Why did we decide to visit Tel Hazor National Park?
Recently my wife finished reading: “1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History)” by Eric H. Cline. This book talks about Late Bronze Age Collapse. Many Kingdoms fell like dominoes over the course of just a few decades. No more Minoans, Mycenaeans, Trojans, Hittites, or Babylonians. The thriving economy and cultures of the late second millennium B.C., which had stretched from Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia, suddenly ceased to exist.
Over the last few decades, archaeologists have built up a steady compilation of data on the cities of the Late Bronze Age. Using this data the author analyzes different theories to what caused this collapse.
There are many possible reasons. Starting from “Sea Peoples” mentioned in the Egyptian scroll, continuing with natural disasters like earthquakes and ending with regional climate change, that was responsible for destroying cereal crops. The reason could be one of these, none of this or a combination of them. There is still no one accepted theory. And we will return to this question later on in this post.
In his book, Eric H. Cline mentions different Late Bronze Age cities, and one of them is Tel Hatzor. Tel Hazor National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and we’ve never visited it. Thus, one Saturday we’ve decided to check it out.
Tel Hazor National Park (official site) is located next to Kibbutz Ayelet HaShahar, between Rosh Pina and Metula.
Map of the area:
When we arrived it turned out that not only we never visited this site before, but also many others. It is not a popular site and we were the only visitors that came before 10 am. There was a volunteer guide on the site and we received private 90 min tour (in Hebrew). It was very interesting and if you have such option, I’d definitely recommend.
The Largest Tel in Israel
This is what you see on the first viewpoint:
Doesn’t look like much. But, it’s actually the lower city. Here is another photo with the sign:
In order to show some perspective let’s make a small jump forward in time. After visiting Tel Hazor National Park we went to Hazor antiquities museum (at the entrance to Kibbutz Ayelet HaShahar). Here is a map of Hazor that was shown at the Museum:
As you can see the city is divided into two parts: the Acropolis (upper city on the left), covering 120 dunams (30 acres), and the lower city (on the right), covering about 700 dunams. It’s estimated that about 1,000 people lived in Acropolis and another 20,000 people in the lower city. For a city in around 1750 BCE, it was a very big one. It’s also the largest Israeli Tel (mound).
So, why almost all lower city covered? That’s a question of money and funding. But, keep it mind that it’s an active archaeological site. Every summer students from Israel and abroad dig there as part of their studies. And for example, in 2013 they found Sphinx of an ancient Egyptian king.
Location Location Location
Why was Hazor a big city? The location is one of the main reasons. Let’s look at the following map (displayed in Hazor antiquities museum):
In the map above you can see the red caravan route. It’s part of the Via Maris (Latin: “way of the sea”). It’s an ancient trade route, dating from the early Bronze Age, linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The fact that Hazor was on Via Maris allowed it not only earn money from facilities for traders but also have extensive trade connections with its neighbors. Also, in the image above you can see a list of different strata. In Hazor, 21 different layers were found. Meaning that this location remained important for people over many years and it was reused/rebuild many times.
Here is another photo from Hazor antiquities museum showing a map with origins of different artifacts that were found in Hazor:
Today we are talking about globalization, but it seems that this term could be also relevant at 2 BCE.
After this introduction let’s step into the:
The gate that you can see above called Solomonic Gate (though our guide said there is a very far fetch relation to King Solomon). But what’s interesting is that it’s a six-chambered gate (as you enter there are three chambers on each side). Similar gates were found Megiddo and Gezer. One explanation for this is that these gates were all built by the same government.
Hazor has three water systems. Two of them were built by the Canaanites and one by the Israelites. Here you can see a drainage leading to one of them (Canaanite). Unfortunately, this water system is closed to the public.
There are several remains of Canaanite Temples, and here is one of them:
Actually, it’s not very clear what was the purpose of this building. Some say that it was a temple and some say it was a palace. For example, the worship platform in front of the entrance (on the left side of the photo) supports the theory that it was a temple. But, there were also evidence found supporting it was a palace. As I understood, on other sites archaeological evidence was found supporting both theories together. Meaning that Canaanites, at specific period used the palace as the temple, i.e. one building served for two purposes.
At the entrance, you can see two big black tree stumps. At that time, Canaanite used Cedrus Libani. The top of this building was made of wood, thus it didn’t survive. By the way, the roof that you can see now is a modern one and it was put for preservation purposes. Since harsh summer sun can cause a lot of damage.
According to the Book of Joshua (11:1-5, 11:10-13), Hazor was the seat of Jabin, a powerful Canaanite king that led a Canaanite confederation against Joshua, but was defeated by Joshua, who burnt Hazor to the ground.
Despite what’s written in the Book of Joshua, some scientist believe that it’s not what really happened. The fire did occur, but it wasn’t caused by Joshua. The guide told us that they think there was a revolt. The people from the lower city rebelled and burned the king’s palace and other governmental buildings. But after they removed the king and other officials, none of them had the knowledge how to manage the city of such size. This lead to the collapse of the city. And when Joshua arrived, he saw burned remains of the city.
Here is a closeup of the walls:
You can see that in the lower part all stones are cracked. This is the result of a fire. But for the fire to damage stone in such way it has to be at very high temperature. Since this building used as a temple, there were big vases with oil. That oil caused the temperature to rise and cause such damage.
Hazor’s impressive water system, apparently built during King Ahab’s reign, provided the inhabitants with a steady water supply within the city walls in case of siege by means of a 45-m-deep shaft to the water table.
Source: official site
The spiral metal stairs are new ones, and the straight ones (passing on the circumference of the shaft) are the original ones.
In the western part of Hazor, you can find a citadel, measuring 25 x 21 m, with two-meter-thick walls. Yigael Yadin (an Israeli archeologist, politician, and the second Chief of Staff of the IDF) attributed this citadel to Ahab as well:
You might think that this is a small mountain. But excavation showed this, or more precisely under this, was the wall defending the lower city:
The road leading to Tel Hazor National Park:
And here we’re at the top of the Israelite guarding tower.
King of Spain partially funded digging at Tel Hazor National Park. And when Israeli archaeologist went to Spain (as part of knowledge exchange), he saw that in Spain there are similar statues on archaeological sites. He asked, what’s the purpose of these statues. The answer was very simple. When people drive nearby and see it, they come in and ask what’s here. Thus, when he returned to Israel, they put this metal Israelite guard (but it’s not visible from the main road). Within a week it was stolen (by metal thieves). The police were able to find the thieves and restore the statue.
I mentioned there were three water system. So far we saw the drainage of one and the shaft of another. Those two systems were small and could supply with water only to the Acropolis. And this is the biggest water system:
Yes, it was simply a big pool. It consisted of rainwater and diverted small springs. We know that today there is no winter pool here. And it could be due to several reasons: earthquakes (that moved the land) or maybe pool’s bottom was covered with special layer and over time it eroded.
Israelite four-room House
Remains of four room house in Tel Hazor National Park:
This house was originally located on the top of template/palace and moved here for preservation. It’s a typical Israelite four-room (or four spaces) house. I’ve marked the four spaces with yellow rectangles. The house included a small yard (number 2) and three spaces around it. The people lived on the second floor and house tasks were made in the yard.
This is the reconstructed oil press that was originally found in the yard:
This is the end of Tel Hazor National Park, but it’s not the end of the trip. Hazor antiquities museum (at the entrance to Kibbutz Ayelet HaShahar) is only several minutes of drive from there.
Hazor antiquities museum
When we arrived at the museum, the guide was the wife of the volunteer from Tel Hazor National Park. But this time the tour was much shorter during which she showed us the major findings.The museum is quite small and when something really interesting found it is passed to the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem. But, if you’re already there, then it’s worth visiting.
Various artifacts from Canaanite temples:
It’s a cone with carving all around it and when you roll it on clay (or some other material) you receive repeating drawing. You can see the stamps with plates showing the resulted drawings.
Beer in Ancient Times
It’s an Israelite beer jug (with strainer). Wait, what? I known they drank wine, but beer is something new for me. I’ve checked the net and it seems quite a popular topic. Most resources I’ve found rely on an article by Dr. Michael Homan in “Biblical Archaeology Review”. Here is one those resources:
Homan points out that ancients brewed beer first by baking a barley cake and soaking it in water, which yielded a sweet liquid (called a wort). To this yeast was added, since barley does not readily ferment on its own. Soon this bubbling, bready, yeasty mix was ready to drink. It spoiled rapidly, so had to be made regularly for immediate use.
This beer had no hops or carbonation, and so produced no “head” of foam. It would be flavored with things like honey or fruit sugars. And of course, it was drunk from a container with a built in strainer and spout, i.e. the curious artifact noted above.
One more thing worth mentioning, beer prepared in such way had lower alcohol level, around 2%, while today most common beers have 4-5% alcohol.
To sum up, I enjoyed our visit to Tel Hazor National Park and the Hazor antiquities museum. I guess, the main reason I enjoyed were the two private guides.
That’s all for today, cheers and see you in future travels!