Tel Hazor is one of the largest, most important biblical sites in the Canaanite and Israelite periods. The bible gave it the title: "the head of all those kingdoms".
Joshua 11:10: "And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms."
Tel Hazor is one of the largest, most important biblical sites in the Canaanite and Israelite periods. The bible gave it the title: "the head of all those kingdoms". Indeed, the travel to the excavated site is an exciting experience, bringing you back 3-4 thousands years to the times this might city was the gateway between Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Tel Hazor is located on the east of the northern part of Israel, the upper Galilee. Its prime location on the main ancient road through Syria to Babylon, made it an important city. This road bypassed the impossible way through the desert, and was an important link between the two strong empires of the ancient world: Egypt on the south, and Mesopotamia (Babylon, Assyria, Persia) on the north.
You can reach the site, a national park, by driving north from Rosh-Pina (road 90). The museum that hosts most of the archaeological findings is located in another location: in the nearby Kibbutz, Ayyelet Ha-shachar, 0.5KM north to the park's entrance. Additional findings are displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
An aerial map of Tel Hazor is shown below (indicating the major points of interest). You can point on the purple points to navigate to the selected point. This view is from the south. In the center is the upper city, and the section above it is the lower city across the Hazor valley which crosses the cities. The old highway bypasses the Tel from the south, while a new highway is built that bypasses the Tel from the west and north.
Tel Hazor is a tale of two cities:
Upper city - 40M above the south side of the valley. The size of the upper city is 100 Dunam (10 Hectares), and is protected by massive walls. This is the major part of the city, with the palaces and temples. Only this section is opened to the public, but there is a great view down to the lower city.
Lower city - the larger city is located on the north side of valley Hazor. Its size is huge: 700 Dunam (70 Hectares). It is protected by a large rampart.
32-22 C BC
Early settlement in the upper city (Early Bronze period)
18TH C BC
The city was established in both upper & lower cities; referenced in Egyptian texts
|18Th C BC||mentioned in texts in Mari (Euphrates river, Mesopotamia)|
15TH C BC
Mentioned in the Amarna letters , a 14th century BC Egyptian archive of clay tablets: a correspondence between Hazor's king and the pharaoh.
Mentioned in several other Egyptian military campaigns in 15-14C BC.
|end 13thC BC||
City was destroyed, as found
After then the upper city was rebuilt, but the lower city was not settled again after the 13th C BC.
|11xx BC||A battle (Judges 4) led by Sisera, Jabin's general, against Judge Deborah and Barak Ben Avinoam, is won by the Israelites near Mount Tabor and Jezreel Valley.|
Mei-Merom battle (Joshua 11: 13); Canaanite coalition led by Hazor's King Jabin is defeated to Israelites; Hazor is burnt (as per the Bible, apparently verified in excavations)
|12-10CBC||Upper city is resettled by Israelites.|
|968-928 BC||New gate and walls built by the Israelites (King Solomon) - written in the bible, verified in excavations. Only the upper city was resettled.|
King Ahab expands the city, digs the water system, adds citadel, storehouses and public buildings.
Syria's Ben-Hadad intrusion along the North Jordan valley (1 Kings 15 20); damages to Hazor
|841BC||Intrusion of Shalmaneser III marks first Assyrian expedition; damages to Hazor|
|815-810BC||Intrusion of Syria's Hazael (2 Kings 8:12, 10:32-33, 12:18-19, 13:3+7; Amos 1:3); Hazor damaged.|
|734-732BC||Intrusion Tiglath-Pileser III (Kings II 15: 29; verified by excavations). Hazor is totally destroyed|
|7C-2C BC||small settlement on western citadel; after then the Tel is abandoned|
|Modern times||Archaeological Excavations (1875,1928, 1955-8, 1968-9, 1990+)|
The following photo shows the reconstructed gate from King Solomon's period, the 10th C BC. The gate is symmetric on both sides of the entrance, and is composed of two towers, three rooms within each tower, and two bastions projecting on both side. The road turns around towards the right side (North).
Click on the photos to view in higher resolution...
This is the view of the rooms of the gate towers on both sides of the entrance road. The city is located behind the gate, in the background. This style is similar to the gates in Megiddo and Gezer, and proves the Biblical text that Solomon built these three major cities (as per 1 Kings 9).
The following photo shows the eastern walls from King Solomon's period (10th C BC) on the south side of the gate. It is a double wall "casemate" type, which extends north and south to the gate, and actually around the whole walled city.
