present-day Tell el-Mutesellim, an imposing 18-acre site near the southwestern corner of the Plain of Esdraelon (Greek for Jezreel Valley) of northern Israel. The tell guards the northern opening of the Wadi Ara (Nahal Iron) through the Carmel Ridge, thus controlling the principal military and commercial highway connecting Egypt and the Near East in antiquity (called by the Romans, the Via Maris). The site is also astride a major north–south road that leads from Akko inland to Jerusalem.
Megiddo (Eg., Mkt, Akk., Magidda) has been the scene of four excavations: (1) by Gottlieb Schumacher on behalf of the German Society for the Study of Palestine (1903–1905); (2) by Clarence Fisher, then P. L. O. Guy, and finally Gordon Loud for the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (1925–1939); (3) by Yigael Yadin, Immanuel Dunayevsky, and Avraham Eitan for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (in eight seasons between 1960 and 1974); and (4), by Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University, starting in 1992.
There are scattered indications from the late fourth millennium BCE at Megiddo of Egyptian contact: for example, a disk-shaped mace head from Stratum XIX of the Early Bronze I period is clearly an import from Egypt. Relations with Egypt are next attested for Egypt's late Middle Kingdom or early Second Intermediate Period. Manfred Görg has suggested that the place-name Megiddo is miswritten as mky in the Brussels Execration Texts (entries E37, E62) belonging to the early thirteenth dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. A statuette base of Djehutihotpe, nomarch of the Hare nome, who died during the reign of Senwosret III in the mid-twelfth dynasty, was found with three other Egyptian statuette fragments in the platform of the Stratum VIIB Temple 2048 of the thirteenth century BCE. These objects, long interpreted as indicative of Egyptian rule at Megiddo during the twelfth dynasty, are now generally viewed as “loot,” taken from Egypt during the Hyksos period or later. Egyptian small finds are rare in tomb and settlement deposits of the Middle Bronze IIA period (contemporary with most of the twelfth and early thirteenth dynasties), but become numerous in Middle Bronze IIB–C deposits, reflecting the general increase in Egyptian–Palestinian relations during the Second Intermediate Period.
Megiddo was the center of an important Canaanite city-state in the mid-second millennium BCE. Its capture became the strategic objective of Thutmose III's first Near Eastern campaign in the early fifteenth century BCE; a coalition of Canaanite forces headed by the princes of Kadesh and Megiddo then banded together for defense. The campaign, known in considerable detail from the king's Annals and his topographical lists at Karnak, as well as from a stela found at Gebel Barkal in northern Sudan, included both the defeat of a Canaanite chariot force outside Megiddo and a seven-month siege. Megiddo ultimately surrendered and, for the next three centuries, become an important Egyptian stronghold. Megiddo is elsewhere mentioned at least twice in connection with Egypt during the fifteenth century BCE. A cuneiform letter found at Taanach contains an order from an individual named Amenhotpe (probably an Egyptian official) to the prince of Taanach to send troops and tribute to the Egyptians at Megiddo. Megiddo is one of at least seven northern Palestinian towns mentioned in Papyrus Leningrad 1116A (lines 68 and 185), and envoys from those towns received grain and beer from Egyptian officials at Thebes in regnal Year 19 or 20 of Amenhotpe II.
Seven cuneiform tablets from the Egyptian diplomatic record office at Tell el-Amarna are from Megiddo (Amarna Letters EA 242–247, 365). These letters are filled mostly with statements of fealty to the Egyptian king from Biridiya, ruler of Megiddo, as well as complaints from Biridiya about Labayu, the ruler of Shechem, whom the Megiddo official describes as a continuing threat to his own town and from whom he wants Egyptian military protection. In EA 244 Biridiya specifically requests a hundred Egyptian archers to defend his town from Labayu, while in EA 365 he seeks the king's attention by bragging about his furnishing of corvée labor for work at Shunama (the biblical Shunem).
Megiddo remained an important Egyptian military and administrative center during the nineteenth and early twentieth dynasties. In addition to its pro forma appearance in several Ramessid-era topographical lists, Megiddo is one of a number of Palestinian towns named in Papyrus Anastasi I (line 23.1) from the second half of the nineteenth dynasty. More significant are the numerous Egyptian artifacts—scarabs and amulets; pottery, glass, and stone vessels; ivories and jewelry—from thirteenth and early twelfth century BCE deposits both on the tell and in contemporaneous tombs. Especially notable are three ivory plaques (numbered 379, 380, and 381 + 382 by the excavators), found in an ivory hoard from the early twelfth century BCE, in the so-called treasury of the Stratum VIIA palace; the inscriptions on the plaques mention a certain Kerker, “singer of Ptah, South-of-his-Wall.” An ivory model pen case (item 377 in the same hoard) contains the cartouches of Ramesses III and the title “Royal Messenger to Every Foreign Country”; this object may have belonged to an official named Thutmose. A bronze statue base of Ramesses VI, found out of context in a pit beneath a wall of the thirteenth century BCE, is the last major New Kingdom object with a royal name found in Palestine; it is generally thought to provide a terminus post quem for the demise of the Egyptian empire in Canaan.
