The Renewed Hazor Excavations

By: Amnon Ben-Tor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Edited and abridged from NEA 76.2 (2013): 66–67 (see editorial note below)

Tel Hazor, “the head of all those kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10), is the largest tell in Israel and encompasses a total of approximately 800 dunams (200 acres). With the exception of two gaps in the settlement, one at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age and the other following the destruction of the Canaanite city during the transition between the Late Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, Hazor was continuously occupied for approximately two millennia, from the first half of the third millennium BCE to the late eighth century BCE.

Following the Assyrian conquest of Hazor in the year 732 BCE along with several other important sites in the region (as referenced in 2 Kgs 15:29), a period of decline set in until the site was finally deserted. A short-lived Israelite (?) settlement (Stratum IV) was established on top of the ruins of the fortified Israelite city. Poor traces of occupation attributable to the Assyrian, Persian, Hellenistic, and Islamic periods (Strata III–0, respectively) were noted at different locations on Hazor’s acropolis.
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The Virtual World Project: Touring The Ancient World


Figure 1. The entry page of the Virtual World Project website.

By: Ronald A. Simkins and Nicolae Roddy, Creighton University

There is nothing quite like teaching at an archaeological site, where ancient remains almost speak out to students as witnesses of the past. Both authors have led study tours in Israel, taking students to archaeological sites like Tel Dan, Bethsaida, Megiddo, Arad, Beer-sheba, and others, lecturing there among the stones on archaeology, history, and the Bible. As we would walk through the architectural remains, our students would experience the ancient world first hand; issues of daily life, social structure, urbanism, ecology, and industry were given a material context that the students readily grasped. Because students learn in multiple ways—there are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners—teaching on site is able to maximize the students’ learning through these multiple ways.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to replicate this experience back home in the traditional university classroom. Archaeological materials are readily available for course use but much of it is difficult and not-easily accessible for undergraduate students. Archaeological field reports are often too technical and contain too much data for students. Synthetic and popular studies offer greater accessibility, but the spatial context of the ancient archaeological site remains elusive. Photographs and slides may give a good representation of the features of a site, but for the student who has no personal experience, putting the images together into a single, holistic context is nearly impossible. The images remain at best fragmented, two-dimensional representations that lack the orientation, scale, and spatial context that one gains from first-hand experience. The Virtual World Project was created to overcome these shortcomings by bridging the gap between the traditional classroom and the immediate experience one gains from touring an archaeological site. Continue reading

A Monumental Surprise in Turkey

Johnson_DylanBy: Dylan Johnson, 2012 Heritage Fellow

ASOR’s Heritage Fellowship afforded me, along with many other students with an interest in Near Eastern archaeology, the opportunity to participate in archaeological excavations throughout the Near East. This past summer, I worked at Tell Taʾyinat, a small site in the southwestern province of Hatay, Turkey, close to the Syrian border. Continue reading

Geographical Factors in the Defense of Judah and Israel

Keimer_KyleBy: Kyle Keimer, University of California, Los Angeles, Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

My research focused on describing the varying strategies for defense of Israel and Judah in light of each kingdom’s topographical realities and the changing political situation over the course of the Iron II. I began with two basic questions: 1) how, in military terms, did fortifications work? and 2) where were they placed and in response to which circumstances? My goal was to reach an understanding of the function of fortified sites both on a regional and inter-regional level. Assessing defensive networks and answering the preceding questions, however, required broader considerations, such as where people want to go and where they can not go. Also, what kind of enemy is being defended against? When all of these questions were considered in conjunction with the topography and the type and distribution of fortified sites, it was possible to address their defensive function and strategy. Continue reading

Metal Implements and Tool Marks from the Levantine Second Millennium BC

Blackwell-NicholasBy: Nicholas Blackwell, Bryn Mawr College, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, AIAR Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

The primary purpose of my Spring 2012 fellowship at the Albright Institute was to compile an extensive dataset of metal tools from the Levantine second millennium BC. This research began to round out the previously-incomplete Levantine category of a tool database assembled for my dissertation on Middle and Late Bronze Age metal tools from the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, and Anatolia (Bryn Mawr College, 2011). Furthering this study through reading excavation reports from Syro-Palestinian sites and visiting museums in Israel, I was able to add a considerable number of tools to my database. The updated data has proven useful by 1) revealing patterns of tool distributions and regional preferences within the Levant, and 2) providing some context and comparison for implement types and trends in the broader Mediterranean and Anatolian worlds. The result is a more informed investigation of cross-regional interaction as indicated by tool choices and depositional practices. Continue reading

The Tel Burna Archaeological Project

Uziel_JoeBy: Joe Uziel, Israel Antiquities Authority, Ernest S. Frerichs Fellow

 In 2009, Dr. Itzhaq Shai and I initiated a long-term archaeological project at Tel Burna.  The site is located in the Judean Shephelah on the northern banks of Wadi Guvrin.  While described by a number of scholars over the years as a prominent ancient site, it is one of the last tells in the Shephelah to be excavated.  Since 2009, an ongoing survey, including several different methods has been conducted alongside excavations.  Thus far, 21 squares have been excavated in three different areas, uncovering a sequence of five strata spanning the Late Bronze Age IIB through to the Persian period. Continue reading

The Philistine Remains at Tell es-Safi/Gath: Their Regional and Transcultural Connections with the Aegean and Cyprus

Hitchcock_LBy: Louise Hitchcock, University of Melbourne, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow

My sabbatical semester at the Albright resulted in a preliminary analysis of the stratigraphy, finds, and architecture from Area A2, in the early Philistine sector of Tell es-Safi/Gath, in collaboration with Prof. Aren Maeir and specialist members of the excavation team. The Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project is a long-term collaborative project begun in 1996 under the direction of Prof. Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, Israel as a consortium involving foreign research partners.  It is aimed at studying the archaeology of one of the largest and most important multi-period sites in Israel, which was the location of Gath, one of the five capitals of the Philistine Pentapolis. For the last four years, I have been directing excavations in the early Philistine part of the site, Area A2, where I lead the largest Australian project in Israel with support from the Australian Research Council. This collaboration emerged as a direct result of time spent at the Albright as Annual Professor in 2007. Working at the Albright provided me with easy access to the library and my collaborators. Continue reading

Basalt Connections at Zincirli Hoyuk

Basalt lion from the castle gate at Zincirli Hoyuk, in the Pergamon Museum

By: Leann Pace and Eudora Struble

When Eudora and I began graduate school together at the University of Chicago, I don’t believe either of us was planning to work on a long-term archaeological project in Turkey. Eudora was very involved with archaeology in Jordan and my limited experience led me to believe that I wanted to work on excavations in Israel. However, we were given the opportunity to join what would become the Neubauer Expedition to Zincirli. This journey began in 2006 and we are eagerly anticipating another great season in the summer of 2013. Obviously we are hooked on working at the site and on being part of the larger research community working in Turkey. Continue reading

10th Century BCE Hebrew Inscription Found at Khirbet Qeiyafa

Contributed by Y. Garfinkel (November 5, 2008)

Ostracon from Khirbet Qeiyafa

Ostracon from Khirbet Qeiyafa

This summer an extraordinary Semitic inscription was found at Khirbet Qeiyafa. It was uncovered inside the fortified city, near the gate, lying on a floor level of a building. The city existed for a rather short time, within the 10th century BC, thus, the dating of the inscription is perfectly secured to the beginning of the First Temple period, known as the United monarchy, the time of kings David and Solomon.

The inscription is a large pottery fragment (ostracon), ca. 15 × 15 cm. written with ink. It contains five rows, divided by black lines. Each row has 10 letters or so in Proto-Canaanite script. According to the preliminary observations of the epigraphist, Dr. Haggai Misgav, the language of the ostracon is Hebrew. This is the longest Proto-Canaanite inscription ever found and the earliest Hebrew text known to date. Other possible Hebrew inscriptions are the Gezer calendar (ca. 900 BC), the stele of king Mesah (ca. 850 BC) or the Samaria ostraca (ca. 800 BC). The new inscription is earlier by 100-200 years from the other earlier Hebrew inscriptions. As the decipherment has just begun, it is still immature to talk about the content, but it clearly bears a massage, a letter sent between two people.

Khirbet Qeiyafa

Khirbet Qeiyafa

Paleography: The complicated writing techniques developed in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt enabled only professional scribes to read and write. Contrarily, the simple Semitic alphabet writing technique enables larger segments of the population to read and write. Thus, it is one of the most important intellectual inventions of human kind. But the early developments of the Semitic alphabet and its transmitting to the early Greek, and then to Latin and the rest of the world is poorly known. The earliest type of alphabet script, known as Proto-Canaanite, was found in Canaan, Sinai peninsula and Egypt in various sites dated from the second millennium BC (Middle Bronze and Late Bronze periods, ca. 1700-1200 BC). In this stage it was rather pictorial in character, adopting Egyptian hieroglyph signs.

Aerial photograph of Khirbet Qeiyafa

Aerial photograph of Khirbet Qeiyafa

In the Iron I period (1200-1000 BC) the hieroglyphs became more and more schematics, and it was assumed that at ca. 1000 BC the script became standardized in various aspects, like the number of letters (22), the direction of writing (from right to left) and the shape of the letters. As the Greek letters are quite similar to Proto-Canaanite script it was generally believed that they adopted the alphabet script in the late second millennium BC.

Very few early alphabet inscriptions are known. Most of them are either very short, or just a list of the letters (abecedary). Almost all of them do not have a secure archaeological context, thus lacking clear dating. The new inscription is the first Proto-Canaanite script clearly dated from the 10th century BC. It will now serve as the anchor for the entire developments of the early alphabet scripts: the Semitic (Phoenician, Hebrew and others) as well as the Greek.

Implication to Biblical History: Currently, there is a bitter debate about the historical accounts of Kings David and Solomon as presented by the Biblical tradition. The main arguments so far were the luck of urban centers that can be clearly dated to the time of the United Monarchy (Early Iron Age IIa period).

On September 13th 2008 a colloquium of some 40 Israeli archaeologists took place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The pottery from the fortified city was presented and discussed. There was a general agreement that the assemblage is indeed from the very beginning of the Iron IIa period. The new excavations clearly indicate that already in the time of David and Solomon urban cities were constructed in Judah. The fortifications of the site required 200,000 ton of stones. The upper part of the gate was built with ashlar stones, a clear characteristic of royal activities in the Biblical period. There was a need for administration to organize these massive building activities and indeed the new inscription indicates that writing was in use. The new inscription indicates that writing was indeed practiced in the biblical kingdom of Judah from its very beginning. Thus, historical memories could have been survived for generations and the biblical traditions regarding the period of kings David and Solomon cannot be overlooked.

Gate at Khirbet Qeiyafa

Gate at Khirbet Qeiyafa

Acknowledgments. Khirbet Qeiyafa excavations are conducted by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel and Mr. Saar Ganor, on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Funds were kindly provided by J.B. Silver, the Berman Center for Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Foundation Stone and the Curtiss and Mary Brenan Foundation. The expedition website is: