Hazor is one of the largest and most important cities in ancient Israel. It is identified with Tell el-Qedah, known today as “Tel Hazor”. The site is located in the southern Hula Valley, west of Kibbutz Ayelet HaShahar. Hazor sits at a strategic crossroads that dominates the road leading from Egypt to Mesopotamia. From the 17th century BCE, Hazor was a political-economic center in the land of Canaan, and in the Late Bronze Age, Hazor was the largest of the royal cities in the country. In the book of Joshua, it is written that Canaanite Hazor was conquered by the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua, and its size and power are echoed in its description as “the head of all these kingdoms” (chapter 13:11). The archaeological showed that in the 10th-9th centuries BCE, Hazor was rebuilt and became a central city in the northern kingdom of Israel. The city was razed by Tiglath Pileser III in 734 BCE. After this destruction, a few remains of a settlement from the Persian period and then the Mamluk period were found on the site. Many impressive findings were uncovered on the site, including monumental royal palaces, temples, a complex of tombstones, and cuneiform tablets. Tel Hazor is one of the largest mounds in Israel and was declared a world heritage site in 2005.

The history of the excavation
Tell el-Qedah was excavated for the first time in 1928 by the British professor John Gerstang who proposed the identification of the site with the biblical Hazor. Between the years 1955-1958, the site was excavated by Prof. Yigal Yadin on behalf of the Hebrew University. Since 1990 Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor has been excavating in Hazor on behalf of the Hebrew University and the Complutense University of Madrid, under the auspices of the Israel Exploration Society. Since 1995, the Salz Foundation in New York participates in the dig and therefore it is called “The Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigal Yadin”. Between the years 2006-2014, the late Dr. Sharon Zuckerman from the Hebrew University joined the excavations, and in 2015, Dr. Shlomit Bacher was added.

History of Canaanite Hazor
The city of Hazor was founded at the end of the 3rd millennium BCE and became a central Canaanite city in the transition between the Middle Bronze Age 2A and 2B (17th century BCE). The city reached its peak with the establishment of the lower city, in addition to the Acropolis, and its area spread over about 840 dunams divided between the upper city (about 140 dunams) and the lower city. The researchers support hypotheses on the strategic importance of Hazor in the Bronze Age by comparing its size to other mounds of the time and following the biblical references: “And Joshua sat at the hill and captured Hazor, and the queen, he struck with the sword: for Hazor was before her, see all these kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10), “And Yahweh was pleased, by the hand of Yabin, the king of Canaan, who reigned, in the court” (Judges 4:2). Hazor is also mentioned in important non-biblical archives such as the pharaonic “Writings of the Marat” from the 19th century BCE. Hazor is mentioned in the archives of the kingdom of Mari and it appears frequently in the Al-Amarna archive as, among other things, sending gifts from the king of Egypt to the king of Hazor (who is the only city in Canaan mentioned as “king” both in biblical sources and outside of them).

Archaeological remains of Canaanite Hazor
In the excavations, impressive complexes from the Middle Bronze Age were found, among them a complex of gravestones (indicating worship under the dome of the sky), a large royal palace, a temple, and a complex of warehouses for agricultural produce. The tomb complex and some of the warehouses fell out of use in the Late Bronze Age. Yadin hypothesized that the city of Hazor was destroyed at the end of the Middle Bronze Age (around 1500 BCE) and was rebuilt in the Late Bronze Age, a hypothesis opposed by Ben-Tor, who argued for a quiet transition while restructuring the upper city without destruction. Beyond the impressive architectural findings, a large amount of figurines, statues (including Egyptian statues), weapons, and many cuneiform tablets (which make up about a fifth of the cuneiform tablets found in the country). Most of the tablets are administrative and financial documents from the Canaanite period and the researchers hope that in the next excavation seasons the archive of the ancient kings of Hazor will be found.

Israelite Hazor
The time of the destruction of Canaanite Hazor is disputed among scholars. Yadin determined the time of its conquest to 1250 BCE, the beginning of the Israeli settlement corresponding to the conquests of Joshua, while Prof. Yohanan Aharoni delays the occupation to the time of the settlement of the tribes according to the Book of Judges, about a century later. After the Israeli occupation, the lower Canaanite city was abandoned and no longer inhabited. According to Ben-Tor, the massive burnt layer (dated to the end of the Late Bronze Age) confirms the scripture “Only all the cities, standing on the hill, did not burn, Israel: I burned Hazor alone, Joshua burned” (Joshua 11:13). The construction of Hazor as a large Israeli city was attributed by Yadin to King Solomon in the 10th century BCE, alongside the cities of Gezer and Megiddo which bear similar architectural characteristics. The Ben-Tor excavations might confirm Yadin’s conclusions. This city included residential buildings, warehouses, fortifications and a gate similar to the gates at Megiddo and Gezer. According to Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, a member of the Hazor excavation expedition, there are few findings from the Iron Age 1 (12th-11th centuries BCE) at the site and they mainly include dozens of pits that were excavated in the ruins of the Canaanite city. The excavations also revealed a large water plant intended to supply water during a siege and its construction was attributed to King Ahab of Israel.

Biblical Hiking map


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