• Excavations at Hazor Comments Off on JESUS AT HAZOR

    by Gordon Franz

    The city of Hazor, once called the “head of all those [Canaanite] kingdoms”¹  (Josh. 11:10) and the largest city in the land of Canaan during the Middle Bronze II and the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1700-1200 BC), lay in ruins when the Lord Jesus and His disciples may have walked by it on several occasions during His earthly ministry (AD 26-30). During most of the Canaanite period, the city consisted of an upper city (acropolis) and a lower city to its north; the total area of the two cities was 81.4 hectares (200 acres). If the disciples did not look carefully and see the collapsed walls from ancient structures, the ruins could be mistaken for two hills in the Hulah Valley.²

    The Gospels never explicitly state that Jesus visited Hazor. In the first century AD, the site was uninhabited and abandoned so it would be unlikely that Jesus would travel there. In antiquity, as people traveled, they went from water source to water source, because they could not carry a large quantity of water with them. Just below the ancient remains of Hazor, there was a series of springs that made it an ideal place on the regional road to stop and refresh oneself. (For a description of the springs in Wadi el-Waggas, see Yadin 1972: 15; 1975: 233-234.) Jesus and His disciples could have stopped to rest and refill their water containers before they continued on their journey. If Jesus and His disciples stopped by the springs at the base of the ancient city of Hazor, refreshing themselves as they traveled in the area, He could have taken the opportunity to recount the events of the city of Hazor from the writings of the Nevi’im (Prophets)³  to His disciples and to draw Biblical lessons for their lives.

    In this essay, a case will be suggested that Jesus walked past the mound on at least two occasions with His disciples. The first time they might have visited Hazor was when Jesus took His disciples on a tour of the cities and villages of Galilee. The second time might have been when Jesus and His disciples went to Tyre and Sidon. They could have viewed the site from a distance when they went to and from Caesarea Philippi.

    The Region of Hazor during the Second Temple Period
    In order to determine when Jesus might have visited the springs below Hazor, a survey of the sites and roads in the region surrounding Hazor during the Second Temple period is in order. We will begin by looking at the borders of Galilee and the different regions of this territory during the Second Temple period. Then we will look at the cities, towns, and villages in northeastern Galilee as well as the roads going through that region.

    The Regions and Borders of Galilee during the Second Temple Period
    The Mishnah, a third-century AD Jewish legal work, gives a threefold division of Galilee: Upper Galilee, Lower Galilee, and the Valley (Shebiith 9:2; Danby 1985: 49). The region of Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee is the Valley, and apparently the Beth Ha-Karem Valley is the boundary line between Upper Galilee and Lower Galilee.  The ancient site of Hazor was located at the northeastern limits of Upper Galilee in the first half of the first century AD.

    Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, gave a detailed description of Galilee. Part of his description is thus: “Galilee, with its two divisions known as Upper and Lower Galilee, is enveloped by Phoenicia and Syria. … Upper Galilee, which extends in breadth to the village of Baca, the frontier of Tyrian territory; in length, it reaches from the village of Thella, near the Jordan, to Meroth” (Wars 3:35-40; LCL 2:585, 587). The northeastern border of Galilee seems to be Nahal Dishon, about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) north of Hazor (Frankel et al. 2001: 111). The list of fortified cities in Galilee at the beginning of the First Jewish Revolt fits in nicely with these borders (Wars 2:572-576; LCL 2:543-545; Aviam 2004: 9-21).

    Lake Semechonitis (Lake Hulah)
    Six kilometers (3.5 miles) northeast of Hazor, Lake Hulah sits in the Hulah Valley. It is 19 kilometers (11 miles) north of the Sea of Galilee. The original lake was about 3 kilometers (2 miles) wide and 5 kilometers (3 miles) long, but in the winter months, it extended further north and covered a greater area.

    Some Old Testament scholars have identified this body of water with the waters of Merom (Josh. 11:5-7). As Zwickel has pointed out, the word merom means “a place on a mountain” (2007: 166). Thus, the name does not fit the topography so it is unlikely that this lake is Merom.

    Josephus called it Lake Semechonitis, and he gives a description of the sources and course of the Jordan River (Wars 3:515; LCL 2:721). He also stated that the city of Seleucia was near Lake Semechonitis, and he gives the dimensions of the lake (Wars 4:2-3; LCL 3:3, 5; Zwickel 2007: 165-172). Finally, he mentioned that Hazor was situated above [in elevation] Lake Semechonitis (Antiq. 5:199; LCL 5:91).

    Jesus and His disciples would have viewed this lake as they traveled in the Hulah Basin and the area around Hazor.

    Cities, Towns, and Villages Around Hazor during the Second Temple Period
    Josephus states that, at the beginning of the First Jewish Revolt (AD 66),  there were 204 cities and villages in Galilee (Life 235; LCL 1:89). Four criteria are helpful in identifying a city, town, or village as inhabited by Jewish people and thus in the region of Galilee. The criteria are: (1) stone vessels made of soft limestone, (2) Jewish ritual baths called mikva’ot, (3) secondary burials with ossuaries in them, and finally (4) a lack of pig bones from what they ate (Reed 2002: 44). We will better understand Jesus’ movement in the area after an examination of the cities, towns, and roads around Hazor is made.

    Ayyelet ha-Shahar
    Just east of Tel Hazor is Ayyelet ha-Shahar. There are two archaeological sites on the opposite side of this kibbutz. Khirbet Ashaf (Grid Ref. 205-269) is one-and-a-half kilometers from Hazor (less than a mile) and has remains of the Roman, Byzantine, and medieval periods (Stepansky and Damati 1989-90: 79; Stepansky 1992: 67-68). To the northeast of this ruin is Tel es-Safa (Grid Ref. 205-269). In the survey of this site, some Roman remains were discovered. The surveyor suggested that the tel served as a cemetery for Hazor when it was occupied and the Roman period burial caves probably served the inhabitants of Khirbet Ashaf to the west (Stepansky 1992: 67).

    According to Stepansky, neither site has produced any Early Roman (Second Temple) remains when surveyed (personal communication). However, surface surveys have their limitations, and if the sites were excavated, Khirbet Ashaf might produce an Early Roman period Jewish settlement.


    Josephus places Meroth on the northern border of Galilee (Wars 3:39; LCL 2:587). At one time it was suggested that Meroth was located at Khirbet Meiron on the slopes of Mount Meron (Meyers, Strange, and Meyers 1981: 3). Today, Khirbet Marus (Horvat Marish; Grid Ref. 199-270), which is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) northwest of Hazor is identified as the site of Meroth (Ilan and Damati 1989). This site overlooks Nahal Dishon to its north, but Hazor cannot be seen because a ridge blocks the view.

    In preparation for the First Jewish Revolt, Josephus fortified the Galilee, including Ameroth (=Meroth, Mero) in the Upper Galilee (Wars 2:573; LCL 2:543; Life 188; LCL 1:71).

    Excavations were conducted at this site, and an impressive synagogue with beautiful mosaics was exposed. Construction on the synagogue began in the late fourth or early fifth century AD. Remains from the Second Temple period were found at the site, but the nature of the site from this period has not been determined (Ilan and Damati 1989: 22; Ilan 1993: 3:1028-1031; Shaked and Avshalom-Gorni 2004: 33).

    Tel Mashav

    This settlement is situated 405 meters (1,328 feet) above sea level on the hill of a volcanic cone just under 3 kilometers (2 miles) west of Hazor (Grid Ref. 200-269). From Tel Mashav, there is an impressive view of the Hulah Valley, as well as Hazor below. In the springtime, snow-capped Mount Hermon would rise from the Hulah Valley. The settlement covers an area of 3 acres and remains of the Second Temple period were discovered in the survey of the site. Tel Mashav has not been excavated, however, so the nature of the site cannot be determined.

    This site was identified by Stepansky as the Biblical city of Ramah in the tribal territory of Naphtali (Josh. 19:36; Stepansky 1999: v-vi; Frankel et al. 2001: 44: site 377).

    Jesus and His disciples may have visited this community as well as Meroth on their initial tour of Galilee.

    Tel Kedesh
    The Phoenician site of “Kedesh (of the) Tyrians” was located twenty Roman miles east of Tyre (Josephus, Wars 2:459; LCL 2:503; Eusebius, Onomasticon 116:10). The ancient site of Kedesh had a rich history as a Canaanite, Israelite, and Phoenician city (Herbert and Berlin 2003: 13-15).  Josephus records that, during the Second Temple period, Kedesh was “a strong inland village of the Tyrians, always at feud and strife with the Galileans, having its large population and stout defenses as resources behind it in its quarrel with the nation” (Wars 4:105; LCL 3:33). Josephus does not state how long the feuding between the Galileans and the Kedeshites went on and when it started.

    There are, however, very few excavated remains from the Early Roman period, and the location and nature of the village of Kedesh from this period remain elusive (Frankel et al. 2001: 44; site 369; Herbert and Berlin 2003: 19, 22, 27, 29, 31, 42).

    Most likely Jesus and His disciples would have walked past this city on the way to Tyre and Sidon.

    Qeren Naftali
    Qeren Naftali (Grid Ref. 202-277), at 510 meters (1,673 feet) above sea level, is the highest, isolated peak in eastern Upper Galilee. The city has a commanding view of the entire region: the Hulah Basin below; the Baqa Valley and Mount Hermon to the north; the Golan Heights to the east; the Kedesh Valley, the mountains of Upper Galilee, and Lebanon to the west.  The largest springs in the Hulah Basin, the ‘Einan Springs, are located at the base of the mountain (Aviam 2004: 59). Interestingly, at one time this site was identified as Hazor (Masterman 1908a: 306)!

    In the surveys that were done at the site, two Greek inscriptions were discovered (Masterman 1908b: 155-157). A Hellenistic fortress, most likely used to defend the administrative center of Kedesh, was uncovered. The discovery of a mikva, a Jewish ritual bath, from the end of the Hellenistic period indicates a change of inhabitants (Aviam 2004: 85). It is likely this fortress was one of the three fortresses taken by Herod the Great from Marion, the despot of Tyre (Josephus, Wars 1:238-239; LCL 2:111).  According to the excavator, the fortress remained under Jewish control until the middle of the first century AD (Aviam 2004: 14). Just across the border at Nahal Dishon, this fortress may have been a Jewish “forward position” to keep an eye on the Phoenicians at Kedesh. When the Jewish soldiers abandoned the site, the Phoenicians regained control of the site. The pig and hunted animal bones in the mikva and the pagan oil lamps found elsewhere at the site attest to new inhabitants (Aviam 1997: 97-105; 2004: 59-88).

    If Jesus and His disciples walked from Hazor to Kadesh on the way to Tyre and Sidon, the Jewish soldiers at Qeren Naftali would have kept an eye on them as they walked along the regional road.

    Tel Anafa
    Tel Anafa, on the west side of the Jordan River, lies 9 kilometers (4.25 miles) southwest of ancient Caesarea Philippi and 19 kilometers (11.75 miles) to the northeast of Hazor. The acropolis of Tel Anafa is 160 meters (525 feet) long, 110 meters (360 feet) wide, and 10 meters (32.8 feet) high (Herbert 1994: 9). The walls of the lower city were discovered when fishponds were dug to the west of the city (Herbert 1993: 1:58; Fuks 1979-1980: 179). The excavators observed that the “site was occupied almost continuously from the Early Bronze Age through the first century CE, the best preserved and most impressive remains belong to the Late Hellenistic era, when a lavish private residence and associated structures covered much of the mound” (Herbert 1994: 10).  This settlement was abandoned sometime early in the second quarter of the first century BC (1994: 19).

    Tel Anafa was resettled during the Early Roman period, possibly after the founding of Caesarea Philippi in 4 BC. Eleven buildings from this period were excavated on the site (Herbert 1994: 21). The excavators concluded that the “Roman era settlement at Tel Anafa appears to be a small sheep-raising community firmly enmeshed within the economic network of Galilee.  The absence of mikva’ot or other Jewish ritual equipment at the site, coupled with the prevalence of pig in the diet, suggest, however, that this [was] not a Jewish community” (1994: 22).

    The identification of this site is disputed, but most likely it was one of the towns in the region of Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27). It was within this region, along the road to Caesarea Philippi, that Jesus asked His disciples the question, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matt. 16:13).

    Josephus reports that Thella was located on the northern border of Upper Galilee near the Jordan River (Wars 3:40; LCL 2:587). Most scholars have identified this village with Tuleil (Grid Ref.  208-272) near Yesud Ha-Ma’alah (Avi-Yonah 1976: 100). This identification was prompted by an Aramaic inscription discovered in the 19th century when the first settlers were building Yesud Ha-Ma’alah. The identification was reinforced by the discovery of a structure that was identified as a synagogue of the third through fifth century AD (Biran 1983; 1993; Shoham 1985; Biran and Shoham 1987).

    However, Idan Shaked, one of the surveyors of the Hulah Valley, has questioned the identification of this structure as a synagogue. He points out that no pottery, coins, or other datable objects were found during the excavations that point to the Second Temple period. He also observed that Josephus states that the settlement was on the Jordan River, not the edge of Lake Semechonitis, where it was located during this period. Shaked suggested that the architectural elements were brought to the site during the construction of the sugar factory in the 13th century AD (Shaked and Avshalom-Gorni 2004: 33).

    Shaked has identified Thella with the site of Khirbet Makbarat Banat Yakub (Grid Ref. 209-270) on the west bank of the Jordan River, 2.25 kilometers (1.5 miles) to the south of Nahal Dishon, the northern border of Galilee during the Second Temple period.  This site is 4 acres in size, it is situated just above a series of fords in the river, and Early Roman remains, including Jewish chalk vessels, have been found (Shaked and Avshalom-Gorni 2004: 34; Shaked 1999; see also Stepansky 1992: 66-67).

    Shaked and Avshalom-Gorni concluded that the “characteristically Jewish material culture at the site in the Early Roman period, its size in relation to other sites of the period and its strategic location on the Jordan River, near the fords and on a road, are the basis for the new identification” of Thella (2004: 34).

    Jesus and His disciples would have viewed Hazor from the road on the east bank of the Jordan River as they went to and from Caesarea Philippi.

    Hazor Ha-Galit
    Within the city limits of the modern city of Hazor Ha-Galit, there are two ancient sites: Fir’im (Grid Ref. 200-265) and ‘Iyye Me’arot (Grid Ref. 200-266).  Both sites, situated at 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level, have Roman remains (Frankel et al. 2001: 44: sites 374 and 375). Stepansky has determined that ‘Iyye Me’arot, also known as Mughr el-Kheit and el-Mughar (Survey of Western Palestine), has remains dating from the Hellenistic period to the Early Roman period (personal communication). Dr. Aviam identified Ma’aria of the 24 Priestly Courses list with Mughr el-Kheit (2004: 18).

    Jesus and His disciples might have visited these communities during His initial tour of Galilee and also might have passed by them on the way to Tyre and Sidon.

    Rosh Pina
    Within the modern city of Rosh Pina lie the ruins of the Arab village of Ja’unah, with scattered architectural features of what apparently was an ancient synagogue (Stepansky 2008: 5:2022). Remains of what appears to be a Roman bathhouse were found in the lower part of the village (Schumacher 1889: 74-75). In the surface surveys of the site and in excavations, Early Roman remains were found (Stepansky, personal communications). To the east of the village is a tel of about 10 acres in size. The archaeologist who did the survey reports that “in the area of the tell were collected sherds of the Early Bronze Age I and II, Middle Bronze Age I, Middle Bronze Age II, Iron Age I-II, and the Persian, Hellenistic, and later periods” (Stepansky 2008: 5:2022).

    During Jesus’ initial tour of Galilee with His disciples, they might have visited this site as well as passed by it on the way to Tyre and Sidon.

    Khirbet Shura
    The site of Khirbet Shura (Grid Ref. 204-264) lies 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the east of the ruins of Ja’unah (in Rosh Pina). An ancient synagogue, containing pottery from the first through seventh centuries AD, was excavated by Stepansky and Foerster. Most likely the synagogue was partially dismantled by stone robbers during the Mameluke period. The nature of the first-century settlement has yet to be determined and awaits further excavations (Foerster and Stepansky 1983: 102-103).

    The disciples might have visited this community with Jesus during His initial tour of Galilee.

    The Roads from Capernaum to Tyre in the Second Temple Period
    In the spring of AD 29, the Lord Jesus fed 5,000 men, plus women and children near the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 14:15-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14). As a result of this miracle, the Galilean people wanted to make Jesus king (John 6:15). In order to avoid a conflict with Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, Jesus left Galilee for Phoenicia (Mark 7:24). There are at least five possible routes Jesus and His disciples could have taken from Capernaum to Tyre and Sidon.

    The most direct route from Capernaum to Tyre went through Upper Galilee, via Sepph (Safat), Gischala (Jish or Gush Halav) (CBA #234; Rainey and Notley 2006: 361). Although this might have been the most direct route, this road was also the steepest and highest route. Reaching 800 meters (2,625 feet) above sea level at points, travel could be strenuous.

    The easiest and most convenient route, and the route that Jesus most likely took, went from Capernaum, passed Hazor, and crossed Nahal Dishon.  At this point, the traveler had two options.  The first option was to take a secondary road along the base of the Naphtali Ridge to the Roman road just south of Abel Beth Maachah.  The Roman road went from Paneas (Caesarea Philippi) to Tyre and has been identified as the “Way of the Sea” (Rainey 1981; 1989; Rainey and Notley 2006: 12,230-231; cf. Isa. 9:1 [8:23 Heb.]). Part of this road was recently discovered to the west of Abel Beth Maachah on the Naphtali Ridge near Horvat Nuha (Grid Ref. 202-295; Aviam 2004: 133-135). The road continued into present-day Lebanon and can be seen on the Survey of Western Palestine map (sheet 2, labeled “ancient road” going west from Rabb Thelathin).  The Roman road from Abel Beth Maachah to the top of the Naphtali Ridge is quite steep at points.

    The second option, and the one I would suggest Jesus took, would have been to take the road into the Hills of Naphtali just to the west of Qeren Naftali and past the Phoenician city of Kedesh.[4] This road had a more gradual incline than the Roman road that went west from Abel Beth Maachah. This route is favored by Beitzel (1985: 171: map 82) and Brisco (1998: 224: map 109).

    From Kedesh, the traveler could continue in a northwest direction through Taphnith to Tyre; or the traveler could continue north, connect with the Roman road, head west to Janoah (Yanuh) (Grid. Ref. 178-296), and then go on to Tyre. These are the routes Tiglath-Pileser III took on his way to conquer Kedesh; he then continued on to Hazor. In essence, Jesus and His disciples would be retracing the route that Tiglath-Pileser III and his army took when they invaded Israel in 733/732 BC (2 Kings 15:29; Rainey 1981; 1989).

    Two other routes were available to Jesus and His disciples, but they were probably not considered. The first route was the Roman road from Tiberius to Akko, which then went north to Tyre via the coast and the “Ladder of Tyre” (Aviam 2004: 136-137). Although this route was probably the flattest with the least elevation changes, it was also the longest.

    The final possibility was a transverse highway that went through the Beth Ha-Karem Valley. This road connected the Golan Heights (Biblical Bashan) with Akko in antiquity. The eastern part of this road, from Bethsaida through Ramat Korazim, was surveyed by Zvi Ilan and Yosef Stepansky. This road might be the Istratiya of Sidon road mentioned in the Rabbinic sources (Ilan 1991: 14-16; Stepansky 1997: 30-32). The road ran through the valley that divided Upper Galilee from Lower Galilee. Once in Akko, the traveler could have followed the coastal road north, up over the “Ladder of Tyre” (Rosh ha-Nikra), and continued on to Tyre. This route would have been one of the most level roads, but it would also have been one of the longest.

    [For a detailed study of the Lord Jesus’ ministry in Tyre and Sidon, see: “Jesus in the Region of Tyre and Sidon” by Gordon Franz]

    The Road from Bethsaida to Caesarea Philippi in the Second Temple Period
    Jesus and His disciples went from Bethsaida (Tel el-Araj or el-Masediyya) (Nun 1998, cf. Notley 2007; Urman and Flesher 1995: 519-527) to Caesarea Philippi toward the end of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Mark 8:22-27). There was a Roman road on the east side of the Jordan River, below the western slopes of the Golan Heights, from the ford at what is called today the Bridge of Jacob’s Daughter to Caesarea Philippi (Urman 1985: 106-116; Tsafrir; Di Segni; and Green 1994). Most likely there also was a regional road that connected Bethsaida with the ford at the Bridge of Jacob’s Daughter. These roads connected Herod Philip’s two capitals: Caesarea Philippi and Bethsaida (Josephus, Wars 2:168; LCL 2:389). The upper and lower cities of Hazor can be viewed from this road.

    The Road from Caesarea Philippi to Capernaum in the Second Temple Period
    The Lord Jesus was transfigured on a “high mountain,” most likely Mount Hermon (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2). After this event He returned to Caesarea Philippi with the three disciples: Peter, James, and John. After reuniting with the other disciples, they departed from Caesarea Philippi, “passed through Galilee,” and came to Capernaum (Matt. 17:24; Mark 9:30, 33).

    There were two routes that they might have taken to the Sea of Galilee. The first possibility was to follow the “old” road (Iron Age road) down the west side of the Hulah Valley and cross into Galilee at Nahal Dishon just north of Hazor (Dorsey 1991: 95-97: Road B1; Zwickel 2007: 173: map 2). If this route were the one taken, the disciples and Jesus might have stopped at the springs below the ruins of Hazor. This route would have taken them past a number of Phoenician towns and villages on the way to Galilee (Zwickel 2007: 179-181).

    The second route they might have chosen would have been to return down the Roman road on the east side of the Jordan River. At the ford opposite Thella (Khirbet Makbarat Banat Yakub), they would have had to make a decision. They could continue south to Bethsaida, cross the Jordan River, and walk on the Bethsaida–Tiberias Road to Capernaum (Ilan 1991: 16) or they could cross the Jordan at the Thella ford and take the Gesher Benot Ya’aqov–Tiberias Road toward the Sea of Galilee (Ilan 1991: 14-15; Stepansky 1995: 15; seen on SWP map 4). At the junction, known as Khan Jubb Yusef today (Grid Ref. 2006-2585), they would have turned east onto the Akko–Bethsaida Road (Ilan 1991: 15-16). From Korizim they would have taken the local road down to Capernaum (Ilan 1991: 16).

    Did Jesus Visit Hazor?
    The Gospels do not explicitly state that Jesus visited Hazor. However, because the locations of the cities, towns, and villages in the region of Galilee and Phoenicia, as well as the roads, are known, it can be suggested that He visited the site, or at least the springs below the ruins, on at least two occasions and viewed the ruins as He walked past the site from the east side of the Jordan River on a third and fourth occasion.

    The first time Jesus might have visited Hazor was after He called four Galilean fishermen – Peter, Andrew, James, and John – to follow Him (Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20). He took them with Him as He went throughout all the synagogues of Galilee preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, healing the sick, and casting out demons (Matt. 4:23-25; Mark 1:39; Luke 4:44). Hazor could be seen from at least Thella and Ramah (Tel Mashav) on the northern border of the region. If Jesus and His disciples visited Ramah or Meroth during this Galilean tour, they might have stopped at the springs below Hazor in order to refill their water containers before ascending the ridge to those settlements.

    The second time Jesus might have stopped at the springs below the ruins of Hazor was during the spring of AD 29 when He traveled with His disciples from Capernaum to Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 15:21; Mark 7:24). At this point in His public ministry, Jesus was trying to avoid the crowds and spend quality time with His disciples in order to teach them His Word. One of the lessons Jesus wanted to teach His disciples was that salvation was not only for Israel, but also for the Gentiles. Thus, a visit to the region of Tyre and Sidon, followed by a ministry in the Decapolis region, most likely near Hippos/Susita (Mark 7:31), would have reinforced this lesson.

    Interestingly, the route past Hazor and Kedesh to Tyre reversed the route of Tiglath-Pileser III’s campaign against Galilee (2 Kings 15:29; Isa. 9:1-2 [8:23-9:1 Heb.], cf. Matt. 4:12-17). When Tiglath-Pileser III campaigned in Upper Galilee, he brought death and destruction to Phoenicia and Israel. On His trip to Tyre and Sidon, the Lord Jesus retraced the route of Tiglath-Pileser III and, by contrast, brought life and healing to both Jews and Gentiles!
    The third time Jesus was in the area of Hazor was when He and His disciples went from Bethsaida to Caesarea Philippi. On this trip, He would have viewed Hazor from the east side of the Jordan River opposite Thella. The lengthy ruins of Hazor (1.1 kilometers north to south; about .75 mile) would still seem impressive, even when viewed from 6 kilometers (3.5 miles) away.

    The final time Jesus was in the area of Hazor was on His return trip from Caesarea Philippi to Galilee and on to Capernaum. The shortest route to Galilee would have been down the east side of the Jordan River, crossing at the ford at Thella in order to take the Roman road toward the Sea of Galilee. Again, Jesus would have been able to view the ruins of Hazor from the east bank of the Jordan River.

    Jesus and His disciples probably did not go up to the ancient site of Hazor, because there was nothing to see in an abandoned, ruined city. Today, however, there are a number of remarkable archaeological remains to be seen. For example, one can see an impressively reconstructed Canaanite palace (ceremonial reception hall) as well as Canaanite temples. In addition, there is a majestically restored Solomonic gate and casemate walls similar to those at Gezer and Megiddo. An Israelite citadel and water system built by King Ahab can be visited as well as a reconstructed Israelite house and pillared building. Tel Hazor National Park has a well-marked trail with signs describing the historical and archaeological significance of what is being viewed.

    The student, tourist, or pilgrim has every reason to stop at this important archaeological site. He or she can learn much about the Bible, archaeology, and historical geography of the Land of Israel from a visit to Hazor.

    I wonder whether the Lord Jesus recounted a number of stories about Hazor to His disciples and shared many valuable spiritual lessons as they sat by the springs drinking the cool, refreshing water.

    To contemplate the valuable lessons the Lord Jesus might have taught His disciples, see: “WWJD: Spiritual Lessons from Hazor’s History” by Gordon Franz

    For further information on the Hazor Archaeological Excavation, please visit their website.


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    Herbert, Sharon
    1993    Tel Anafa. Pp. 58-61 in New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. Vol. 1. Edited by E. Stern. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society and Carta.

    1994   Tel Anafa I, i. Final Report of Ten Years of Excavation at a Hellenistic and Roman Settlement in Northern Israel. Ann Arbor, MI: Kelsey Museum of the University of Michigan.

    Herbert, Sharon; and Berlin, Andrea
    2003    A New Administrative Center for Persian and Hellenistic Galilee: Preliminary Report of the University of Michigan/University of Minnesota Excavations at Kedesh. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 329: 13-59.

    Ilan, Zvi
    1991    Eastern Galilee, Survey of Roman Roads. Excavations and Surveys in Israel 1989/1990 9: 14-16.

    1993    Meroth. Pp. 1028-1031 in The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. Vol. 3. Edited by E. Stern. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society and Carta.

    Ilan, Zvi; and Damati, Immanuel
    1989    The Synagogue at Meroth. Did It Fix Israel’s Northern Border in Second Temple Times? Biblical Archaeology Review 15/2: 20-36.

    1976a    Life. Vol. 1. Translated by H. St. J. Thackeray. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 186.

    1976b    Jewish Wars. Books 1-3. Vol. 2. Translated by H. St. J. Thackeray. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 203.

    1979    Jewish Wars. Books 4-7. Vol. 3. Translated by H. St. J. Thackeray. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 210.

    1988    Jewish Antiquities. Books 5-8. Vol. 5. Translated by H. St. J. Thackeray and R. Marcus. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 281.

    Masterman, Ernest W. G.
    1908a    The Upper Jordan Valley. The Biblical World 32/5: 298, 302-313.

    1908b    Two Greek Inscriptions from Khurbet Harrawi. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 155-157.

    Meyers, Eric; Strange, James; and Meyers, Carol
    1981   Excavations at Ancient Meiron, Upper Galilee, Israel 1971-72, 1974-5, 1977. Cambridge, MA: American Schools of Oriental Research.

    Notley, R. Steve
    2007    Et-Tell Is Not Bethsaida. Near Eastern Archaeology 70/4: 220-230.

    Nun, Mendal
    1998    Has Bethsaida Finally Been Found? Jerusalem Perspective 54: 12-31.

    Rainey, Anson
    1981    Toponymic Problems (cont.). The Way of the Sea. Tel Aviv 8/2: 146-151.

    1989    Identifying the “Way of the Sea.” Bible Review 5/2: 13-14.

    Rainey, Anson; and Notley, R. Steve
    2006   The Sacred Bridges. Jerusalem: Carta.

    Reed, Jonathan
    2002   Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus. A Re-examination of the Evidence. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International.

    Schumacher, G.
    1889    Recent Discoveries in Galilee. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 21: 68-78.

    Shaked, Idan
    1999    The Synagogue at Yesud Hama’ala: A Re-evaluation. Pp. 143-145 in Yad le Yair. Edited by M. Levine and R. Yekhezkely. Tel Aviv: Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (Hebrew).

    Shaked, Idan; and Avshalom-Gorni, Dina
    2004    Jewish Settlement in the Southeastern Hula Valley in the First Century CE. Pp. 28-36 in Religion and Society in Roman Palestine. Old Questions, New Approaches. Edited by D. R. Edwards. New York and London: Routledge.

    Shoham, Yosef
    1985    Yesud Ha-Ma’alah. Israel Exploration Journal 35/2-3: 189-190.

    Stepansky, Yosef
    1992    Rosh Pinna Map, Survey. Excavations and Surveys in Israel 1991 10: 66-68.

    1995    Rosh Pinna Map, Survey–1992. Excavations and Surveys in Israel 14: 13-15.

    1997    Horvat Mishlah. Excavations and Surveys in Israel 16: 30-32.

    1999    The Periphery of Hazor during the Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the Persian Period: A Regional–Archaeological Study. MA thesis, Tel Aviv University.

    2008    Rosh Pina. Pp. 2022-2023 in New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. Vol. 5. Edited by E. Stern. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society and Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society.

    Stepansky, Yosef; and Damati, Emanuel
    1989-1990    Greek Funerary Inscriptions from Eastern Galilee. Excavations and Surveys in Israel 9: 79.

    Tsafrir, Yoram; Di Segni, Leah; and Green, Judith
    1994    Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea–Palaestina. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Science and Humanities.

    Urman, Dan
    1985    The Golan. A Profile of a Region During the Roman and Byzantine Periods. Oxford: B.A.R. International Series 269.

    Urman, Dan; and Flesher, Paul, eds.
    1995    Ancient Synagogues.Historical Analysis and Archaeological Discovery. Vol. 2. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

    Yadin, Yigael
    1972   Hazor. The Schweich Lectures. 1970. London: Oxford.

    1975    Hazor. The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible. New York: Random House.

    Zwickel, Wolfgang
    2007    The Huleh Valley from the Iron Age to the Muslim Period. A Study in Settlement History. Pp. 163-192 in Religion, Ethnicity, and Identity in Ancient Galilee. Edited by J. Zangenberg; H. Attridge; and D. Martin. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck.


    ¹All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible.
    ²This article was prompted by a discussion I had with the director of the Hazor excavation, Professor Amnon Ben Tor.  One day he asked me why Christian pilgrims and tourists visit Megiddo but not Hazor.  I suggested two reasons.  First, Megiddo is on the way to Nazareth from Tel Aviv.  The tour group lands at Ben Gurion Airport and they spend the first night near the airport.  On the group’s first day of touring, they will go to Nazareth and spend their second night somewhere around the Sea of Galilee.  Their bus goes right past Megiddo on their way to Nazareth, so they stop for lunch at the restaurant at the national park and then visit the site.  If they go north of the Sea of Galilee, they would go through the Golan Heights and visit Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13) and Tel Dan.  On the way back to the lake, they would take the new by-pass road past Hazor, and the tour guide might say, “On our left is Hazor, the largest and one of the most important archaeological sites in the Land of Israel, but we do not have any time to visit because we have to get to the diamond factory in Tiberias!”  The second reason Christian pilgrims and tourists stop at Megiddo is that the site has a New Testament connection.  Revelation 16:16 mentions Armageddon.  With that, Amnon said, “Find me a New Testament connection for Hazor!”  I suggested to him that Jesus might have walked past the ancient ruins on several occasions.  He said pointedly, “Write me an article!”
    ³In the Jewish compilation of the Bible, the books that mention Hazor – Joshua, Judges, and 1 and 2 Kings – were considered the Former Prophets.
    [4] This route can be seen on SWP map 4. I hiked it on Sunday, July 13, 2008.

  • Excavations at Hazor Comments Off on WWJD: Spiritual Lessons from Hazor’s History

    by Gordon Franz

    There is a popular bracelet, which some Christians wear, that has the inscription WWJD, which stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” The Lord Jesus was the Master Teacher. He would often use object lessons to illustrate His parables, sermons, and discourses in order to reinforce the spiritual lessons that He was trying to convey to His disciples and the multitudes. For example, He used sheep (Matt. 18:7-14; Luke 15:3-7), coins (Luke 15:8-10), a little child (Matt. 18:2), and even a dragnet (Matt. 13:47-51).

    He also used the geography of the location where He was at to drive home a point. One time when He was on the Temple Mount dialoguing with the Pharisees about the Patriarch Abraham, He stated that “your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad!” (John 8:56) ¹. The day that Jesus was referring to was when Abraham offered up his only son Isaac on a mountain in the Land of Moriah (Gen. 22:1-14; cf. Heb. 11:17-19), called in Jewish tradition Akedah, or the “binding of Isaac.” The Temple of Solomon, and later Herod’s Temple where Jesus and the Pharisees were discussing Abraham, was built on Mount Moriah (2 Chron. 3:1).

    If Jesus and His disciples stopped to refresh themselves at the springs below the ruined city of Hazor, what spiritual lessons might He have taught His disciples from the history of Hazor? Contemplate these verses.

    [For the possibility that Jesus and His disciples visited Hazor, see “Jesus at Hazor” by Gordon Franz]

    • Read Josh. 11:1-15. Joshua captured and burned Hazor with fire. Why did God instruct the Israelites to hamstring the Canaanite horses and burn their chariots after their victory over the Canaanites (11:6)?
    • Read Judges 4 and 5. God used Deborah and Barak to destroy Jabin, the king of Canaan, who reigned at Hazor (4:2, 24). General Barak was afraid to go out to battle against the Canaanite forces unless Deborah went with him. Contemplate how God uses even fearful servants when they (fearfully) act in faith (cf. Heb. 11:32).
    • Read 1 Kings 9:15. King Solomon fortified Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. Why did he fortify those cities? By fortifying those cities, did Solomon trust the Lord to protect his kingdom?
    • Read 1 Kings 5:1-12. King Solomon was good friends with Hiram, the Phoenician king of Tyre. During the Second Temple period, the Phoenicians of Kedesh did not get along with their Jewish neighbors in Galilee. How might Jesus have used Solomon and Hiram’s friendship to temper His disciples’ fears, or prejudices, about going to Tyre? Hint: Consider Matt. 5:9 and 15:21-31.
    • Read 1 Kings 16:28-22:40. King Ahab extended the fortifications of Hazor to the eastern part of the upper city as well as digging a huge water system. The Bible devotes six chapters to the life of this king, yet it does not mention his great building activities until after he died (22:39). He is described as doing “more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him (16:33).” How would God view Ahab’s great building activities in light of his idolatry?
    • Read the book of Amos, Isa. 2:5-22, and Zech. 14:5. There is archaeological evidence at Hazor that attests to a strong and violent earthquake in the mid-eighth century BC. This earthquake was prophesied by the prophet Amos two years before it occurred (1:1). The prophet Zechariah reflected on this event long after it occurred. What message might God have been trying to communicate to His people by this mighty act?
    • Read 2 Kings 15:29; Isa. 9:1-2, 10:5-11, 65:4, 66:17; and Lev. 11:7. Tiglath Pileser III, the ruler of Assyria, invaded the northern kingdom of Israel and destroyed Hazor. Why did God allow this to happen? In the excavations at Hazor, articulated pig bones were discovered. This finding indicates that the Israelites were eating pork right before the fall of the city to the Assyrians. Could there be a connection between this un-kosher act and God’s judgment on Hazor? Why, or why not?

    For further information on the Hazor Archaeological Excavation, please visit their website.

    [1] All Scripture quotes from the New King James Version of the Bible.
  • Excavations at Hazor Comments Off on “LB Palace, Here We Come!”: Reflections on the 2010 Season at Hazor

    by Gordon Franz

    This summer was the 21th season of the Hazor archaeological excavation.  It was conducted from June 20 to July 30, 2010, 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.  The co-area supervisors in charge of this area were Sharon Zuckerman and Shlomit Becher.

    This was my eighth season excavating at Hazor and I can honestly say it was the most pleasant, productive, and interesting season I have experienced at Hazor.  Three factors were responsible: the people, the finds, and the potential for next year.

    The People
    With a total of 36 people participating in either one of the three-week sessions or for the full six weeks of excavations, we had the smallest group of volunteers in the history of the dig, yet it was one of the most productive seasons.  The volunteers were from ten different countries (Israel, the United States, Germany, Russia, Canada, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and France).

    There was a very positive atmosphere on the dig this year.  Few complaints were heard among the diggers and there were few, if any, attitude problems.  When people saw something that needed to be done, they did it without being asked.  If they were asked to do something, they did it willingly and with a smile.  It was a pleasure to go to work every day.  Our team seemed to gel and everybody worked well together.  Much of this can be attributed to the able day-to-day leadership of Shlomit, who was fun to work with and for.

    This summer, like last year, our accommodations were at the holiday village of Kibbutz Kfar Ha’Nassi.  We were the only group in the village for the entire six weeks so it created a nice community atmosphere.  Kfar Ha’Nassi had a pleasant and quiet atmosphere and the kibbutzniks were very friendly.  The meals at the village were generally very good and there was plenty of food.

    Weekends were “free.”  The sane people did “nothing,” or at least stayed at the kibbutz, read a book, soaked up the rays at the pool, did laundry, or just chilled out.  One weekend I did nothing!  Greg from Oregon, who worked with me on the Temple Mount Sifting Project in Jerusalem several years ago, wanted to see the sites in Galilee in order to take pictures.  On four weekends we rented a car so we could visit parks and excavations.  Hussein, the gatekeeper at Hazor, gave us a note requesting complimentary entrance to each national park and nature reserve.  The note worked at every site, and we were each able to save nearly $100 on entrance fees.

    By the second weekend of travel, we had picked up a third person for our car.  Karen, a grad student at Yale, had her priorities right.  She figured she could lounge around the pool at home, but could not see the Elah Valley, Azekah, Adullam Overview, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Tel el-Safi (Gath), Neot Kedumim, Aphek/Antipatris, Caesarea by the Sea, Hulah Nature Reserve, Kibbutz Ayelet zoo, Kadesh of Naphtali, the church and synagogue at Ba’aram, Gush Halav, Domus Galilea, Chorizim, Almagor Overview, Tel el-Araj, Franciscan Capernaum, Greek Orthodox Capernaum, Church of the Primacy, Cove of the Sower/Parables, Gadot Overview, Katzrin Museum, Katzrin Talmudic Village, Gamla, Tel el-Zaki, Rogan Heri, the Roman Road, Syrian officer’s pool, Kursi, Avanova cosmetic factory, Umm el-Kanatir, Hippus, Horns of Hattin, Nazareth, Megiddo, Kiryat Shomnah – Aroma coffee! :), Metulla, Abel Beth Maacha, Tel Dan, Banyas Waterfalls, Banyas/Caesarea Philippi, Nimrod’s Castle, Mount Hermon, Birket Ram, Har Ben Tal, Gush Halav, Mount Meron, Misgav Am, Nof Ginossar, Hammat Tiberias, Beth Shean, Beth Alpha Synagogue, Mount Gilboa, Jezreel, Ein Dor overview, and Mount Tabor in North Carolina.  We were generally able to find two other people to join us in the car and could then split the cost of the car rental and gas.

    The Finds
    One important discovery this season made the international press: two fragments of a Middle Bronze legal tablet written in Akkadian and contemporary with, and similar to, the famous Hammurabi’s law code.

    Robert Cargill asked the question on his blog: “Where was this in 2006 when I was digging there? lol.”  The answer is quite simple: “Right under your feet where you were sitting during tea break at 7 AM every morning!”  This discovery by the eagle-eyed conservator at Hazor, Orna Cohen, was made on the surface and not in the actual stratified excavation.

    Professor Wayne Horowitz of the Hebrew University gave us a lecture at the end of the season with a preliminary translation and interpretation of the fragment.  He requested that we not publish this information because it is only a preliminary reading and subject to change based on further study.  I will honor his request.  I asked him in the Q&A session that followed the lecture: “When and where will the tablet be published?”  He responded that the tablet would be published as quickly and as responsibly as possible.  I am fully confident that Professor Horowitz and his team will accomplish their stated goal and we will see an accurate and well-researched article soon in an appropriate journal.  The three words that made the press were “slave,” “master,” and “tooth.”  We await Dr. Horowitz’ article for an explanation of how these words fit together and the significance of the text.

    Another important discovery that will probably not make the international press is an Iron Age basalt workshop that was found in Area M.  It was the first time in the archaeology of the Middle East that such a discovery was made.  On the first day of the excavation, we had a rock chain [handing rocks out of the area  from one person to another] to remove the rocks from an 8th century BC wall in the southwest corner of Area M.  I was in the chain and looking at all the rocks as they were being removed.  I noticed an unusual amount of basalt stones in the chain.  One particular stone caught my eye: an unfinished tripod mortar.  I put it aside and showed it to Dr. Zuckerman later; it was tagged as a special find.  Other unfinished or broken basalt bowls were saved as well.  I thought to myself: “This must be a basalt workshop.”  By the end of the first session, based on other finds discovered by Petra from Germany, the consensus was that this area had been a basalt workshop.

    In the weeks that followed, I sifted much of the material from the floor of this workshop, saving the basalt chips, pottery, and organic matter.  I also found an iron chisel.  The excavation’s basalt expert, Jenny, will have plenty of material to study and analyze in order to understand the process of making basalt objects.  Basalt is one of the hardest stones, which makes it difficult to work.  It will be interesting to see whether the lab results show that the iron chisel had been tempered and made into steel.  If so, that would go a long way in explaining how basalt was worked.  Moreover, geological tests can be done to determine the basalt’s source.  There is an extinct volcano to the west of Hazor, several ancient lava flows to the south, and, of course, the ever-present Golan Heights to the east.

    During the sifting, I saved everything that was not stone or dirt.  Based on what was found in the sifting, I can tell you what the workers in the workshop liked to eat: pickled sardines and olives – and they washed it down with some good wine!  Also, a silver earring was found in the sifting.  I’m not going to try and explain how the earring got on the workshop floor!

    Another discovery, which was made at the end of last season, but covered up for lack of time, was excavated this year.  It was two Iron Age grain silos with carbonized grain in them.  My job was to sift through all the grain sent to me by those who excavated the silos.  I was to collect as many bags of carbonized grain as possible for the botanists at the Hebrew University.  They will be able to identify what kind of grain it is – wheat or barley, or both.  Moreover, some of the seeds will be sent to labs for carbon dating.

    For a brief period of time, I had my own area to actually dig.  I prefer to go a little bit slower than most people, because one tends to find more things that way.  Unfortunately, my pick found a decorated ivory spoon and broke part of it.  I was able to find most of the broken pieces, and Orna Cohen was able to glue them back together.  Several similar objects had been found in both the Yadin excavations as well as the renewed excavations.  Professor Yadin described this type of object as an incense ladle that was probably used for some kind of offering during a cultic ritual (see Yadin’s Hazor – The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible, page 179).

    One of the projects carried out by Orna Cohen and the Druze workers this summer was the reconstruction of part of the casemate wall near the Solomonic Gate.  The Druze see themselves as the descendents of the Phoenicians and Hiram’s, king of Tyre, stone masons.  They reconstructed the walls using the same techniques as Solomon’s workers: stone upon stone, and without the use of cement.

    One of my responsibilities at the excavation was to oversee the dump.  For the second year we were refilling Area A5.  I would watch very carefully as the diggers dumped the dirt from their wheelbarrows to see whether they were discarding something of importance.  Some of the small finds that I caught before they were forever buried in the dump was a bead, and several important shells.

    The Potential for Next Year
    By the end of the 2009 season, we had removed most of the eighth-century walls and strata.  At the beginning of this season, we spent the first week finishing that job.  The next level of occupation was the ninth-century.  I thought it would take a season to excavate the remains from that period.  We blew through it in a couple of weeks.  Area M is outside the Solomonic city so there were no tenth-century domestic dwellings outside the city.  Thus we began to penetrate down to the Late Bronze Age palace.  By the end of the season, we were on top of the palace and some monumental stones were beginning to appear.

    It is in Area M that Dr. Sharon Zuckerman has suggested that the administrative palace of Hazor was and the Canaanite archive of the Late Bronze level would be located (2006: 28-37).  When the archive(s) are found at Hazor, it/they will be a major contribution to Biblical studies and go a long way to resolve some of the thorny issues in Biblical Archaeology.

    We should be on the floor of the palace next season so I know I will have a lot of sifting to do.  Please join us next season as we seek to explore the LB Palace at Hazor.  Who knows what is on the floors in some of the rooms!


    Highlight of the Trip
    The highlight of the trip came at the very end.  After the dig was over, I went to Jerusalem for the weekend and stayed with my friend Goby Barkay.  He had tickets for the dedication ceremony for the reopening of the archaeological wing of the Israel Museum.  While were viewing the new display of the material that had been excavated at Ketef Hinnom in 1979, we were joined by Leora from Tel Aviv.  We had a brief reunion: the director of the excavation, Goby Barkay; the registrar/recorder, Leora; and the area supervisor, me, were all together again.  Unfortunately, no one had brought a camera.  It was exactly thirty-one years ago to the day that Repository 25 was excavated and now it was on permanent display for the first time.


    Further Reading

    Zuckerman, Sharon
    2006    Where is the Hazor Archive Buried?  Biblical Archaeology Review 32/2: 28-37.

  • Excavations at Hazor Comments Off on Reflections on the 2009 Season at Hazor

    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.


  • Excavations at Hazor Comments Off on “Hazor is Number One …”: An Interview with Professor Amnon Ben-Tor

    By Gordon Franz and Stephanie Hernandez

    A self-proclaimed “Jerusalemite”, Amnon Ben-Tor was born, raised, educated and lives in Jerusalem.  With an MA (1961) and a PhD (1968) from Hebrew University, much of Dr. Ben-Tor’s archaeological focus has been on Hazor and Masada.  Besides these two sites, Amnon has directed excavations at Azor, Tel Yarmuth, Tel Yokneam,  Tel Qashish, Tel Qiri and Athienou (Cyprus).  He was educated under Professor Yigael Yadin and has numerous publications to his credit.  He has written extensively on Tel Hazor and has a soon to be released book on Masada.

    This interview was conducted at Hazor in July, 2008.

    Gordon Franz:
    It has been said that Hazor is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Land of Israel.  Why is it so important?

    Amnon Ben-Tor: It is the most important for various reasons.  One is because it says so in the Bible!  To quote a few passages for you: the book of Joshua states that Hazor is the “head of all those kingdoms” (11:10).  So one, the Bible recognized that Hazor was the number one Canaanite city.  The king of Hazor, in the book of Judges, is also the king of Canaan.  Jabin lives in Hazor, but he is the king of Canaan (4:2, 23, 24).  So again, Hazor is number one.  In the conquest of the Land, the decisive battle was fought at Hazor (Jos 11:1-15).  After Hazor was conquered the land was open for the Israelites to settle, from Mount Hermon all the way down to the Aravah (Jos 11:16-12:24).  The beginning of the end of the Israelite kingdom is also connected with Hazor:  In 732 BC the Assyrians take Hazor along with most of the Galilee all the way down to Megiddo (2 Kgs 15:29).  Ten years later, Samaria falls and that’s the end of the Kingdom of Israel.  So, if you look at it from this perspective, Hazor is number one in the Bible.  But this is not enough.

    Number two: If you look at historical records, Hazor is the only site in the country that is mentioned in about twenty documents found in the archive at Mari.  From these documents, we learn that Babylonian ambassadors were living in Hazor and caravans were coming and going.  Hazor is the only one mentioned: not Dan, not Megiddo, not Lachish, not Jerusalem.  No other site, just Hazor.

    If you go to the Late Bronze Age, the 14th century BC, there is the Amarna archive.  The king of Hazor is the only one that has the title “king” in all the correspondences.  Not only does he refer to himself as king, but also others.  Some of them are his rivals, but still they refer to him as king.  The king of Tyre writes to Pharaoh, “the king of Hazor has done so and so”.  Number two: the historical records.

    Number three: the archaeological record.  Canaanite Hazor is the biggest site in the country, covering some 200 acres with a population between 15,000 and 20,000 people.  So I am talking about something like New York or Paris of today.  It was a huge site.

    Further are the finds.  We have exquisite finds.  I know everybody comes and talks about the archives, which will be found in time.  But by now we already have more documents than any other site in the country.  Other than this, we have magnificent finds.  Unlike any other site, archaeology shows us that Canaanite Hazor was number one.  Then, when Canaanite Hazor was destroyed, it was no longer number one in this sense.  Israelite Hazor was much, much smaller, confined only to the acropolis, with a population of between 1,000 and 1,500 people.  Then Jerusalem is number one, and Samaria is number two.  Then we have Dan, Hazor, Megiddo, Gezer, Lachish, and Beer Sheva.  These are important cities.

    Hazor is number one even now from another point of view.  This again has to do with the Bible and the value of Biblical historiography.  Does the Bible reflect historical reality?  Is the Bible only theology?  Or is it only fantasy?  Hazor was continuously occupied from around 950 BC to around 732 BC, and we have more strata from this time frame than any other site in the country.  We have a very dense stratigraphy.  So if you talk about the problem of the conquest of the land, of Joshua if you wish: Hazor.  The period of the Judges: Hazor.  The United Monarchy, say Solomon: Hazor.  Ahab: Hazor.  Jeroboam II: Hazor.  Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria: Hazor.  So you can walk with the Bible in one hand, and – at the same time looking at the relics.  I don’t say that you have to accept everything, but the argument or the discussion should be held, could be held, can be held, here at Hazor.

    Gordon: You had the privilege of working closely with Professor Yigael Yadin.  Please tell us something about Yadin the person.  What was he like?  What made him tick?

    Amnon: Yadin was a great man.  You don’t get to meet many great men, maybe one in your lifetime.  There are only three peaks anyone can reach: in the military, in politics and in culture.  In the military, Yadin was the Chief of Staff.  The politicians asked him, as a military authority in his twenties, if he thought we could withstand the invasion of Arab armies, certain to happen once a state was declared, and he said “yes.”  He took upon himself, at that young age a tremendous responsibility!  This is something.  He became Chief of Staff after the war.  So that’s one peak.
    Second, in the 50’s and 60’s, if you ask anyone which figure they think about in terms of Israeli culture, it would be Yadin.  Yadin was Masada.  Yadin was Hazor.  Yadin was the “Dead Sea Scrolls.”
    Number three is politics, where he became Deputy Prime Minister, although I advised him not to get involved in politics.  Tell me, how many people do you know who became Chief of Staff, Deputy Prime Minister, and such an important person in the history of the country?  This was Yadin.

    So he was a great person.  He was the best lecturer.  He could fill halls with thousands of people.  He was very quick.  Whenever something came up, he was the one who could point out where the weak spot was and the good arguments.  He was a great man.

    Gordon: What influence did Yadin have in getting you involved in archaeology in general and Hazor in particular?

    Amnon: First of all, he was my teacher, and he was the best of my teachers.  Second, he gave me my first job which I had in archaeology.  He wrote the book, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Times which was one of the first books on the subject in this part of the world.  It appeared in 1963.  He gave me the job to collect the bibliography, the pictures, this and that.  I worked for him by the hour and this was the first job in archaeology that I had.

    Third, field work:  In 1958 I was working here at Hazor.  My first real excavation was here under Ruth Amiran, but Yadin was the head of the excavations.  Then, he invited me to join him in the excavation of Masada, where I spent the best three years of my life, ever.  So this was Masada.  Then I went with him in 1968 to excavate Hazor again.
    Yadin was a very important figure in archaeology.  When he died [June 28, 1984], he named three people to be in charge of his scientific legacy because there were so much of his publications that he didn’t have time to finish because of his involvement in the Agranat Commission after the Yom Kippur War, his involvement in politics and eventually the government.  So a lot was left undone.  He named Joseph Aviram – the head of the Israel Exploration Society, Professor Nahman Avigad of the Hebrew University and me to publish his scientific material.  I was to do Hazor.  So again, I came back to Hazor through Yadin’s legacy.  I worked on the publication of the volumes of Hazor III and IV, and also Hazor V.  It was during that time that I decided to come back to Hazor.  So you see Yadin is the pivot of everything that I am doing.

    :  When Yadin died in 1984 he had plans to return to Hazor and continue his excavations.  Why did he want to return?

    Amnon: He had a very, very specific goal in mind.  In 1958, a corner of a huge building was discovered in Area A.  Yadin was convinced that this was the corner of the palace of Jabin, the king of Hazor, who was known from the Mari archive as Ibni-Addu.  He was sure that in this building the archive of Hazor would be found.  This was his main goal.  He wanted to come back and look for the archive.  There were other things, but his main goal was this.  But he died, and he did not have time to come back.  I came back instead.

    Gordon: You returned to Hazor in 1990.  Why did you return and what were your objectives for the renewed excavations?  What questions did you want to answer?

    Amnon: I had three objectives: first – to deal with the issues that were controversial.  For example, the date of the six-chambered gate found at Hazor in the 50’s.  Hazor is where the “dogma” of the archaeology of the United Monarchy was formulated.  The six-chambered gate and the casemate wall were dated by Yadin’s expedition to the time of Solomon.  The Biblical passage (I Kings 9:15) attributes the construction of Hazor and Gezer to King Solomon, all of this drew a lot of fire on the one hand and a lot of support on the other.  The focus of the debate was over the date of the gate.  So one objective was to return and excavate and deal with these issues.
    Second was to deal with issues that where left unresolved by the previous excavations.  For example, what is the date of the construction of the Lower City?  When did it become a real city in the Middle Bronze Age?  It was a controversial issue.  Another issue was the question of who destroyed Hazor and when.  Yadin thought he knew.  He had the date and he had the culprit, so to speak.  But it was, and still is, a controversial issue.  He did not have enough data, so the idea was to find the evidence.  We also hope to find the archive.  Yadin did not find it.  Maybe we can find it.  So maybe the palace, or what Yadin thought was the palace, is where the archive will be found.  So let’s excavate this particular palace.  So this was the second reason.
    The third reason I returned to Hazor is that Hazor is the most important Biblical site.  Unfortunately not too many people come to visit the site for a number of reasons.  It is far away, it has no water, it has no shop, and it has no restaurant.  So people don’t come and tour guides don’t take people to Hazor.  They would rather take them to nearby Tel Dan where there is water and a restaurant.  We have other problems.  We have no real interest for Christians who are interested in the New Testament.  The only large groups of Christian visitors are the Koreans who are interested in the Old Testament.  They realize that Hazor is the place to be.  So I think it is important to make Hazor attractive to people.  If we can restore the place so that it “speaks” to the common person, not only to the archaeologists, I think we are doing something very important.  So we restore, we invest millions of shekels for reconstruction to put Hazor on the map.  I think it has helped.  We are already a World Heritage site on UNESCO’s list.  Unfortunately not too many school children come, but the number of tourists is rising.  There is a lot of work to be done with the teachers, with the ministry of education.  I have tried to work with three of them already, but so far, no success.  Let’s see what is going to happen in the future.

    Gordon: What are the most important discoveries you have made at Hazor?

    Amnon: This is more or less like asking which of your children you love the most!  It’s very difficult, you know.  The results are cumulative.  It is not one thing, but it’s this and this and the other.  So if we are talking about the Iron Age it is the excavation that we did next to the casemate wall in order to determine the date of the entire system, which we managed to place in the 10th century BC.  I think it is very, very important.  Almost everything we are finding contributes to the general picture.
    When you come to the Bronze Age it is the palace, no question about it.  The documents that we find are important as well.  The latest one that we found is the first time that Mari is mentioned in a document found at Hazor.  So far we only had Hazor mentioned on tablets found in Mari.  Now we have them both ways.  So it is this and that and the other.  All of this contributes to the picture.
    Not the least, I found my wife at Hazor.  She was a student.  We get first year students here for three weeks, to train them in field archaeology.  She was one of them and here is where I found her some 40 years ago.  So that was another important find …

    Gordon: Are you still happily married?

    Amnon: Yes, I am.  And we are talking now about 40 years.

    How does one go about volunteering for the excavations at Hazor?

    Sometimes you get the most interesting people coming to Hazor.  Including this season, we have had people from more than 27 different countries participate in the excavation.  Some of them you would never think about.  We had someone from Tasmania, the island south of Australia.  All kinds of strange / exotic countries with very, very interesting people.  Number one, we have a website.
    Number two: the January / February issue of Biblical Archaeology Review lists the sites that are excavating that summer.  We are listed there.  Number three and I think number three is the best:  It is when a friend brings a friend, brings a friend, and brings a friend.  We have people who come every year and they bring their own friends.  We have some people that are with us for fifteen seasons.  We have a woman from Sweden who has been with us for nineteen seasons.  We have a volunteer from Spain who came to Hazor 18 years ago, stayed in the country, married a local girl and is now a member of the Hazor excavations staff!  So it is by word of mouth, it is by the website.  We have groups and we have individuals.  We had the ABR group that was with us three times.  We have groups from different universities; we have our own Hebrew University students.  We have individuals from here, there and everywhere.

    Gordon:  You recently retired from active teaching at Hebrew University.  What do you hope to accomplish in your retirement?

    Amnon: It’s a cliché.  I’ve heard many people say it but I’ve never believed it but it is true.  I don’t have time to do anything!  I don’t know how I found time to teach.  There is so much to do.  Hazor takes up most of my time.
    I just finished writing a book on Masada which will appear very soon, both in Hebrew and in English.  This takes up a lot of my time.  It’s finished, it’s done.  Now we are putting in the pictures, the captions, all this technical work.  By the end of the year I hope it will appear, but we’ll see.  You never know how long it will take in the press.
    We are now busy writing the final report on the results of the Hazor excavations 1990-2008: two teams are working simultaneously on two volumes: one on the Iron Age, the other on the Bronze Age.  There are so many things I want to do.  I want to write a popular book about Hazor.  There’s no end.  There is no time to do anything.  I want to study more about Jerusalem.  I want to improve two languages, Spanish and French.  No time, no time.

    Amnon, thank you for your time, I appreciate it.  I wish you all the best in the seasons to come.  I hope you find the archive sooner, rather than later.  And I hope I will be there with you when you find it.  All the best.

    For further information concerning the Hazor Excavations, please visit their website:


  • Excavations at Hazor Comments Off on “Where is the archive at Hazor?”: An interview with Dr. Sharon Zuckerman

    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?

    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).

    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.


    Zuckerman, Sharon
    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:


  • Excavations at Hazor Comments Off on “It is the Best Job in the World!”: An Interview with Conservator Orna Cohen

    By Stephanie Hernandez and Gordon Franz


    Born and raised in the Upper Galilee, conservator Orna Cohen has had an accomplished career.  Currently restoring the Late Bronze Age palace at Tel Hazor, Cohen has used her expertise on the ancient Galilee boat and has given her expert opinion to the Israel Antiquities Authority regarding the James Ossuary.  Educated at Hebrew university and the London University – Institute of Archaeology, Cohen is also responsible for cleaning artifacts found at the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

    This interview was conducted at the “ceremonial palace” at Hazor.  For a more technical account of the excavation of the palace, see Ben-Tor and Rubiato 1999:22-39.

    Stephanie Hernandez: Why is it important for archaeologists to restore the structures that they have excavated?

    Orna Cohen: It’s very simple.  As with a modern or new building, you have to take care of it.  Just think of a building that’s been covered for thousands of years.  After you have excavated it, there are a lot of unstable structures that you have to stabilize.  There are elements like broken stones and things that you have to fix.  Also, not just stability, but you also have to show it to the public, to visitors.  You have to share it with others and restore it in such a way that visitors can understand the structures that were uncovered during excavation.

    Stephanie: What is a conservator?  How does one learn to be a conservator?  What kind of education do you need?

    Orna: It is the best job in the world!  It is the most interesting thing.  The archaeologists are excavating and dealing with all the stuff, with pottery, but the interesting thing, the sugar / cherry on the cake that I have to deal with, are the small finds.  I have to prepare them for exhibition, or publication.  If it is the structure on the site, it is the most fascinating and challenging part of the excavation.  I feel very lucky to have an opportunity to do this thing.  Basically I started as an archaeologist.  I studied archaeology, then I studied chemistry and then there are special courses on conservation.  But still you need a lot of experience to be a good conservator, to understand the value, the meaning, and the rules.  It means a longer period of experience and education.  I went to Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but when I decided to specialize in conservation I had to go and study in England at the London University – Institute of Archaeology and then some courses in Norway and Italy.

    Stephanie: You have almost single-handedly, along with Ina from Sweden, restored the “ceremonial palace” near the top of the acropolis of Hazor.  Please tell us about the excavation of this structure, the objects found in the excavations and the burn layer of the violent conflagration that brought the palace to its end.

    Orna: I was lucky to start working on this project when they started digging the main hall of the palace.  So they called me when they found a few broken statues and it was the most exciting excavation I have ever visited and took part in.  It was amazing.  They excavated a layer of about one meter of thick ash all burned.  The people used to come out like a coal miner at the end of the day.  They were dark, but with big smiles on their faces because they were so happy to take part in this experience.  Every minute someone would find something, a seal, a big statue, fragments of pottery, of course cuneiform tablets.  It is the most rich excavation.  So it was very exciting.  Of course later I had to treat all the objects for publication so I twice had the pleasure of dealing with these objects.  But the excavation itself was amazing.  Everyone was very excited.  It was a sure thing you’d find many figurines.  On the corner of the treasure room were two beautiful bronze statues that were buried so they were intact.  The other statues, the large stone ones, were mutilated.  Whoever burned down the palace cut off the heads and hands of the statues.  Early on, it was a really special experience, very exciting.

    Stephanie: How intense was the fire?  How do you know this?

    Orna: The temperature reached at least 1300 degrees centigrade (2350 degrees Fahrenheit), which is huge.  But just imagine, it melted pottery and some of the mud brick, so they ran like water. You can see this material running on the walls.  For this kind of fire you need a lot of organic materials.  We know there was a lot of wood in this palace, all cedars of Lebanon, according to the charcoal that was tested.  But it is a huge room.  We have not found remains of any pillars that supported the roof.  You need a lot of large beams of cedar to roof it.  Also, there was wood combined in the walls, and of course, the very rare and unique find of the wooden floor.  These are all charcoal remains that we are talking about.  All these helped to accumulate this one meter thick layer of ash which is very rare.  The most you see on an excavation is one or two centimeters.  One meter is very unusual.  There was no need to bring in wood from the outside for this fire.  There was enough organic material.  Beside that, all the large pottery jars in the area also contained organic material, probably oils, which are expected in such a place.  Altogether, with the strong wind that we have here in the afternoon can bring the fire to this degree.  That’s what cracked all the stone panels at the bottom of the walls.  The orthostates were all cracked and crushed because of the fire.  Also, it caused me a lot of work to puzzle and glue them together!

    Stephanie: Who burned the place?

    Orna: We can not tell exactly.  But the only historical evidence is from the Bible that tells about how Joshua conquered Hazor and since the king of Hazor organized all the cities against the Israelites, they gave the order to burn it down to ashes (Jos 11:11).  Here we see it, is it this story or not, we don’t know.

    Gordon Franz:
    Permit me to change the subject.  You have made some excellent replicas of objects that have been found at Hazor for various museums.  How easy, or hard is it to make a replica?  What is the process?

    Orna: It depends on what the object is.  Today there are excellent materials for making replicas.  If you know how to do it right, it is a lot of work, but you can get beautiful replicas that almost look the same.  As a professional who does it for museums, I always make sure I made a difference and mark down that it’s a replica, so we won’t find it on the market later in Jerusalem (which already happened once!).  I did some kind of bronze keys from the Second Temple period and I saw them later on the market.  They were sold to the Tower of David.  So I have to be very careful.  I label them as replicas.  It’s something I make and it is difficult to see but I mark them as replicas.  If it’s the same material I always put “R” or replica somewhere on it.

    Gordon: Could someone make a fake archaeological artifact and sell it on the antiquities market?

    It’s been done for many years.  We have heard stories about that.  It is possible, but to do it you have to know what you want, but today it is all possible.  There are the materials and there is information that you can find everywhere.  It’s possible and it happens.  Some of it is good, so people should not buy antiquities on the free market.  There is no need to deal with antiquities.  I think today if you want to show antiquities you can show beautiful professional replicas in museums.  If you want to make your own collection, make a collection of replicas because collecting antiquities means you are sending someone to rob them, to steal them, to destroy knowledge from archaeological sites.  So we are against all these fakes and I wish people would stop buying them and start going to replicas.  I only do replicas for museums, not for the open market.

    How easy is it to fake patina?

    It is possible, but it is not easy to fake patina.  You need the knowledge, but it has been done.  There is research going on about it for historical buildings.  For instance when you are renewing part of a building you want to repeat the patina, so there is research about these things.  I had the pleasure of looking at and checking the James Ossuary and I gave my comments on it.  I think the ossuary is authentic and a real one, but the inscription on it, I am convinced there are two hands that wrote the inscription.  To my opinion, part of the inscription is faked, part is original.  Of course, there are things that go on in trial now.  They are still trying to figure out what is faked and by whom it was made.  To my opinion, the name Joshua [on the ossuary] is real.  The inscription reads: “Ya’acov bar Yosef achi Yehoshua.”  [Translation: Jacob, or James, the son of Joseph, the brother of Jesus].  So the first part, I think is added.  My professional opinion is almost against all the others that think the last name [on the inscription]; “brother of Jesus” (Joshua) is a fake.  So my opinion was against the others [at the trial].  I checked and it’s according to the patina in the letters.  There was a fake patina of just dirt that was put in these letters on purpose so I cleaned part of it and underneath there was the original, yellowish patina that based on my experience, was the original one.  It was not on the first part of the inscription but it was on the last part of the inscription.  That is what I gave as my opinion.

    How prevalent are fakes on the antiquities market today and can a discerning eye spot one?

    Orna: I do not deal with the market much.  I do not go into these stores of course.  But from time to time, I have been asked [about possible fakes].  Working in the Bible Lands Museum I saw many fakes that these expert people bought.  There are fakes and you can fool the experts for a while.  But eventually people figure it out with the new ways of testing and inspecting of things like that.  I think all the fakes are coming out as fakes.  So it is better not to buy from the market in my opinion.

    Thank you for your time.

    Orna: Thank you.


    Ben-Tor, Amnon; and Rubiato, Maria Teresa
    1999    Excavating Hazor.  Did the Israelites Destroy the Canaanite City?  Biblical Archaeology Review 25/3: 22-39.

    For further information concerning the Hazor Excavations, please visit their website:


  • Excavations at Hazor Comments Off on Reflections of the 2006 Season at Hazor

    By Gordon Franz

    The 2006 Season
    This past summer was the 17th season of the renewed excavations of Hazor in memory of Professor Yigel Yadin.  ABR had a group of 11 volunteers, lead by Larry Fuller (ABR president) and myself. We joined about 50 other volunteers from Israel and abroad (Scotland, Poland, Romania, America, Denmark, and England) in order to excavate this important site.  The ABR team toured around Israel as part of the actual digging at Tel Hazor.  Our people worked in two areas: A-4 and the renewed Area M.

    The main concentration of work for this season was Area M.  It is in this area that Dr. Sharon Zuckerman, the area supervisor, has suggested that the administrative palace of Hazor was and the Canaanite archive of the Late Bronze level would be located (2006: 28-37).  But before the Late Bronze Age is reached, we must go through the Persian period level and the Iron Age levels.  For a report of the previous seasons of Area M, see Ben-Tor and Rubiato 1999: 32-34.

    In the spring, a bulldozer removed the top half meter of a road that had been put in by the National Parks Authority to allow tourists to drive to the top of the site.  Nine 5 x 5 meter squares were opened this season.  Immediately underneath this road were several stone walls of the Persian period (4th century BC), apparently making the corner of two rooms.  The walls and the restorable pottery that were found were an important contribution to our understanding of Hazor because the excavations in the 1950’s and 1960’s by Prof. Yigel Yadin yielded very little Persian period architecture.

    Two of the ABR volunteers worked in the corners of the rooms.  Michael Lassiter found a cylindrical seal with two dancing animals on it.  After it was cleaned, it was identified as being from the Persian period.  He also found an intact Persian period storage jar.  Hazor is a scientific excavation so Mike spent the better part of a morning removing the packed dirt from the jar in order to do “flotation” on the soil.  This process collects the seeds that were originally in the jar so they could be analyzed and identified.

    Joyce Morril worked in the other room.  She found lots of restorable vessels of the Persian period.  One square over, James Muehling found a bronze object that looked like a battery, but after cleaning, it turned out to be part of a dagger’s handle, possibly of the Persian period or Iron Age.  Unfortunately the blade is in the blaulk that separates the two squares and time did not allow it to be removed.

    In four of the squares, a cobble stone pavement was reached, apparently part of a courtyard from the Iron Age.  In a fifth square there were remains of a hewn water channel that lead to the entrance of a cistern in the courtyard.  Unfortunately the excavation was stopped prematurely, thus leaving lots of questions unanswered, just when we were beginning to find things and the area started to make sense.

    The restoration projects at Hazor continued this season as well.  Orna Cohen and her restorers have beautifully reconstructed the Late Bronze palace on the top of the tel.  Tourists will now be able to sense some of the power and glory of the Canaanite kings of Hazor in this ceremonial reception hall.

    We’re Outa Here!
    On the next to the last day (Thursday) that the ABR group was scheduled to dig at Hazor, trouble broke out in the area.  Our Israeli staff had our best interest and safety in mind and within 15 minutes, a bus was on the site to evacuate us.  We had an early breakfast and returned to the hotel to get what we needed and were taken to Tiberius.  On Saturday morning our bus picked us up, as scheduled, from the Tiberias hotel and were went to Jerusalem to shop and tour and then returned to the United States on Sunday night.

    The Prospects for the 2007 Season

    Due to the troubles in the Middle East, the 2006 season was cut short by a few weeks and left many unanswered questions.  Hopefully, next year some of these questions will be answered.
    Dr. Zuckerman has made a compelling case for the archives to be found in Area M.  When the archive(s) are found at Hazor, it/they will be a major contribution to Biblical studies and go a long way to resolve some of the thorny issues in Biblical Archaeology.


    Ben-Tor, Amnon, and Rubiato, Maria Teresa
    1999    Did the Israelites Destroy the Canaanite City?  Biblical Archaeology Review 25/3: 22-39.

    Zuckerman, Sharon
    2006    Where is the Hazor Archive Buried?  Biblical Archaeology Review 32/2: 28-37.

    Hazor Excavations Project

  • Excavations at Hazor Comments Off on Reflections of the 2005 Season at Hazor

    By Gordon Franz


    Someone shouted, “Bucket chain!”  All the volunteers and area supervisors took their positions and passed 200 plus buckets from one to another across Area A-5, up the ladder and into waiting wheelbarrows.  Others pushed the wheelbarrows to the dump a few meters away.  Last summer (2005), we literally moved tons of dirt and rocks at the excavations at Tel Hazor by doing 10-15 bucket chains per day for six weeks.
    We accomplished a lot as far as moving dirt was concerned, but had little to show for it with regard to small finds.  I came to the startling realization that Indiana Jones and his clones are purely fictional characters.  Real archaeology is a lot of donkey work!

