’s decline in importance was complete. Following the destruction of Samaria in 722/721 BCE, prosperity in the new Assyrian province shifted north to Dan and Hazor never recovered.
7. Later Periods