HOME / Table of Contents = Civilizations - Cultures - Areas - Regions - Prehistory
Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)

Hazor in the Encyclopaedia Judaica by Yigael Yadin and Shimon Gibson

Hazor or Tell el-Qedah is located approximately five miles southwest of Lake Huleh

HAZOR (Hebrew חָצֹור ); a large Canaanite and Israelite city in Upper Galilee. It is identified with Tell al-Qidāḥ (also called Tell Waqqāṣ), 8¾ miles (14 km) north of the Sea of Galilee and 5 miles (8 km) southwest of Lake Huleh. The city was strategically located in ancient times and dominates the main branches of the Via Maris (“Way of the Sea”) leading from Egypt to Mesopotamia -- Syria and Anatolia.

Canaanite Hazor is mentioned in the Egyptian Execration Texts (19th or 18th century B.C.E.) and is the only Palestinian town mentioned (together with Laish or Dan) in the Mari documents (18th century B.C.E.) where it appears as a major commercial center of the Fertile Crescent with caravans traveling between it and Babylon. It is also frequently mentioned in Egyptian documents of the New Kingdom in the city lists of Thutmoses III (where it appears together with Laish -- Pella and Kinnereth) and of Amenhotep II and Seti I. In the Amarna letters the kings of Ashtaroth and Tyre accuse Abdi-Tirshi, king of Hazor, of taking several of their cities. The king of Tyre furthermore states that the king of Hazor left his city to join the Habiru [possibly the Hebrew people]. In other letters however Abdi-Tirshi --- one of the few Canaanite rulers to call himself king --- proclaims his loyalty to Egypt. Hazor is also referred to in the Papyrus Anastasi I (probably from the time of Ramses II).

The Bible contains a direct reference to the role of Hazor at the time of Joshua’s conquests. Jabin, king of Hazor, headed a league of several Canaanite cities against Joshua in the battle at the waters of Merom (Lake Huleh): “And Joshua turned back at that time and took Hazor and smote the king thereof with the sword. For Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms … and he burnt Hazor with fire … But as for the cities that stood on their mounds, Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only --- that did Joshua burn” (Joshua 11:10–13). Hazor is also indirectly mentioned in the prose account of Deborah’s wars (Judges 4) in contrast to the “Song of Deborah” (Judges 5) which deals with a battle in the Jezreel Valley and does not mention Hazor. According to 1 Kings 9:15 the city was rebuilt by Solomon together with Megiddo and Gezer. The last biblical reference to Hazor records its conquest, with other Galilean cities, by Tiglath-Pileser III in 732 B.C.E. (Second Book of Kings 15:29). In Hasmonean times Jonathan and his army, marching northward from the Ginnosar (Gennesar) Valley during his wars against Demetrius, camped on the plain of Hazor near Kedesh (1 Maccabees 11:67). Josephus locates the city above Lake Semachonitis (Antiquities of the Jews 5.199). Hazor was first identified with Tell al-Qidāḥ by J.L. Porter in 1875 and again by J. Garstang in 1926. The latter conducted soundings at the site in 1928. Four large campaigns of excavations --- the James A. de Rothschild Expedition --- took

place between 1955 and 1958 under the direction of Yigael Yadin on behalf of the Hebrew University, with the aid of PICA, the Anglo-Israel Exploration Society, and the Israel government. A fifth campaign took place in 1968. The site of Hazor is composed of two separate areas --- the tell proper covering some 30 acres (120 dunams) and rising some 130 feet (40 metres) above the surrounding plain, and a large rectangular plateau, about 175 acres (700 dunams) in area, north of the tell. The latter is protected on its western side by a huge rampart of beaten earth and a deep fosse (moat), on the north by a rampart and on the other sides by its natural steep slopes reinforced by glacis and walls.

Lower City

Garstang had concluded from his soundings that the large plateau (enclosure) was a camp site for infantry and chariots and since he found no Mycenean pottery (which first appears in the area after 1400 B.C.E.) he dated Hazor’s final destruction to about 1400, the date he ascribed to Joshua’s conquest. The excavations however revealed that the enclosure was not a camp site but that the entire area was occupied by a city with five levels of occupation. It was first settled in the mid-18th century B.C.E. (Middle Bronze Age II), to which the fortifications date, and was finally destroyed sometime before the end of the 13th century B.C.E. The discovery of Mycenean and local ware from the 13th century helped to disprove Garstang’s date of its fall. Seven areas in different parts of the lower city were excavated and the same chronology was found in all. The first city (stratum 4) was followed by a settlement (stratum 3) from the end of the Middle Bronze Age II (17th--16th centuries) which was razed by fire. The city was rebuilt in the Late Bronze Age I (stratum 2, 15th century). This stratum represents the peak of Hazor’s prosperity together with the 14th-century city (stratum 1b) in which time Hazor was the largest city in the area in the land of Canaan; City 1b suffered destruction in undetermined circumstances. The last settlement in the lower city (stratum 1a) was a reconstruction of the previous one and with its fall, before the end of the 13th century, occupation ceased in the lower city. Its destruction, both here and in the contemporary city on the tell, is to be ascribed to the conquering Israelite tribes, as is related in detail in the Book of Joshua. In the southwestern corner of the lower city (area C) a small sanctuary was found on the foot of the inner slope of the rampart. It dates from stratum 1b and was rebuilt in 1a. A number of basalt steles and statuettes were found in a niche in one of the walls, one with two hands raised toward a divine lunar symbol --- a crescent and a circle, and a statuette of a seated male figure with its head intentionally broken off. Benches for offerings line the walls of the temple. A pottery cult mask was found in a potter’s workshop nearby as well as a bronze standard plated with silver and bearing a relief of a snake goddess.

Rock-cut tombs with an elaborate network of tunnels connecting them were found in the eastern sector of the lower city (area F) dating from the earliest stratum. A large building

(probably a temple) with thick walls was constructed there in the next city which used the older tunnels for a drainage system. In the next stratum (stratum II) a temple was built. In stratum 1b the area assumed a definite cultic character and a large monolithic altar with depressions for draining the sacrificial blood stood there. In several areas a large number of infant burials in jars were found beneath the floors of houses from stratum III.

Four superimposed temples were found in area H at the northern edge of the lower city. The earliest (stratum III) consisted of a broad hall with a small niche --- a sort of holy of holies. South of the hall was a raised platform reached by several finely dressed basalt steps. The next temple was substantially the same in plan but a closed court was added and an open courtyard south of it. The court was entered through a broad propyleum. The courtyard contained a large rectangular bamah (“high place”) and several altars. A clay model of a liver, inscribed in Akkadian, found in a pile of debris nearby, was intended for use by the priest-diviners and mentioned various evil omens. A bronze plaque of a Canaanite dignitary wrapped in a long robe was also found. In stratum 1b the temple was composed of three chambers built on a single axis from south to north: a porch -- a main hall and a broad holy of holies with a rectangular niche in its northern wall. In its general plan it resembles several temples found at Alalakh in northern Syria as well as the temple of Solomon. A row of basalt orthostats (which may have belonged originally to the previous temple) forming a dado (lower part of the wall) around the interior of the porch and the holy of holies, which is very similar to some found at Alalakh and other sites, shows distinct evidence of northern influence. On either side of the entrance to the porch stood a basalt orthostat with a lion in relief (only one was found buried in a pit). The following temple (stratum 1a) shows only minor alterations. Two round bases found in front of the entrance to the hall are apparently similar to the Jachin and Boaz of Solomon’s temple. The many ritual vessels (probably reused from the previous temple) include a basalt incense altar with the emblem of the storm god in relief --- a circle with a cross in the center; ritual tables and bowls; a statuette of a seated figure; cylinder seals; and a scarab bearing the name of Amenhotep III. Outside the sanctuary were found fragments of a statue of a deity with the symbol of the storm god on its chest. The god had stood on a bull-shaped base.

A succession of city gates and walls ranging in date from the founding of the city to its final end was found in area K on the northeastern edge of the lower city. The gate from stratum III was strongly fortified with towers on either side and three pairs of pilasters in the passage. A casemate wall adjoining it is the earliest example of this type found thus far in Ereẓ Israel. A similar series of gates was found in the 1968 season on the eastern edge of the lower city.

Upper City

Five areas were excavated on the tell proper where 21 levels
(with additional sub-phases) of occupation were uncovered.

Settlement began here in the 27th century B.C.E. (end of the Early Bronze Age II) and, after a gap between the 24th and 22nd centuries, it was resettled in the Middle Bronze Age I (stratum XVIII). From the period of Hazor’s zenith (15th century) parts of a large palace (the residence of the king?) and temple were uncovered which contained part of an orthostat with a lioness in relief similar to the lion orthostat from the contemporary temple in the lower city. Stratum XIII, the last Late Bronze Age city on the tell, shows the same signs of destruction in the 13th century as were found in the lower city. The upper city however, in contrast, was resettled after a short interruption but not in the form of a true city. Most of its constructions are still of a semi-nomadic character; silos -- hearths and foundations for tents and huts. These remains are essentially identical with those of the Israelite settlements in Galilee in the 12th century and indicate that the majority of this settlement occurred only after the fall of the cities and provinces of Canaan.

Stratum XI is an 11th-century unfortified Israelite settlement with a small high place. Only from the time of Solomon onward did Hazor return to its former splendor, though on a smaller scale than in Canaanite times. Solomon rebuilt and fortified the upper city (stratum X) with a casemate wall and a large gate with three chambers on either side and two towers flanking the passage. These are identical with the fortifications he constructed at Gezer and Megiddo. The following city was destroyed by fire and rebuilt by the House of Omri in the ninth century (stratum VIII), which erected a strong citadel covering most of the western part of the tell (area B). The citadel is symmetrical in plan with two long halls running from east to west and surrounded on three sides by chambers. The entrance was ornamented with proto-Aeolic capitals and a monolithic lintel. Near the citadel were a number of public buildings. The citadel was strengthened in the eighth century and continued in use until Hazor’s conquest by Tiglath-Pileser III in 732 B.C.E.

A large storehouse with two rows of pillars in the center (mistakenly interpreted as Solomon’s stables by Garstang) also dates to stratum VIII (House of Omri). Stratum VI (eighth century) was destroyed by an earthquake, possibly the one which occurred in the days of Jeroboam II, mentioned in the Book of Amos. The last fortified city at Hazor is represented by stratum V and after its destruction by the Assyrians the city remained uninhabited except for a temporary unfortified settlement (stratum IV). A large citadel in stratum III was evidently constructed by the Assyrians and continued in use in the Persian period. Another citadel, from stratum I, is attributed to the second century; i.e. the Hellenistic period.

In the 1968 season a large underground water system was discovered at the center of the southern edge of the mound facing the natural spring below. It has the same plan (although on a much larger scale) as the famous one at Megiddo, and was hewn out of the rock at the same period; i.e. the ninth century B.C.E. (Hazor stratum VIII) ... [Yigael Yadin]

Later Excavations and Chronology

Since 1990 excavations have been conducted at the site by Amnon Ben-Tor. Limited remains from the Early Bronze period were found in deep soundings (Strata XXI–XIX), mainly from the EB II and EB III with a fine assemblage of Khirbet Kerak ware. Only a handful of shards are known from the Intermediate Bronze Age (Stratum XVIII). Hazor flourished in the Middle Bronze Age II (Strata pre-XVII, XVII, XVI and post-XVI in the upper city; Strata 3–4 in the lower city) with the lower city being settled for the first time with impressive defense systems (earthen rampart and moat and gateways) and the corner of a palace. Cuneiform tablets date from this period: a clay liver model, a bilingual Sumero-Akkadian text, a legal document, and an economic text and a fragment of a royal letter. The Late Bronze Age strata (upper city: Strata XV–XIII; lower city: Strata 2–1A) were separated from the preceding Middle Bronze Age city by a substantial destruction layer (Stratum post-XVI). The Late Bronze Age city included a number of major architectural monuments such as the earthen ramparts, the city gates and the temples (the Stelae Temple in Area C; Orthostat Temple in Area H). Stratum XIV was destroyed in a fire and this may have been at the time of Seti I (end of the 14th century B.C.E.). The final phase of occupation in the Late Bronze Age was also destroyed. Yadin attributed this to the Israelites as described in Joshua 11:10. The exact date of this destruction is still unclear. The settlement in the Iron Age I (Strata XII–XI) was not very impressive, consisting mainly of storage pits and foundations of temporary structures. Monumental structures belong to the Iron Age II–III (Strata X–IV) and these include the fortifications: a six-chambered city gate and casemate walls. They were dated by Yadin to the 10th century (following I Kings 9:15) but attempts have recently been made to lower this date. Later works include the construction of a wall around the acropolis and the hewing of a water supply system. Hazor was conquered and destroyed in 732 B.C.E. An Assyrian citadel and palace are known (Stratum III), as well as a few remains from the Persian and Hellenistic periods (Strata II–I) ... [Shimon Gibson (2nd edition)]

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium