Photo Credit: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Image from the 30th season of excavations at Tel Hatzor

The 30th season of excavations at Tel Hatzor is being completed on the northern slopes of the upper city—which face the lower city. The work of exposing the ancient city’s administrative palace is also underway, after parts of the palace have already been exposed in previous seasons.

Tel Hatzor

This year saw the excavation of a magnificent staircase that led from the spacious paved courtyard to the inside of the palace. It is an unparalleled staircase in the ancient East, built some 3,500 years ago. It is 13.5 feet wide and consists of basalt slabs shaped to be used as stairs.

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Seven steps have been exposed to date, but the whole staircase has not yet been completely unearthed, as it continues its climb westward. This staircase probably led to the main entrance to the palace itself.

Image from the 30th season of excavations at Tel Hatzor / The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The walls of the palace were preserved to a height of more than 6 feet, after the palace was presumably destroyed by the great fire in which the entire Canaanite Hatzor was destroyed, as described in Joshua 11:10-13:

“Then Joshua turned back and captured Hatzor, striking its king dead by his sword; for in times past Hatzor had been the leader of all those kingdoms. They put everyone there to death by the sword, completely destroying them; there was nothing left that breathed; and he burned Hatzor to the ground. Joshua captured all the cities of those kings and the kings themselves as well; he defeated them with his sword and completely destroyed them, as Moses the servant of God had ordered. But as for the cities built on their tels, Israel burned none of them except Hatzor; Joshua did burn that one.”

The first settlement on the upper tell of Hatzor is dated to the Early Bronze Age (third millennium BCE). It was nicknamed “the first city” by Yigael Yadin of Masada fame, but little is known about this period, compared with remains from the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age at the tell. During the Egyptian Second Intermediate Period and early New Kingdoms (18th to 13th century BCE), Canaan was an Egyptian vassal state. In Egyptian reports, Hatzor is described as an important city in Canaan, and it is also mentioned in the Execration texts that pre-date the 14th Century BCE Amarna letters, and in 18th century BCE documents found in Mari on the Euphrates River.

Image from the 30th season of excavations at Tel Hatzor / The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The exposed parts of the palace yielded finds of the utmost importance, such as Egyptian scarabs, about 40 huge storage vessels that testify to large-scale storage capacity, many basalt vessels, raw materials related to the palace workshops, and four royal inscriptions (three in Egyptian hieroglyphs and one in Akkadian).

Two Egyptian statues were discovered in the same location in recent years. One is a sphinx fragment of the Egyptian king Micronus (who ruled Egypt around 2500 BCE) – the largest Egyptian royal statue ever discovered in the Levant; the second is a fragment of a statue of an Egyptian official named Nab-Fu, who operated in Egypt during the Middle Kingdom in the 18th and 19th centuries BCE, a period when Hatzor had not yet existed. This is the largest private Egyptian sculpture from the second millennium BCE ever discovered in the Levant.

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