    The 2005 Season

    This past summer was the 16th season of the renewed excavations in memory of Professor Yigael Yadin.  ABR had a group of 21 volunteers, lead by Larry Fuller (ABR president) and myself.  We had tours around Israel as well as actual digging at Tel Hazor.  Our people worked in two areas: A-4 and A-5.
    A-4 was divided into two sections, south and north respectively.  The last of the 10th century BC Solomonic remains were removed in the southern section in order to penetrate into the Bronze Age.  In this section, a plaster floor from the Early Bronze IV period emerged.  This discovery, plus other information, demonstrated that the Upper City of Hazor was densely populated.  Underneath these remains was a room from the Early Bronze III period.  In the northern section, a massive stone was discovered, possibly of a palace (?) from the Middle Bronze II period.
    A-5 is an East-West trench located in front of the Solomonic Gate.  This area was also divided into two sections, south and north respectively.  In previous seasons we found large walls with mudbrick preserved to the height of 4 meters on top of stone foundations that are placed on bedrock.  The function of these walls is elusive.  I jokingly refer to them as the “Canaanite rat maze!”  We have two large “halls” that seemingly do not have entrances.
    As Amnon Ben-Tor, the excavator of Hazor has observed: “The remains exposed in Area A-5 raise three main issues: 1) the nature of the exposed hall, 2) the date of the structure, and 3) the question how the mudbrick walls survived to almost their original height of over 4 m., until the halls were filled the Iron Age II” (Ben-Tor 2005).
    The restoration projects at Hazor continued this season as well.  Orna Cohen and her restorers have beautifully reconstructed the Late Bronze palace on the top of the tel.  Tourists will now be able to sense some of the power and glory of the Canaanite kings of Hazor in this ceremonial reception hall.

    The Prospects for the 2006 Season

    One question that is asked of Dr. Ben-Tor is: “Have you found the Canaanite archives yet?”  It is known that at least two Canaanite archives existed at Hazor, one in the Middle Bronze Age and the other in the Late Bronze Age.  In the 2006 season there will be an attempt to answer this question.  One of the staff members, Dr. Sharon Zuckerman, has suggested that the administrative palace of Hazor was near the gate from the Lower City to the Upper City.  She will set forth her case in a forthcoming issue of “Biblical Archaeology Review.”  In order to test this hypothesis, the 2006 season will concentrate on a reopened Area M that Dr. Zuckerman directed for a number of years (Ben-Tor and Rubiato 1999: 32-34).  There are still several little projects to be completed in Areas A-4 and A-5, including finding the elusive entrances to the halls.
    When the archive(s) are found at Hazor, it/they will be a major contribution to Biblical studies and go a long way to resolve some of the thorny issues in Biblical Archaeology.


    Ben-Tor, Amnon
    2005    Notes and News: Tel Hazor, 2005.  Israel Exploration Journal.  Forthcoming.

    Ben-Tor, Amnon, and Rubiato, Maria Teresa
    1999    Did the Israelites Destroy the Canaanite City?  Biblical Archaeology Review 25/3: 22-39.

    Hazor Excavations Project

  • Excavations at Hazor Comments Off on Reflections of the 2003 Season at Hazor

    By Gordon Franz

    What I Did on My Summer Vacation … I Dug Hazor!

    A Day at the Dig

    The knock came at 4:15 in the morning. Shauel, the excavation trouble-shooter, was knocking on the doors in order to wake up all the volunteers of the Hazor excavation. I must admit, I do not normally get up at 4:15, so I moved a bit slow. But each day was filled with excitement. What would we find today? How hot was it going to be outside? Would we have a breeze? Will we ever find that elusive Canaanite archive?

    Before we rode the bus to Hazor, we had a light breakfast of bread and jelly, and sometimes peanut butter, along with coffee, tea or whatever else was put out. At five minutes to five, the bus arrived to take us to the site. It was a short, three-minute ride from our hotel to the dig.

    Work began before sunrise. Looking to the east, one could see the silhouette of Mt. Hermon and the volcanic peaks of the Golan Heights. On some mornings we had spectacular sunrises as the sun peaked over the Heights. But with the appearance of the sun, the temperature increased. How hot was it going to be today?

    This season the Hazor excavation worked primarily in two locations. The Canaanite palace / temple complex was called A4 and a trench just east of the Solomonic gate called A5. The purpose of this trench is to understand the Israelite and Canaanite fortifications. I was digging in A5.

    By seven in the morning we were ready for our first break. We had tea and coffee along with cookies provided by each digger. The tea usually had mint in it. The coffee, well what can I say, when we got down to the bottom of the pitcher, it looked like the Canaanite mud brick from the palace! I do not drink coffee, but I am told it tasted pretty good. After this break, the suntan lotion came out. Even though we had a net over the area that kept out much of the sun, but allowed the breeze to blow through, it was wise to put on the sunscreen.

    There was always the constant reminder to drink water. On some days, I would drink between three and four liters of water! One works up a good sweat on an excavation.

    Breakfast came around at 9:30. Fortunately A5 was right next to our dining area. This meal consisted of the usual Israeli fare for breakfast: tomatoes, cucumbers, yogurt, cottage cheese, bread, rolls, fish of one sort or another, juice, water and halva. Every once and awhile, Shauel would come through with scrambled eggs cooked in olive oil. It was great!

    People sometimes have the wrong impression of archaeology and think it is a treasure hunt. In reality, it is usually tedious “donkey work” of moving dirt. Usually one would use a pick to loosen up the dirt and then scrap it into buckets, all the while looking for any man made objects like pottery, worked flint, or metals. Once all the buckets were filled (in A5 we usually had about 120 of them) the diggers would form a bucket chain and remove all the buckets from the area. Once on top, they were unloaded in wheelbarrows and hauled off to the dump. When a floor level was reached, then the work became a bit more interesting.

    A one o’clock, work was over. We piled on the bus with our pottery buckets and returned to the hotel. Lunch awaited us. Since the hotel restaurant was kosher, lunch was the meat meal. After lunch, we would wash the pottery that was uncovered that day. With that task completed, it was time for a nap. Sleeping in a nice air-conditioned room was a welcomed change after working for eight hours in the heat. At 5:30 it was time for pottery reading and supper at 7:30. This meal was the “dairy meal”, or vegetarian meal. After dinner there was usually a lecture or video until about 9 PM. Soon after, one was fast asleep, waiting for Shauel to knock on your door at 4:15 the next morning!

    Weekends were free to do as you pleased. Unlike most excavations, the diggers were allowed to stay at the hotel on weekends. Some weekends the diggers just relaxed for the weekend and read a good book, or did laundry in the hotel washing machine. Some diggers would rent a car for a day and visit other archaeological sites in the area, Tel Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Nimrod’s Castle, the Golan Heights, Gamla or the Sea of Galilee. The real energetic diggers would rent a car for the weekend and go further a field, to Jerusalem or Akko.

    The excavation had a distinct international flavor. There were a number of Israeli students from Hebrew University as well as other Israelis. There were also people from Romania, the United States, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Denmark, and Australia. Dr. Ben-Tor pointed out to me one week that one area had eleven people in it and nine different languages spoke! The common language was English.

    Why Dig Hazor?

    Hazor is an important and impressive site. In fact, Hazor is the largest archaeological site in Israel. This 200-acre city consists of two parts, the Upper City, or Acropolis, and the Lower City. The next largest cities, apart from Jerusalem, are Gezer and Lachish at 18 acres. Hazor is eleven times the size of these cities!

    For the student of the Bible, Hazor has an impressive amount of Biblical history and the archaeological remains to go along with it.

    The first mention of Hazor in the Bible is in Joshua 11. “Joshua turned back at that time and took Hazor, and struck its king with the sword; for Hazor was formerly the head of all those kingdoms. And they struck all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them. There was none left breathing. Then he burned Hazor with fire. … But as for the cities that stood on their mounds, Israel burned none of them, except Hazor only, which Joshua burned” (11:10,11,13, cf. 12:19). The first Israeli excavator of Hazor, Yigel Yadin, and the present excavator, Amnon Ben-Tor, believes the burn level of the Late Bronze II period is evidence of Joshua’s destruction.

    Hazor was allotted to the tribe of Naphtali (Josh. 19:36) and is mentioned in the account of Judges 4 and 5, the story of Deborah and Barak (Judges 4:2,3,24).

    Yadin excavated a very impressive six-chambered gate dating to the 10th century BC and built by King Solomon. Similar gates from this period were discovered at Megiddo and Gezer. Yadin connected this phenomenon with a passage in the Scriptures, “And this is the reason for the labor force which King Solomon raised to build: to build the house of the LORD, his own house, the Millo, the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer” (I Kings 9:15).

    In the mid-8th century BC an extraordinary earthquake hit the Middle East. Amos (1:2) as well as Isaiah predicted this earthquake (2:19, 21). Yadin discovered evidence for this earthquake in the 1950’s in Area A. This summer, I believe there was more archaeological evidence for this earthquake in A5. Walls were uncovered that tilted to the south or east and floors collapsed. As I looked at those walls, I contemplated the reason for this earthquake. The prophets warned the people to humble themselves because they were proud and haughty. If they did not, the prophets said, God would humble them with an earthquake (Isa. 2). Several years ago I wrote an article on the archaeological evidence for, and the geological implications of, this earthquake with two geologists, Dr. Steve Austin and Dr. Eric Frost. Based on the archaeological evidence, it was determined that the magnitude of this quake measured at 8.2 on the Richter scale! That was a big quake.

    Israel, the Northern Kingdom, did not heed the words of the prophets. Amos predicted that a greater judgment would fall on Israel if they did not return to the Lord. That judgment was an invasion by the Assyrians. In 732 BC, the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III invaded Israel. “In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maachah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria” (II Kings 15:29; cf. Isa, 9:1).

    At one point during the excavation I was clearing a street level, the area supervisor called it a junkyard. Among other things, I found five arrowheads, one spear point and a sickle, all possibly associated with the Assyrian attack on the city in 732 BC. As I was digging, I was wondering to myself, why would God allow the Assyrians to attack Israel? I recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is my indignation. I will send him against and ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath” (10:5,6a). God used the Assyrians to chasten Israel in order to bring them back to Himself. They did not respond positively to the message of the prophets so they were taken into captivity (Lev. 26:32-39; Deut. 28:58-67).

    Interestingly enough, Yadin discovered partially eaten pigs underneath the Assyrian destruction level. This indicates that the Israelites were eating pork just prior to the destruction of the city, something the prophet Isaiah condemned because the Mosaic Law forbade it (Isa. 65:1-4; 66:17, cf. Lev. 11:7).

    There are other Biblical connections that the Bible student would find fascinating and would help to better understand the Scriptures, but these remain for another time.

    Hope to see you next summer at Hazor. Shauel would love to wake you up at 4:15!

    Hazor Excavations Project


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