Megiddo reappeared in Egyptian records in the tenth century BCE, in connection with Sheshonq's Palestinian campaign in the fifth regnal year of the Judean ruler Rehoboam (c.926/925 BCE), at the beginning of the Divided Monarchy of the Jewish states. Megiddo is in Sheshonq's topographical list (entry 27) at Karnak, and a small fragment of a triumphal stela of the king was recovered by the University of Chicago excavators at Megiddo in a dump left by the Schumacher expedition of the early 1900s. Sheshonq was probably responsible for the destruction of at least a portion of the Stratum VA/IVB town.
Megiddo was part of the northern kingdom of Israel until 732 BCE, when the Assyrians under Tiglath-Pileser III annexed it with much of the rest of that region. Thereafter, the town (represented by Stratum III) became the capital of the Assyrian province of Magiddu, remaining as such until the Assyrians withdrew from northern Israel late in the seventh century BCE. Deposits at Megiddo of the early first millennium BCE contain numerous small Egyptian and Egyptianized objects, especially amulets, figurines, and scarabs.
In 609 BCE, Necho, while leading an Egyptian army up to Carchemish in Syria to support the Assyrians against the Babylonians, encountered Josiah on the plain of Megiddo. In the Hebrew scriptures, Josiah was slain by Egyptian archers (2 Kings 23.29–30; 2 Chron. 35.20–24), though it is unclear whether he died in battle or was executed by Necho. Megiddo reverted to the status of a small town during the Persian period. It was finally abandoned during the fourth century BCE, perhaps as a result of the invasion of the Levant by Alexander the Great.
See also SYRIA-PALESTINE.
- Gonen, Rivka. “Megiddo in the Late Bronze Age—Another Reassessment.” Levant 19 (1987), 83–100. A useful re-analysis of the stratigraphic history of the Late Bronze Age strata (IX–VIIA), contemporary with Egypt's New Kingdom empire.
- Görg, Manfred. Untersuchungen zur hieroglyphischen Wiedergabe palästinischer Ortsnamen. Bonner Orientalische Studien, n. s., 29. Bonn, 1974. Pages 137–155 contain a detailed discussion of the place-name Megiddo in Egyptian texts.
- Guy, P. L. O. Megiddo Tombs. Oriental Institute Publications, 33. Chicago, 1938. Presents numerous Egyptian small finds in Megiddo's Middle and Late Bronze Age tombs.
- Kempinski, Aharon. Megiddo: A City-State and Royal Centre in North Israel. Munich, 1989. Historical and archaeological study, with a strong bias for advocating an Egyptian presence at the site in various periods.
- Lamon, R. S., and G. M. Shipton. Megiddo I: Seasons of 1925–1934. Oriental Institute Publication, 42. Chicago, 1939. Publication of the Iron Age II and Persian period strata.
- Loud, Gordon. Megiddo II: Seasons of 1935–1939. Oriental Institute Publications, 62. Chicago, 1948. Publication of the Bronze Age and Iron Age I strata.
- Loud, Gordon. The Megiddo Ivories. Oriental Institute Publications, 52. Chicago, 1939. Presents the great ivory hoard found in the Late Bronze Age palace.
- Moran, William L. The Amarna Letters. Baltimore, 1992. Includes excellent translations of the letters from Megiddo.
- Shea, William. “The Conquests of Sharuhen and Megiddo Reconsidered.” Israel Exploration Journal 29 (1979), 1–5. First major publication to argue that Thutmose III captured, but did not physically destroy, Megiddo.
- Tufnell, Olga. “The Middle Bronze Age Scarab Seals from Burials on the Mound at Megiddo.” Levant 5 (1973), 69–82. Analysis of the scarabs found in the tombs of the early second millennium BCE.
- Ussishkin, David. “Notes on Megiddo, Gezer, Ashdod, and Tel Batash in the Tenth to Ninth Centuries B. C.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 277/278 (1990), 71–91. Pages 71–74 offer a discussion of the discovery and significance of the Sheshonq stela fragment.
- Ussishkin, David. “Megiddo.” In The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, edited by Ephraim Stern, vol. 3, pp. 461–469. New York, 1993. Valuable survey of the stratigraphic history of Megiddo.
James M. Weinstein