In the early 1920s, P. Abel identified the site with
Several Egyptian sources, however, do make mention of
The excavations at Tel
|STRATIGRAPHY OF TEL
||Period||Date||General Stratum||Area A Stratum||Area B Stratum||Area C Stratum||Area D Stratum||Area E Stratum||Area F Stratum||Area G Stratum|
|MB II/LB I||16th century BCE||11|
|LB I–IIA||15th–14th centuries BCE||10
|LB IIB||13th century BCE||9a
|Iron IA||c. 1200–1140 BCE||7
|Iron IB||Late 12th–early 10th centuries BCE||VII||3||5
|Iron IIA||c. 980(?)–830(?) BCE||VI||6||2||2||2||4
|Iron IIB||c. 830–732 BCE||III||4
|Iron IIC||Late 8th century BCE||II||2||2|
|Early Islamic||8th–12th centuries CE||I||1||1|
THE EARLY BRONZE AGE. The Early Bronze Age has only been reached in a narrow trench in the southwestern part of the upper mound (area H), where a fortification system dating to the Early Bronze Age II–III was revealed. The system included a 9.5-m-wide mud-brick wall preserved to a maximum height of 6.5 m, abutted on its outer side by an earthen glacis preserved to a width of 13 m and a height of 3.5 m. This impressive fortification, which apparently surrounded the upper mound, suggests that Tel
THE INTERMEDIATE BRONZE AGE. Evidence for an Intermediate Bronze Age settlement and cemetery was revealed in surveys conducted in the alluvial plain west of the mound. Several shaft burial caves from this period were excavated by O. Yogev for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in 1979 and by the Hebrew University expedition in collaboration with the IAA near the southwestern corner of the mound in 2002. The burials contained pottery vessels, metal weapons, and beads.
THE MIDDLE BRONZE AGE. The excavations have not yet reached the Middle Bronze Age occupation. Zori published an Old Babylonian seal from his survey of the mound and mentions Middle Bronze Age pottery, although no such pottery has been revealed by the Hebrew University expedition. A few graves from this period were excavated by Yogev near the mound.
THE LATE BRONZE AGE. In area D, a 10-m-wide step trench on the western slope of the lower mound exposed 11 occupational strata dating from the Late Bronze Age I to the Iron Age IIA. The limited exposure of these strata and the severe erosion of the edges of buildings on the slope have hampered the study of this area. However, the clear stratigraphic sequence from the end of the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age IIA is one of the densest in the entire country.
Stratum D-11 consists of a layer of dark brown silt and ash above travertine bedrock. The top of the layer is about 1.2 m below the present-day alluvial field to the west of the mound, indicating a significant rise in the level of the plain during the historical periods. The few pottery sherds found in this layer can be dated to the end of the Middle Bronze Age II or the beginning of the Late Bronze Age.
Stratum D-10 is a layer of light yellow travertine, over 2 m thick, uncovered at the foot of the mound. It was encountered at a depth of 6 m in a trial trench excavated 20 m north of area D. The stratum is devoid of finds, except for one Late Bronze Age carinated bowl. The travertine must have accumulated in a body of water—a small lake or pond—that existed at the foot of the mound during part of the Late Bronze Age, perhaps covering much of the present-day field. The presence of this body of water raises questions as to possible tectonic changes that prevented the water from being drained, as it is today, into a brook flowing northeast into the Jordan River.
In stratum D-9b, apparently of the Late Bronze IIA, a substantial building was founded above the travertine layer. A 1-m-wide, east–west wall with two subsidiary walls was uncovered, along with a complete clay plaque figurine of a naked woman with a leonine head. A cobble floor was constructed in a later phase of this stratum (D-9a). No evidence for a violent destruction was found. In phase D-8, dated to the thirteenth century BCE, a thick plaster floor covered the remains of the earlier building, upon which lay a c. 1-m-thick accumulation of fallen mud bricks and debris.
THE IRON AGE IA. Part of a building was revealed in stratum D-7. Two foundation deposits of the bowls-and-lamp type were associated with this building. The local pottery is typical of the first half of the twelfth century BCE, although, unlike Beth-Shean, Egyptian forms are rare. A thick accumulation of brick debris covered the building.
To stratum D-6 could be attributed a few plastered installations, floors, ovens, and flimsy walls. Floor surfaces had been raised many times, resulting in striations which, at one point, consisted of 65 superimposed thin horizontal layers. This phase can tentatively be dated to the mid- to late twelfth century BCE.
THE IRON AGE IB. Strata D-5 and D-4 represent two architectural phases of a city constructed, destroyed, and rebuilt during the Iron Age IB. Stratum D-5 was exposed over a limited area. In stratum D-4, a north–south street flanked by houses was excavated in the middle of the slope. This was a lengthy period, when floor surfaces were raised several times and architectural changes occurred. The destruction of stratum D-4 was followed by a total change in the function of this area. In stratum D-3, an open area was revealed in the upper part of the slope, above the D-4 debris. More than 40 pits of various sizes and depths were uncovered in the rather small excavation area, some small and shallow, others larger and well plastered. They were probably used for the storage of grain or other products. The few finds in these pits include pottery sherds, olive pits, and some grain seeds.
The pottery of strata D-5 to D-3 is typical of the Iron Age IB in this region. Painted decoration was common, mostly in a crude, local style of dull red paint on a buff surface, the main designs consisting of horizontal stripes and irregular wavy lines. A few Philistine sherds were found in stratum D-4. Radiocarbon assays confirm a date in the late twelfth–eleventh centuries BCE for stratum D-4 and the late eleventh–early tenth centuries for stratum D-3. Area D thus revealed a continuous development of the Canaanite city from the thirteenth to the end of the eleventh centuries BCE, in spite of at least three destructions. No evidence of fortifications was discerned in any of these strata and the edges of the buildings were eroded along the western slope of the mound.
Only a few floor surfaces and mud-brick walls were excavated from stratum C-3, which parallels stratum D-3 (general stratum VII).
THE IRON AGE IIA. The excavators of the site refer to the Iron Age IIA as a period commencing sometime in the first half of the tenth century BCE (c. 980 BCE?) and ending during the second half of the ninth century, probably shortly after the end of the Omride dynasty, with the final destruction and abandonment of the lower city (areas C, D, E, F, G). This is the main period studied in six excavation areas (B–G) at Tel
The architecture of this period is exceptional in Iron Age Israel. The buildings were constructed of mud bricks without stone foundations, and wood foundations for both walls and floors are a common feature, particularly in stratum V (areas C, B, and G). The town plan appears to have been preconceived and orderly, with parallel blocks of well-planned buildings. However, the buildings cannot be classified typologically and are unusual compared to other Iron Age II towns in Israel. There is no evidence at Tel
Area B. Only a few floors and fragmentary walls were revealed in stratum B-6. Among the finds was an incised inscription on a pottery sherd comprised of three obscure letters, two incised one on top of the other; a possible reading is
Remains of four buildings were exposed in stratum B-5. Two buildings at the western and eastern edges of the area were partly excavated. Both had beaten-earth floors on wooden foundations, resembling the buildings of stratum V in area C, and both were destroyed by conflagration. In the southern part of the area, a third building was partly excavated, and in the open space between these buildings a fourth building dating to sometime in a later phase of stratum B-5 was unearthed. In the central and southern buildings, no evidence for destruction by fire was detected, and several stratigraphic sub-phases were encountered in the area. Several fragments of a rare Euboean Sub-Proto-Geometric pyxis are a special discovery in this stratum.
The character of the area changed completely in stratum B-4. The buildings were replaced by a double wall constructed parallel to the slope of the mound, apparently part of a fortification system or a fortified building. A drain passed through this wall. On the western side of the area the double wall was abutted by a massive tower. Fragments of dwellings and an open courtyard were excavated to the south of the fortification system.
The correlation between the local strata in area B and the general strata numbers is not yet conclusive. While it is clear that local stratum B-6 corresponds with general stratum VI, local stratum B-5 may correspond with both general stratum V and IV. Stratum B-4, though still in the Iron Age IIA, could be either contemporary with general stratum IV or somewhat later, after the abandonment of the lower city at the end of general stratum IV.
Area C. Area C is located in the uppermost part of the lower town, near its northwestern corner. It is the largest excavation area, crucial for the study of the Iron Age IIA at Tel
Parts of three buildings from stratum C-2 (general stratum VI) were excavated. Building A in the northwest includes four rooms, two medium in size and two small. Building B in the central part of the area has a large well-preserved hall with two openings still intact and rooms continuing to the east. Building C in the south was only partly excavated. Open spaces and cooking areas were also defined. No evidence for violent destruction of this city was found, yet thick mud-brick debris, intact fallen bricks, and cracks in the walls suggest destruction or severe damage by an earthquake. Fragments of additional buildings were excavated in the northeastern part of area C, yet too little was exposed to define building plans. The building remains indicate that in stratum C-2 the area was densely built and well planned.
The area was rebuilt in stratum C-1b (general stratum V), retaining some of the plan’s earlier features. A typical building technique in this city was the use of wooden foundations for both floors and brick walls. About half of the wood samples analyzed were of olive trees; the rest were of various other species. Building A of the stratum VI city was rebuilt with a different inner plan; the new building is termed building D. To its south, the area of building B appears to have been vacant in stratum V. New buildings were founded in the northeastern, eastern, and southern parts of area C, representing a considerable change in plan compared to the previous city. This part of area C was well planned and appears to have been part of a densely built insula. In the northeast, at least three buildings were defined (E, F, R); notable among them is building F, a large, elaborate, well-planned structure which continued in use into stratum IV after substantial architectural changes. In the east-central part of the area, building G was exposed; it is a unique unit composed of three small square chambers without openings. It appears to have been a storage building, with chambers entered from an upper level. Its southernmost room had collapsed to the east, and a rich assemblage of pottery was found in the destruction debris. In the central chamber, a concentration of charred grain was recovered below the destruction layer. To the south, building H, only partly excavated, was a spacious building with what appears to have been a basement with a wooden ceiling. Both buildings G and H were destroyed in a heavy fire; the wooden roof in building H collapsed to the southeast and large amounts of restorable pottery vessels and other objects were found in the destruction debris. Objects related to a local cult include a unique, horned pottery altar decorated with figures of two naked females on either side of a tree, an elaborately painted large chalice, and numerous other chalices. The full plan and function of building H are still enigmatic. Segments of additional buildings were revealed in the southern and western parts of area C.
Following the destruction of stratum V, the area was renovated in stratum C-1a (general stratum IV). Some of the older buildings remained in use, others were rebuilt with a somewhat new plan, while building H in the southeast was replaced by a new building (L). The central part of area C was now a large open courtyard or piazza, its floor and installations uncovered just below topsoil. Building F in the northeast was rebuilt at this time with unique features. This well-planned building included a large central room with a smaller room behind it, and a western wing comprised of four chambers, the first containing a sophisticated grinding installation, the other three arranged one behind the other with benches along their walls. Its walls were preserved to a height of over 1 m and were mud plastered. The thick layer of burnt debris in the building covered many finds, including a rich pottery assemblage of mainly local types, but including an imported Attic Early Middle Geometric cup as well. A ceramic model shrine from the building bears a unique decoration of a crouching animal with its front paws on two grotesque human heads. A large pottery box with a lid was found in the innermost small chamber of the western wing. In the second chamber a “hippo”-type jar bore an incised inscription:
Building G of the previous city was perhaps partly reused in stratum IV, as evidenced by stratum IV floors abutting its walls on both the east and west, just below topsoil. Yet no floor of this level was preserved in the building itself. Building L, in the southeastern part of area C, replaced the destroyed building H of stratum V, its plan entirely different. It too was razed in a conflagration.
