This summer was the 21st season of the Hazor archaeological excavation. It was conducted from June 20 to July 30, 2010, under the able leadership of the co-directors: Professor Amnon Ben-Tor and Dr. Sharon Zuckerman. Most of our efforts for this season were concentrated in Area M on the northern slopes of the Upper City overlooking the Lower City. The co-area supervisors in charge of this area were Sharon Zuckerman and Shlomit Becher.
This was my eighth season excavating at Hazor and I can honestly say it was the most pleasant, productive, and interesting season I have experienced at Hazor. Three factors were responsible: the people, the finds, and the potential for next year.
With a total of 36 people participating in either one of the three-week sessions or for the full six weeks of excavations, we had the smallest group of volunteers in the history of the dig, yet it was one of the most productive seasons. The volunteers were from ten different countries (Israel, the United States, Germany, Russia, Canada, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and France).
There was a very positive atmosphere on the dig this year. Few complaints were heard among the diggers and there were few, if any, attitude problems. When people saw something that needed to be done, they did it without being asked. If they were asked to do something, they did it willingly and with a smile. It was a pleasure to go to work every day. Our team seemed to jell and everybody worked well together. Much of this can be attributed to the able day-to-day leadership of Shlomit, who was fun to work with and for.
This summer, like last year, our accommodations were at the holiday village of Kibbutz Kfar Ha’Nassi. We were the only group in the village for the entire six weeks so it created a nice community atmosphere. Kfar Ha’Nassi had a pleasant and quiet atmosphere and the kibbutzniks were very friendly. The meals at the village were generally very good and there was plenty of food.
Weekends were “free.” The sane people did “nothing,” or at least stayed at the kibbutz, read a book, soaked up the rays at the pool, did laundry, or just chilled out. One weekend I did nothing! Greg from Oregon, who worked with me on the Temple Mount Sifting Project in Jerusalem several years ago, wanted to see the sites in Galilee in order to take pictures. On four weekends we rented a car so we could visit parks and excavations. Hussein, the gatekeeper at Hazor, gave us a note requesting complimentary entrance to each national park and nature reserve. The note worked at every site, and we were each able to save nearly $100 on entrance fees.
By the second weekend of travel, we had picked up a third person for our car. Karen, a grad student at Yale, had her priorities right. She figured she could lounge around the pool at home, but could not see: the Elah Valley, Azekah, Adullam Overview, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Tel el-Safi (Gath), Neot Kedumim, Aphek/Antipatris, Caesarea by the Sea, Hulah Nature Reserve, Kibbutz Ayelet zoo, Kadesh of Naphtali, the church and synagogue at Ba’aram, Gush Halav, Domus Galilea, Chorizim, Almagor Overview, Tel el-Araj, Franciscan Capernaum, Greek Orthodox Capernaum, Church of the Primacy, Cove of the Sower/Parables, Gadot Overview, Katzrin Museum, Katzrin Talmudic Village, Gamla, Tel el-Zaki, Rogan Heri, the Roman Road, Syrian officer’s pool, Kursi, Avanova cosmetic factory, Umm el-Kanatir, Hippus, Horns of Hattin, Nazareth, Megiddo, Kiryat Shomnah – Aroma coffee!, Metulla, Abel Beth Maacha, Tel Dan, Banyas Waterfalls, Banyas/Caesarea Philippi, Nimrod’s Castle, Mount Hermon, Birket Ram, Har Ben Tal, Gush Halav, Mount Meron, Misgav Am, Nof Ginossar, Hammat Tiberias, Beth Shean, Beth Alpha Synagogue, Mount Gilboa, Jezreel, Ein Dor overview, and Mount Tabor, in North Carolina. We were generally able to find two other people to join us in the car and could then split the cost of the car rental and gas.
One important discovery this season made the international press: two fragments of a Middle Bronze legal tablet written in Akkadian and contemporary with, and similar to, the famous Hammurabi’s law code.
Robert Cargill asked the question on his blog: “Where was this in 2006 when I was digging there? lol.” The answer is quite simple: “Right under your feet where you were sitting during tea break at 7 AM every morning!” This discovery by the eagle-eyed conservator at Hazor, Orna Cohen, was made on the surface and not in the actual stratified excavation.
Professor Wayne Horowitz of the Hebrew University gave us a lecture at the end of the season with a preliminary translation and interpretation of the fragment. He requested that we not publish this information because it is only a preliminary reading and subject to change based on further study. I will honor his request. I asked him in the Q&A session that followed the lecture: “When and where will the tablet be published?” He responded that the tablet would be published as quickly and as responsibly as possible. I am fully confident that Professor Horowitz and his team will accomplish their stated goal and we will see an accurate and well-researched article soon in an appropriate journal. The three words that made the press were “slave,” “master,” and “tooth.” We await Dr. Horowitz’ article for an explanation of how these words fit together and the significance of the text.
