By Gordon Franz
This year the Hazor archaeological excavation was conducted from June 21-July 31, 2009 under the able leadership of the co-directors: Professor Amnon Ben-Tor and Dr. Sharon Zuckerman. Most of our efforts for this season were concentrated in Area M on the northern slopes of the Upper City overlooking the Lower City. In charge of this area were the co-area supervisors: Sharon Zuckerman and Shlomit Becher.
There were about 35 volunteers from 14 countries (Israel, USA, Canada, Russia, Spain, England, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, and Ireland). Some participated for the three week session, but a number of volunteers were there for the entire six weeks. We also had local Israelis join us for a day or two here and there.
Our accommodations this year were at the holiday village of Kibbutz Kfar Ha’Nassi. We were the only group in the holiday village for the entire six weeks so it created a nice community atmosphere. This was unlike previous seasons at Kibbutz Mahanaim and the Etap Galil Hotel where there were other groups as well and they made all kinds of noise at all hours of the night! Kfar Ha’Nassi had a pleasant and quiet atmosphere and the kibbutzniks were very friendly.
The meals at the holiday village were excellent and there was plenty of food. The evening cook, Zohar, would make us fresh, tasty pizza (it wasn’t NY style thin crust pizza but it was close enough for any connoisseur of fine pizza)! He also made a variety of ravioli dishes and cooked eggs anyway you wanted them. Normally one’s weight drops on a dig, but that was not the case this summer. There were a lot of happy campers this season.
Weekends were free to do whatever you wanted. Those who were in Israel for the first time wanted to see as much as they could so they took off by bus or car to see and experience as much as possible. Usually they came back Sunday night exhausted, but satisfied because they accomplished their goals. The veterans usually lounged around the kibbutz, read a good book, did laundry the old fashion way, went swimming in the kibbutz swimming pool, visited the kibbutz pub, or enjoyed a spectacular view of the Golan Heights from an overview at the eastern end of the kibbutz. On some weekends, I had the opportunity to travel in the vicinity of Hazor and the Sea of Galilee in order to explore and take pictures of various sites for an article that I am working on entitled “Jesus at Hazor.” My thanks to Curtis, Steve, Jay and Brian for driving, I appreciate it.
The only downside of staying at Kfar Ha’Nassi was that it was 7 km east of the junction on the main road and Rosh Pinna, and there was no bus service to or from the kibbutz. In order to get out of the kibbutz, one had to ask somebody for a ride to the junction. Fortunately some of the volunteers rented cars for the season, or at least on weekends. In previous years we could walk to the main road and catch a bus to wherever, or walk to Hazor Ha-Gelilit in order to shop for things. Kfar Ha’Nassi, however, did have a well stocked supermarket for basic needs and food to supplement ones eating and drinking habits!
So, what happened this season at the excavations? The bottom line is that we moved a lot of dirt and rocks out of Area M. I was the Dump Master again this year, but was delighted to have the Dump King, Robin from Canada, back again so he could advise me from his vast storehouse of knowledge on dumps. In previous seasons he taught me everything I needed to know about building a great dump! An executive decision was made by the powers that be to begin and refill Area A-5. So this season that is where all our dirt was deposited. At the beginning of the season it was a bit depressing for Robin and me to dump dirt into A-5 because we had spent at least three summers of our lives hauling dirt out of that area. I nicknamed the dump, Mizpeh David (the overlook of David) in honor of my friend and the area supervisor of A-5, David Ziegler.
Our goal for the season in Area M was to get through the 8th century level and into the 9th century, the time of King Ahab (I Kings 16:28-22:39). We were almost successful, but there are still a few walls and floors that remain from the 8th century. These, I am sure, will disappear at the beginning of next season.
The current thinking among the staff is that since Area M is outside the Solomonic city of Hazor there should be no 10th century remains in the area. Thus, after the 9th century level is removed, it should be smooth sailing to the Late Bronze age level and hopefully the LB archive.
This season we were approaching floor levels, or were on floor levels, so there were lots of small finds. The square in the southwest corner of the area was known as the “magic square” because of all the goodies that were found there. Shaul the Younger (14 years old) found an intact cooking pot. Fortunately, his square mate, Big John from California, had loosened up the dirt in the area with a pickax but did not break the vessel before Shaul found it! After Shaul carefully excavated around it, the vessel was finally removed and stored in the office until the end of the season. Then I sifted and floated the content of the dirt inside the cooking pot to see what the last meal was. The only bone I recognized was a single fish bone. We await the lab analysis. When Shaul the Younger left, he was replaced by James from Michigan who found an intact juglet in the square. Big John also found a stand for the cooking pot and an intact bowl in the magic square. There is even a picture on the Facebook site of him eating cereal from the bowl! 🙂
This was Dr. Curtis from Florida’s fourth season digging at Hazor. In previous seasons he had not discovered anything of real importance. This summer was different; he found a beautiful small three legged basalt incense burner and also a bird figurine in the sewer he was working in. Like they say, “One persons junk is another person’s treasure!”
Terra from Hawaii found a zoomorphic figurine as well as a basalt roller for the grass on the roof of the house. During the Iron Age, houses had thatched roofs covered with mud / dirt and grass growing on top (Ps. 129:6; Isa. 37:27). The rollers were used to pack down the dirt.
Wolfgang, a colonel in the German army, found a beautiful Egyptian pendant in the room he was working in. Two others of the same type were found in an alley by Dr. Sharon and Ryan from Georgia.
Dan from Upstate NY had very keen eye-sight and spotted a small gold ear-ring, most likely worn by a child. Other exciting finds include three scarabs. Two were made of semi-precious stone and one had an inscription on it. Other finds by different volunteers can be seen on the “Hazor 2009” Facebook page.
So what did I do and what did I find this season? Besides taking care of the dump, I was promoted (at least I think it was a promotion) to doing dry sifting, preparation for wet sifting and floatation. I would like to think it was because of my experience sifting at Ketef Hinnom and the Temple Mount Sifting Project and I knew what to look for. This summer I found 3 or 4 arrowheads, a circular lead object which is probably a pendant, and a lead weight that could be attached to a fishing net that was used to catch fish in nearby Lake Huleh. Interestingly, in the excavations and in the sifting there were a lot of fish bones discovered indicating that fish were part of the Hazor diet.
Floatation is a process whereby dirt is put into water and the organic matter floats to the surface and is caught. Later the organic matter is analyzed in the labs by archaeo-botanists to see what things were present on the floor of a house in antiquity. The excavation had a fancy machine that did the floatation process but it took 25-30 minutes per bucket to float the organic matter. Once I understood the process, I developed a technique with everyday kitchen objects so we could cut down the floatation time to 10 minutes or less. That was my main contribution for this year.
Shlomit’s MA thesis at Hebrew University is on analyzing the content of the floor of one of the Iron Age houses in Area M. She and some of the volunteers did a meticulous job of excavating the floor. I had the opportunity and privilege to do some of the sifting and all of the floatation for her project. I hope she gets good results from the labs because this thesis will be an important contribution to our understanding of daily life at Hazor during the 8th century BC.
One day I worked with Robin and Ido from Jerusalem and helped them clean out an “installation” (bathtub?) in the floor in the corner of an Iron Age house. There were lots of large body shards that could be restored to make complete vessels. Robin also found a lead weight in the installation.
Several nights a week we had very informative lectures after dinner by Amnon, Sharon, and Shlomit on various aspects of the Hazor excavations. We even had a guest lecture by Nimrod from Haifa University on bones and what they can tell an archaeologist about how people lived in the past. One evening, Tommy, the 82 year old kibbutznik who dug with us, gave a fascinating talk on the history of the Kibbutz Kfar Ha’Nassi and the surrounding region. He was basically telling his life story because he lived the history of the modern State of Israel!
I promised Sharon I would be at Hazor until the Late Bronze Age (that’s like “Back to the Future”). Join us next year as we move more dirt and rocks and work our way down to the that period. Check out the Hazor website for the details on the dates and cost of the excavation. It’s a great experience.