The 27th season of the ‘Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin’ (License No. G-22/2016) took place during the months of June–July 2016. The excavations are sponsored by the Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and by the Israel Exploration Society. The 2016 expedition benefited from the financial assistance of the Selz Foundation (New York), the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund (Israel), the Stevan B. Dana Archaeology Fund and individual donors. The excavations were directed by A. Ben-Tor and S. Bechar (Area M3 supervisor), who was assisted by B. Lhoyer (Area M3 assistant supervisor). Additional assistance was provided by N. Terchov (registration), I. Strand (surveying and drafting), M. Cimadevilla (field photography), I. Strand and O. Cohen (restoration), Y. Sfez (wet sieving and picking) and S. Yadid and S. Engelman (administration). The expedition numbered some 50 participants from Canada, South Africa, the U.S., Europe, Australia and Israel. The excavations are conducted in the Tel Hazor National Park with the full cooperation of the National Parks Authority. The expedition was housed at Kibbutz Gonen.
The main area of excavation during this season was Area M3, which is the westward extension of excavations conducted in previous seasons (Fig. 1). Two Iron Age levels and a one Late Bronze Age level were exposed.
Late Bronze Age
The Late Bronze Age remains—primarily the destruction level of the administrative palace—comprised the main level excavated this season: walls belonging to three rooms in the palace. Several of the rooms’ walls connect to walls previously exposed in Area M2, to the west. The destruction level debris in these rooms rose above the wall tops, to a height of over 1.5 m.
The Southwestern Room (Fig. 2). All four walls of this room were exposed, but its entrance has not been identified, suggesting that the room was subterranean. A large limestone slab (length approx. 1 m, thickness 0.8 m, height over 0.8 m), was partially exposed in the northwestern corner of the room; the function of this stone is not clear. The western wall, the outer faces of the limestone slab and part of the northern wall were all covered with a thick layer of plaster made of light mudbrick material.
The Southeastern Room (Fig. 3). This room is the western extension of one of the rooms exposed in the 2012–2013 seasons in Area M2. Several scoops, a very large flask and two basalt grinding bowls were found in the room. The room may have had an entrance in its northern wall, which in a later phase was blocked by a very narrow mudbrick wall. The destruction level debris in this room contained pottery sherds which were smashed against the western wall. Fragments from the ceiling, which was made of layers of plaster (each c. 5 cm thick), were also found in the debris.
The Northern Room (Figs. 4, 5). This is a wide room with a large and impressive opening located in its northern wall. A passage between this room and the southeastern room most probably existed, and will hopefully be exposed next season. The northern face of a mudbrick wall (W16-307) was exposed to the north of this room. The wall may have had two pilasters attached to its northern face; this will be further investigated next season.
Another room was excavated in the western part of the area. At least two phases of use were exposed in its northern wall, as indicated by a blocked opening in the wall. A fragment of an Egyptian statue was found in the destruction debris in the room. This find was may have been part of the building materials of the palace’s walls and fell when the building was destroyed. Another possibility is that it was deliberately broken, as were other statues, when Hazor was destroyed and set on fire.
Tenth Century BCE – The Complex of Standing Stones
The complex of standing stones was first exposed in the 2011 season (Bechar 2012), and during the 2015 season, its northwestern corner and a basalt standing stone were exposed (Ben-Tor and Bechar 2016). This corner was further excavated in the 2016 season, yielding the continuation of the floor of the complex (Fig. 6) and the foundations of its northern and western walls. The foundations were built of large limestone boulders, similar to those of the walls exposed on the eastern side of the complex. The walls on its western side were preserved to a greater height; the higher courses comprised large limestones. This part of the complex was built on the collapsed mudbricks of one of the large walls of the Late Bronze Age administrative palace.
Ninth Century BCE – The Fortification System
In the ninth century BCE, the city of Hazor was extended eastward. This extension comprised the building of at least two tripartite storage buildings and the solid fortification wall (Ben-Tor and Zuckerman 2010; Ben-Tor and Bechar 2016). Prior to this extension, the builders of the city laid a large fill above the destruction debris of the Late Bronze Age administrative palace in order to level the entire area. As part of these constructive building activities, a large mudbrick wall (Ben-Tor, Zuckerman and Bechar 2015) was built on the northern slopes of the city, and carried the solid wall of the ninth century BCE. Upon removal of the mudbrick wall in the 2016 season, it became evident that this wall was built directly on top of the Late Bronze Age destruction level (Fig. 7: top arrow—mudbricks at base of city wall; bottom arrow—destruction level). Thus, this mudbrick wall was not a free-standing wall which was part of the fortification of the city, but rather a foundation for the stone defensive wall built above it in the ninth century BCE.