Another important discovery that will probably not make the international press is an Iron Age basalt workshop that was found in Area M. It was the first time in the archaeology of the Middle East that such a discovery was made. On the first day of the excavation, we had a rock chain [handing rocks out of the area from one person to another] to remove the rocks from an 8th century BC wall in the southwest corner of Area M. I was in the chain and looking at all the rocks as they were being removed. I noticed an unusual amount of basalt stones in the chain. One particular stone caught my eye: an unfinished tripod mortar. I put it aside and showed it to Dr. Zuckerman later; it was tagged as a special find. Other unfinished or broken basalt bowls were saved as well. I thought to myself: “This must be a basalt workshop.” By the end of the first session, based on other finds discovered by Petra from Germany, the consensus was that this area had been a basalt workshop.
In the weeks that followed, I sifted much of the material from the floor of this workshop, saving the basalt chips, pottery, and organic matter. I also found an iron chisel. The excavation’s basalt expert, Jenny, will have plenty of material to study and analyze in order to understand the process of making basalt objects. Basalt is one of the hardest stones, which makes it difficult to work. It will be interesting to see whether the lab results show that the iron chisel had been tempered and made into steel. If so, that would go a long way in explaining how basalt was worked. Moreover, geological tests can be done to determine the basalt’s source. There is an extinct volcano to the west of Hazor, several ancient lava flows to the south, and, of course, the ever-present Golan Heights to the east.
During the sifting, I saved everything that was not stone or dirt. Based on what was found in the sifting, I can tell you what the workers in the workshop liked to eat: pickled sardines and olives - and they washed it down with some good wine! Also, a silver earring was found in the sifting. I’m not going to try and explain how the earring got on the workshop floor!
Another discovery, which was made at the end of last season, but covered up for lack of time, was excavated this year. It was two Iron Age grain silos with carbonized grain in them. My job was to sift through all the grain sent to me by those who excavated the silos. I was to collect as many bags of carbonized grain as possible for the botanists at the Hebrew University. They will be able to identify what kind of grain it is – wheat or barley, or both. Moreover, some of the seeds will be sent to labs for carbon dating.
For a brief period of time, I had my own area to actually dig. I prefer to go a little bit slower than most people, because one tends to find more things that way. Unfortunately, my pick found a decorated ivory spoon and broke part of it. I was able to find most of the broken pieces, and Orna Cohen was able to glue them back together. Several similar objects had been found in both the Yadin excavations as well as the renewed excavations. Professor Yadin described this type of object as an incense ladle that was probably used for some kind of offering during a cultic ritual (see Yadin’s Hazor - The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible, page 179).
One of the projects carried out by Orna Cohen and the Druze workers this summer was the reconstruction of part of the casemate wall near the Solomonic Gate. The Druze see themselves as the descendents of the Phoenicians and Hiram’s, king of Tyre, stone masons. They reconstructed the walls using the same techniques as Solomon’s workers: stone upon stone, and without the use of cement.
One of my responsibilities at the excavation was to oversee the dump. For the second year we were refilling Area A5. I would watch very carefully as the diggers dumped the dirt from their wheelbarrows to see whether they were discarding something of importance. Some of the small finds that I caught before they were forever buried in the dump was a bead, and several important shells.
The Potential for Next Year
By the end of the 2009 season, we had removed most of the eighth-century walls and strata. At the beginning of this season, we spent the first week finishing that job. The next level of occupation was the ninth-century. I thought it would take a season to excavate the remains from that period. We blew through it in a couple of weeks. Area M is outside the Solomonic city so there were no tenth-century domestic dwellings outside the city. Thus we began to penetrate down to the Late Bronze Age palace. By the end of the season, we were on top of the palace and some monumental stones were beginning to appear.
It is in Area M that Dr. Sharon Zuckerman has suggested that the administrative palace of Hazor was and the Canaanite archive of the Late Bronze level would be located (2006: 28-37). When the archive(s) are found at Hazor, it/they will be a major contribution to Biblical studies and go a long way to resolve some of the thorny issues in Biblical Archaeology.
We should be on the floor of the palace next season so I know I will have a lot of sifting to do. Please join us next season as we seek to explore the LB Palace at Hazor. Who knows what is on the floors in some of the rooms!
For more on the Hazor Excavations, please visit their website here: http://unixware.mscc.huji.ac.il/~hatsor/hazor.html
Highlight of the Trip
The highlight of the trip came at the very end. After the dig was over, I went to Jerusalem for the weekend and stayed with my friend Goby Barkay. He had tickets for the dedication ceremony for the reopening of the archaeological wing of the Israel Museum. While we were viewing the new display of the material that had been excavated at Ketef Hinnom in 1979, we were joined by Leora from Tel Aviv. We had a brief reunion: the director of the excavation, Goby Barkay; the registrar/recorder, Leora; and the area supervisor, me, were all together again. Unfortunately, no one had brought a camera. It was exactly thirty-one years ago to the day that Repository 25 was excavated and now it was on permanent display for the first time.
Read the story about Gordon's discovery of the Silver Scrolls at Ketef Hinnom on his website here: http://www.lifeandland.org/2009/02/remember-archaeology-is-not-a-treasure-hunt/
2006 Where is the Hazor Archive Buried? Biblical Archaeology Review 32/2: 28-37.
ABR Website Cunieform Tablet from the Middle Bronze Age Found at Hazor. http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/08/02/Cunieform-Tablet-from-the-Middle-Bronze-Age-Found-at-Hazor.aspx