An earlier layer, from the Late Bronze I age (Canaanite period, 15-14TH C BC), is seen on the left of the wall, at a 20 degrees orientation difference than the later layer. In this layer was a Canaanite temple, with a staircase that led to the sacred area.
Another view (from the south side) of the King Solomon walls and gate.
A royal palace from the Canaanite period - Late Bronze Age II (14-13TH C BC) is located west to the gate. It is still excavated, and a roof was built over the structure to protect it. In front of the structure is a large courtyard with a platform.
The palace was built with mud bricks, lined with huge black basalt sliced stones as a base, as can be seen in the photo below. Around the main throne room were rooms on three sides. The excavators found several clay tablets, stone and bronze statues.
A huge system to supply fresh water is located in the south west side of the upper city. This system was built in the 9th C BC, during the time of King Ahab. It was designed after similar inner-city water systems, such as in Tel Megiddo, Gezer, Lachish, and possibly the "conduit" ("gutter") the King David captured in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:8).
The builders dug into the ground, going through earlier Iron age levels, and supporting the dig with large walls. They dug down 46M deep in a square vertical shaft - until reaching bedrock.
There are a total of 123 wide steps that enabled access to the water at the bottom. The steps were covered with rough chalky plaster. A drain is located at the left side to prevent slippage, and to drain the water.
The site was excavated in 1968, and since the whole cavity was filled with debris, this required great efforts and funding. A modern steel structure was built for the modern visitors. The way down is easy, but climbing up is a challenge - although worth the experience.
At the edge of the shaft is a tunnel that was cut into the rock, and leads to the water pool. This water was precious at a time of siege, and enabled the defenders to continue living without access to the water wells in the valley between the upper and lower cities.
In the western side of the upper city are the ruins of an Israelite Citadel from the 9th C BC, destroyed in 734-732BC by the Assyrians. A monumental gate protected the citadel.
It was built over several layers of previous periods: A 11th C BC high-place is seen on the foreground. On the right are the remains of the double wall "casemate" type from Solomon's city, the western section of the gate and walls seen above.
The following is a view of the western side of the upper city. Notice the height difference of 40M above the ground, making the city a defendable site. The highway bypasses the Tel from the south, while a new highway is constructed to bypass on the west side. In the background is Mount Canaan, and the sea of Galilee is hidden beyond the left horizon.
Another view of the Citadel - looking towards the south. The 9th C walls are seen in the center, with the fine cut brighter stones. Solomon's double wall is seen on the right side.
The excavations of the North walls, overlooking the lower city, reveal a mix of 3 periods. Solomon's wall (10th C) is seen on the left side, and was the north-east corner of the fortifications. The later period structures (9th C) are located at the center and right side, and beneath it is a Canaanite period staircase (14-13C) that connected the lower and upper cities. A paved area contains a podium.
In the north-west area the excavators rearranged two facilities that were originally located in another place - the Canaanite palace. They were removed and reconstructed in order to reach lower levels.
A reconstructed oil press, seen below, was found in a 8th C BC four-roomed house above the palace. The stone weight on the edge of the lever pushed the stone on the basket and squeezed the olives, extracting the precious olive oil unto the grooves of the base stone.
In the photo below - a reconstructed 8C BC public store house with pillars. It was also transferred in order to dig under the structure into the Canaanite palace.
The lower city is a huge area (700 Dunam, 70 Hectares) located north to the upper city, across the Hazor valley. The following photo is a mosaic of 3 images as seen from the west citadel area (you can see each one of them in detail- left-west to right-east -: A, B, C ).
The lower city is surrounded by a rampart, and a narrow strip extending to the east. The central section is detailed below. In the lower city the following were unearthed in various areas: a Canaanite temple (13-14C BC) with statues; remains of structures, tombs and pits (18-13 C BC); Canaanite temples (18-13 C BC); four gates of the lower city found on top of each other (18-13 C BC); five gates (18-13C BC). Thus, the lower city functioned from the 18th to the 13th C BC.
This text talks
about the conquest of Hazor by Joshua, and described Hazor as "the head of all
"And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms. And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire. But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only; that did Joshua burn
"And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles"...."Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite".
King Solomon builds Hazor:
"And this is the
reason of the levy which king Solomon raised; for to build the house of the
LORD, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and
Megiddo, and Gezer".
The Assyrian Tiglat Pileser destroys Hazor:
"In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria".
King David captures the "conduit" (gutter) in Jerusalem, considered to be a water system similar to the one in Hazor.
"And David said
on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites,
and the lame and the blind that are hated of David's soul, he shall be chief
Etymology (behind the name):