Area D. In the easternmost square of area D, a continuation of area C, building remains of at least two Iron Age IIA strata (local strata D-1 and D-2) were found close to the slope of the mound, their western ends eroded away. These remains can be related to strata VI and V in area C, and indicate that this city had no fortifications, since it is not plausible that an entire fortification system as well as parts of houses could have been completely wiped away by erosion.
Area E. An open-air sanctuary and a dwelling were identified in area E, at the northeastern corner of the mound. The sanctuary is known mainly in its final form, in stratum E-1a (general stratum IV), though it appears that it was first founded in stratum E-1b (general stratum V). Little is known of the stratum E-2 (general stratum VI) occupation except that it included red-slipped vessels.
It appears that the local open-air sanctuary (a “high place”) of strata V–IV served the ancestor cult of local families or of a clan. It had a spacious open courtyard or piazza in which floor surfaces and occupation debris reached a depth of over 1 m, representing a long period of use. Installations in this courtyard included circular clay bins, ovens, and benches. The courtyard was bounded on the north by brick walls, and on the south by two structures with a wide passage or open area between them. The western structure included a main hall flanked by two large rooms. In one of the rooms the walls were lined with mud plaster decorated with seal impressions depicting motifs of volutes, lotus flowers, and buds in a Phoenician style. In the northeastern corner of this building was a mud-brick platform underneath a smaller stone platform into which three upright stones were embedded. Although relatively small and unworked, these stones appear to have served as
Part of a dwelling including a courtyard with cooking facilities and at least three rooms to the south was exposed on the western side of area E. A large collection of pottery was found in a destruction layer just below topsoil in this spot.
Area F. Area F is a small area to the south of area E, which provided additional data on stratigraphy and town planning. Four construction phases were attributed in the area to the Iron Age IIA. The walls are parallel to those in nearby area E, suggesting a well-organized town plan with defined blocks of buildings.
Area G. Area G is located south of area C near the western slope of the mound. Parts of additional dwellings of local strata G-1 and G-2 (general strata V–IV) were excavated. The stratum G-1 houses, found close to topsoil, contained rich assemblages of pottery and other artifacts on its floors. In the earlier stratum G-2, remains of wooden foundations for floors resemble those in areas B and C. Circular installations made of unfired clay were used for food storage, as in areas D and E.
The Iron Age IIA Finds. The sizeable corpus of pottery and other artifacts retrieved in strata VI–IV has contributed much to our knowledge of the material culture of the tenth–ninth centuries in northern Israel. The pottery assemblages of all three strata are very similar, with red slip and hand burnish a common feature, although some distinctions between the strata can be made. In stratum VI, vessels with an unburnished pale red slip are also present, while painted vessels are still abundant. “Hippo”-type storage jars are common in strata V and IV, but not in stratum VI. Thin delicate bowls with burnished red slip first appear in stratum V. Crude geometric painting in red, common in the Iron Age I strata in area D, continues to appear to some extent until stratum IV. The best parallels to the strata VI–IV assemblage are to be found at Megiddo strata VB and VA–IVB, Taanach periods IIA and IIB,
Imported pottery in strata V and IV includes Phoenician bichrome; Cypriot black-on-red I(III) and white-painted vessels; as well as a few sherds of imported Greek vessels, including the above-mentioned rare Euboean Sub-Proto-Geometric pyxis from stratum V, a few sherds of Proto-Geometric vessels (mostly in stratum V), and two sherds of an Attic Early Middle Geometric cup (in stratum IV).
Strata VI–IV yielded a variety of seals and cult objects. Pyramidal, dome-shaped, and scaraboid-shaped seals and seal impressions were carved in a local style representing a variety of animals—horned animals, ostriches, crabs, and birds—while one example depicts two human figures on either side of a palm tree. A unique type of seal impression on jar handles, known so far only from Tel
Ceramic horned altars were common. In addition to the two complete examples from areas C and E mentioned above, other altar fragments were recovered. It appears that this type of altar was common in the region, with parallels at Pella. It retains traditions known from Syria at the end of the Late Bronze Age.
Many of the variegated clay figurines retrieved belong to the Canaanite/Phoenician artistic tradition. Others are typical of northern Israel, such as several examples of the “drum player” woman and female heads. One unique figurine in a crude local style depicts a naked female apparently crouching on her knees.
Radiocarbon dates from strata VI–IV indicate that the earlier two strata (VI–V) existed during the tenth century, stratum V having been destroyed during the second half of the tenth century; while stratum IV dates to the ninth century, and was destroyed no later than 830 BCE. It is tempting to relate the destruction of stratum V to the invasion of Shishak and that of stratum IV to the Aramean wars, following the end of the Omride dynasty, though an earlier date for this destruction should not be ruled out.
THE IRON AGE IIB. Following the demise of stratum IV, the lower city was abandoned and never resettled. During the Iron Age IIB (c. 830–732 BCE; stratum III), the city was reduced to half its former size and limited to the upper mound. On the summit of the upper mound (area A), three stratigraphic phases of the Iron Age IIB city were encountered (strata A-5–A-3). The latest of these terminated in a violent destruction with evidence of individuals having been slaughtered in their houses, most probably during the Assyrian assault. Two human skeletons, one of them decapitated, were found in the destruction layer.
In area B, dwellings of stratum B-4 were rebuilt and the floors raised in the Iron Age IIB. However, the northern edges of these houses were now cut by the foundation of a 9.5-m-wide offset-inset city wall built of mud bricks with no stone foundation. The wall overlay the former double-wall system of stratum IV, yet incorporated the stratum IV tower in the western part of the area. It must have been a very high wall, as its destruction resulted in a thick layer of brick debris on the slope of the mound to the north. It was probably intended to withstand the Assyrian battering rams. It collapsed following the Assyrian conquest of the city, most probably in 732 BCE.
THE IRON AGE IIC. Two graves from stratum II were found in areas A and B, each containing the remains of a single individual in a contracted position with an Assyrian ceramic bottle near the head. These are perhaps the graves of Assyrian soldiers or officials buried in the ruins of the city. A few floors and installations on top of the collapsed city wall in area B provide evidence of squatters who lived for a short time above the ruined city, soon after its destruction.
THE EARLY ISLAMIC TO MEDIEVAL PERIODS. The site was completely abandoned until the eighth century CE when a small settlement, perhaps a village, was built on the summit of the mound. It was occupied until the twelfth century. What seem to be the edges of this settlement were revealed in area A and B. Remains include a few floors, very poor architectural remains, and eroded refuse layers, perhaps evidence of garbage dumps outside the settlement. These layers reached up to 1 m deep in several places. In addition, a number of Islamic period graves were found in areas B and E. These lacked finds and their date remains obscure.
The first six seasons of excavations at Tel
Strata VI–IV of the Iron Age IIA represent the development of the city during the tenth and ninth centuries BCE, the time of the Israelite United Monarchy and of the Omride dynasty. The last two Iron Age IIA cities (strata V–IV) were prosperous, maintaining trade relations with Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Greece. The wide variety of cult objects, seals, and ivory artifacts indicate that Canaanite/Phoenician and northern Syrian traditions were retained by the local population. Much of this population could have been descendents of the previous Iron Age I Canaanite inhabitants, though now the city was part of the Israelite geopolitical entity.
During the late ninth and eighth centuries BCE (stratum III), the city was restricted to an area of 12 a. on the upper mound and surrounded by an immense fortification wall. The Assyrian conquest of 732 BCE is dramatically documented by evidence of total destruction and slaughter. Two graves with Assyrian pottery, as well as scant occupational remains (stratum II), attest to a short period of activity after the Assyrian conquest, but the site was soon abandoned. The conflagration which destroyed parts of stratum V may be attributed to the conquest by Shishak, while the violent end of stratum IV and the abandonment of the lower city may be related to one of the events in the ninth century BCE. The site would not be resettled until the Early Islamic and medieval periods, when a small village existed on the summit of the upper mound.
In the early 1920s, P. Abel identified the site with