(Ar., Khirbet el-Yarmuk),
Yarmut, Tel

YARMUT, TEL. Figure 1. Plan of the site. (Courtesy P. de Miroschedji)

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site located in the central Shephelah, 25 km (15 mi.) southwest of Jerusalem (31°43′ N, 34°58′ E; map reference 147 × 124). The site is comprised of a small acropolis (about 1.5 ha, or 3.75 acres) and a large lower city (about 14.5 ha, or 36 acres), both of which were fortified in the Early Bronze Age (see figure 1). The site is about 640 m long and 420 m wide (about 16 ha, or 40 acres). The site is located on the slope of a hill, with the lowest point at 295 m above sea level and the highest point at 405 m above sea level.

The site may correspond to the “city of Yaramu” mentioned in a mid-fourteenth century BCE letter discovered at Tell el-Ḥesi (see the article by W. F. Albright in BASOR 87 [1942], p. 33). It is identified with the biblical city of Yarmut (Jos. 10:3–5, 23, 12:11, 15:35; Neh. 11:29), based on location, settlement history, and the continuity of its toponym: its Arabic name derives from Iermochos/Jermucha, a Byzantine village mentioned as being in this area by Eusebius of Caesarea (Onomasticon 106.24), who equated it with Iermous of the Septuagint, that is, biblical Yarmut.

Tel Yarmut was first settled in the EB I (second half of the fourth millennium) and was inhabited until about 2300 BCE. It was not reoccupied until the Late Bronze II (c. 1400–1200 BCE). The resettlement took place only on the acropolis and in its immediate environs and lasted until the Early Byzantine period (fourth century CE). The major period of occupation (and the only one in the lower city) is thus the Early Bronze Age, when Tel Yarmut was one of the major fortified cities in Palestine.

Victor Guérin first described and identified the site in 1869, it was tested in 1970 by Amnon Ben-Tor on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and since 1980 it has been excavated by Pierre de Miroschedji for the Centre du Recherche Français de Jérusalem and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, mostly in the west corner of the lower city. Excavation has revealed a remarkable EB fortified city, with monumental architecture on a scale unmatched at contemporary sites.

Early Bronze City.

No remains of the earliest (EB I) occupation at the site have yet been found in situ in the lower city. By the end of the period, however, the settlement reached its west corner, presumably its full and maximum extent. By the beginning of the EB II, this area contained some large buildings, and, along the edge of the site, the first defenses appeared in the form of an earthen glacis. The construction of the first EB II city wall, which inaugurated a long sequence of fortifications, soon obliterated the glacis.

Fortifications.

Three major EB phases and several sub-phases could be distinguished. The first EB II fortifications included a 5–6-meter-thick stone rampart and, in the corner of the city, a massive stone bastion (25 × 13 m). Two large rectangular buttresses were placed at equal distances from the bastion. At the end of EB II, a second city wall (3–3.6 m thick) was built with cyclopean stones. This additional wall made the city's defenses 40 m deep. The wall is preserved to almost 7 m in height in some places and can be traced all around the site for about 1.8 km (1 mi.). In the EB III, a series of very large defensive stone platforms (30–40 × 10–12 m), whose superstructure probably was brick, filled the west corner of the city.

Near the west corner a monumental offset gate was the single entryway into the second (outer) city wall. Preserved to a height of 7 m, access to it from outside the city was via an ascending U-shaped ramp flanked by retaining walls. At the end of EB III, the approach to the offset entryway was protected by a small rectangular “bastion.”

Early Bronze II.

Inside the city, only limited EB II architectural remains were excavated. A massive platformlike construction, earlier than the first city wall and apparently infrastructure, may have been the foundation of a civic building. A large structure, associated with the first city wall, and domestic buildings were also noted.

Early Bronze III.

Most of the building remains excavated to date belong to the large EB III city, whose population may have reached three thousand. The inhabitants were mainly farmers who raised grains, vegetables, and grapes, and olives in abundance. They also practiced animal husbandry (sheep and goats primarily, but also cattle, which were used in the fields and for transport). The site's topography is characterized by a succession of large terraces with retaining walls that are several meters high. Its appearance may have resembled that of traditional villages seen in the region today.

Architecture.

The city contained several public buildings. The so-called White Building was probably a sanctuary. It is a plastered, rectangular broadroom hall (13.5 × 6.75 m) with a central row of four columns and a main entrance centered in the southern facade. A chamber at its southeast corner, a courtyard in front of it, and two adjacent rooms to the south formed a complex interpreted as a sanctuary. Its plan resembles that of buildings of a cultic nature that belong to the Chalcolithic and EB I–III periods.

Even more impressive is a palatial complex in area B dated to EB IIIB (twenty-fifth–twenty-fourth centuries BCE). Measuring 84 × 72 m (about 6,000 sq m), it is by far the largest building complex known for the period in the Levant. It is demarcated by a thick wall with deep foundation trenches that is enhanced, for part of its length, with square inner buttresses placed at regular intervals.

While the southwestern half of the palace complex is occupied by a large courtyard, most of the northeast is covered with built-up areas. The complex comprises scores of corridors, small courtyards, and interconnected rooms, including several storerooms. Its construction techniques and quality, overall planning, and room layouts are strikingly different from contemporary buildings discovered so far at Tel Yarmut and elsewhere. Noteworthy is the systematic use of a cubit of about 52 cm, comparable to the Egyptian “royal” cubit. The complex's monumentality, together with the abundance of storage vessels recovered, clearly indicates its palatial function. Although this complex is reminiscent of building 3177 of Megiddo stratum XVI, it is still unique in the archaeology of third-millennium Palestine.

EB III domestic structures were extensively cleared in three areas of the lower city. Most interesting is area G, located on the northeastern side of the palatial complex, from which it is separated by a street. There, the private houses of stratum II were built on a series of small terraces and grouped in an insula bordered by a street. The typical dwelling was composed of one or two rooms (often with a central row of stone pillar bases), a courtyard with several domestic installations, and sometimes small storerooms. On the other side of the lower city, an area was identified in which nondomestic activities took place. Finds and installations (e.g., pithoi, large mortars, and ceramic vats in the floors) in a contiguous series of six small rooms and courtyards suggest that olive oil was processed in the area from the crop raised at the site.

Artifacts.

Because it has the largest exposure of EB III remains in the region, Tel Yarmut is a type-site for this material culture in southern Palestine. It exhibits a complete corpus of the contemporary pottery, a large collection of human and animal figurines, and a variety of other objects in stone, bone, and terra cotta. There is evidence of “foreign” trade, with Egypt (stone palettes and fragments of vessels carved out of alabaster and diorite), as well as trade with northern and southern Palestine: sherds of rare Khirbet Kerak (Beth- Yeraḥ) ware, worked basalt from the Golan, bitumen from the Dead Sea, and flint fan scrapers from the Negev desert.

Later Periods.

By the twenty-fifth–twenty-fourth centuries BCE, Yarmut had reached the peak of its prosperity. Soon afterward the city was peacefully abandoned and remained deserted for about a millennium. Post-EB settlement was limited to the small acropolis. Excavations there have revealed traces of nearly continuous occupation from LB II to Early Byzantine times. The uppermost of the three Iron I strata appears to have been destroyed in a conflagration. It is dated to the mid-eleventh century BCE by its pottery, which resembles that found at Beth-Shemesh stratum III and Tell Qasile strata XI–X. On the northeast side of the acropolis the remains of a small Early Byzantine (c. fourth century CE) village that is to be identified with Iermochos in the Onomasticon (see above). Southwest of the acropolis and on its slope, cisterns and rock-cut tombs were found that belonged either to the Byzantine or earlier periods.

Bibliography

  • Ben-Tor, Amnon. “The First Season of Excavations at Tell-Yarmuth: August 1970.” Qedem 1 (1975): 55–87.
  • Miroschedji, Pierre de. “Un objet en céramique du Bronze ancien à représentation humaine.” Israel Exploration Journal 32 (1982): 190–194.
  • Miroschedji, Pierre de. “Données nouvelles sur le Bronze ancien de Palestine: Les fouilles récentes de Tel Yarmouth.” Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (January–February 1988): 186–211.
    The results of the first-sixth seasons of excavation, with a bibliography of interim reports
    .
  • Miroschedji, Pierre de, et al. Yarmouth 1: Rapport sur les trois premières campagnes de fouilles à Tel Yarmouth (Israël), 1980–1982. Paris, 1988.
    Detailed preliminary report of the first three seasons of excavation, including all earlier bibliography
    .
  • Miroschedji, Pierre de. “The Early Bronze Age Fortifications at Tel Yarmuth: An Interim Statement.” Eretz-Israel 21 (1990): 48–61 (Ruth Amiran Volume).
    Synthetic presentation of the fortifications as excavated up to the seventh season
    .
  • Miroschedji, Pierre de. “Fouilles récentes à Tel Yarmouth, Israël (1989–1993).” Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (November–December 1993): 823–847.
    The results of the sixth–tenth seasons of excavation, with full bibliography of interim reports
    .
  • Miroschedji, Pierre de. “Tel Jarmuth.” In The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, pp. 661–665. Jerusalem and New York, 1993.
    Short presentation with extensive bibliography, up to the ninth season
    .
  • Miroschedji, Pierre de. “Tel Yarmut 1993.” Israel Exploration Journal 44 (1994): 145–151.
    Major results of the tenth season
    .

Pierre de Miroschedji