By Gordon Franz and Stephanie Hernandez
Born, raised and educated in Jerusalem, archaeologist Sharon Zuckerman has been excavating at Tel Hazor since 1990. Along with being the Area M supervisor, Dr. Zuckerman teaches archaeology at Hebrew University. Her doctoral dissertation was on “The Kingdom of Hazor in the Late Bronze Age – Chronological and Regional Aspects of the Material Culture of Hazor and its Settlements.”
This interview was conducted at Kibbutz Mahaniam in July 2008.
Gordon Franz: The last three years the Hazor Excavation has concentrated on Area M. First, how did this area become known as Area M? Second, what were Yigael Yadin’s objectives in opening up this area?
Sharon Zuckerman: The origin of the name for Area M comes from the first excavation on the northern side of the tel in 1968 by Yadin’s team. Legend says it’s called Area M because the area supervisor was named Malka Hershkovich. So this is why the area is called Area M. I still do not know if this is the real reason. The objectives of Yadin were to trace the line of the casemate wall going from the six-chambered gate all the way to the northern slope of the tel and see if the wall encircled the entire tel or only part of it. He found in Area M that the casemate wall only encircled half of the tel. What he did find is that the 9th century solid wall, shows that the city was enlarged. The new wall, a solid wall, that intersects the offset wall, was built to encompass the whole surface of the tel. So the city of the 9th century, which Yadin concluded was at least twice as large as the 10th century.
Gordon: You began to excavate just east of Yadin’s area in 1990. Why did you open up this area and what were your objectives?
Sharon: The first reason to open the area was to check Yadin’s conclusions. We wanted to open an area a little to the east of his area M and to try to see if his conclusions regarding the 10th century, the 9th century and even the 8th century, are still valid. Another goal, which might be even more important, is the fact that exactly at this point there was a flat area half way up the slope of the tel and we assumed that this was due to some type of man-made architectural feature that was built there. This is exactly the point where we would expect to find a connection point in between the lower and upper cities during the Late and Middle Bronze Age. We expected to see a very large staircase or some type of gate or something like that. This is why we opened the section on the northern slopes at exactly this point.
Gordon: What did you find in Area M that was significant?
Sharon: Well, first of all we have full and interesting stratigraphy of the Iron Age, ending in the last destruction of Hazor in 732 BC by Tiglath-Pileser III. This is one of the few places where we have the destruction layer on or within buildings of the 8th century. We have several phases of domestic buildings of the 8th century down to the beginning of the period. Underneath we have a public area of the 9th century, which hints that Hazor was a very important administrative center at this time. Below that is the Late Bronze Age, which is a very interesting complex which we assume was a part of the upper acropolis during the Late Bronze Age. There was no 10th century and apparently no 11th century levels. This is interesting. No settlement period or remains in this area.
Gordon: Area M was the basis for your doctoral dissertation at Hebrew University. What were your conclusions?
Sharon: My conclusions were that this same complex that we are talking about might be interpreted as a palace, similar in plan and other architectural features to other palaces that we know at this time at other Canaanite sites, for example, Ugarit and Megiddo. I assume that the destruction of this area is probably earlier than Yadin assumed, sometime during the beginning of the 13th century rather than towards its end. So in a sense, these were the two major conclusions.
Gordon: These are important conclusions. When and where will this material be published so the scholarly community can interact with it?
Sharon: Soon, as soon as possible! But these conclusions will probably be incorporated into the report of Hazor which is currently in the process of being published. I did publish several articles in English, in The Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology (2007), Levant and The Journal of Near Eastern Studies (forthcoming).
Gordon: When Dr. Ben-Tor gives lectures on Hazor, inevitably the question is asked, “Have you found the archive yet?” Why do you think the archive is in Area M?
Sharon: If my assumption is correct and we are digging the residential palace of Late Bronze Hazor, then this is the most logical and natural place to find the archive from the Amarna Period, which is the period that we are dating it to. So usually we find archives in the ancient periods in palatial buildings, in palaces, or sometimes in temples. This is also a possibility. Also, sometimes in residential houses of influential people, like traders, people like that. But we have excavated a large building on the acropolis. We know that there were cuneiform tablets that attest to the existence of an archive. But no archive was found there and no archive will be found there because we have excavated the entire building. So it must be somewhere and I believe this somewhere is in the palatial building on the northern slope of the tel (2006:28-37).
Gordon: How many more seasons do you think it will take to get down to the Late Bronze Age?
Sharon: I would assume between three and five years, three to five seasons from today (July 2008).
Gordon: Sharon, it has been my privilege to work with you the past three seasons in Area M at Hazor. It has been a pleasure working with you because you are an excellent area supervisor. You lead by example: you are in the bucket chains, you are pushing wheelbarrows, and you are teaching the volunteers proper archaeological techniques and are ever so patient in pottery reading for those who do not grasp the fine distinction between a krater, storage jar, a bowl or a juglet. Thank you for your patience and for leading by example. I wish you all the best in the future seasons and am looking forward to working with you until the Late Bronze Age!
Sharon: Thank you, thank you very much.
2006 Where is the Hazor Archive Buried? Biblical Archaeology Review 32/2: 28-37.
2007 Anatomy of a Destruction: Crisis Architecture, Termination Rituals and the Fall of Canaanite Hazor. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 20/1: 3-32.
2008 Fit for a (not-quite-so-great) King: A Faience Lion-Headed Cup from Hazor. Levant 40/1: 115-125.
For further information concerning the Hazor Excavations, please visit their website: