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The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East What is This? Provides comprehensive coverage of the history and scope of archaeology in the Near East.


site located in the Upper Galilee, 15 km (9 mi.) north of the Sea of Galilee (map reference 2032 × 2691). The site is comprised of two distinct parts: the tell (or upper city), approximately 18 acres in area, and a vast rectangular plateau (the lower city), to its north, measuring some 200 acres. It was first identified by J. L. Porter in 1875 as Tell el-Qedaḥ (also Tell Waqqas), based on geographic references to Hazor in the Bible and in the works of Josephus. The name Hazor is mentioned in a clay tablet from the Old Babylonian period found at the site in the 1970s.


Trial soundings were first made at Hazor by John Garstang in 1928. Large-scale excavations were conducted by the James A. de Rothschild Expedition between 1955 and 1958 and again in 1968, under the direction of Yigael Yadin, on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA), and the Anglo Israel Exploration Society. A small-scale trial excavation took place at the southeastern foot of the mound in 1987, under the direction of Amnon Ben-Tor. Large-scale excavations directed by Ben-Tor, the Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin, were resumed in the upper city in 1990. This current project is a joint venture of the Hebrew University; Complutense University, Madrid; and the Israel Exploration Society, in cooperation with Ambassador University, Texas.


The earliest reference to Hazor, as hdwizi, appears in the Egyptian Execration texts of the late twelfth–early thirteenth dynasties (nineteenth–eighteenth centuries BCE). It is in the Mari archives of the eighteenth century BCE that Hazor emerges as a major city. At least fourteen Mari documents refer to the city (as Ha-su-ra, Ha-sura-yu, or Ha-su-ra-a), the only one in Israel to be mentioned in that archive. Hazor's role as one of the major commercial centers in the Fertile Crescent, together with such city-states as Yamḫad and Qatna, is evident. The name of the king of Hazor, Ibni-Adad, appears several times in the documents.

Another group of documents mentioning Hazor (as Ha-su-ri) and its king, Abdi-Tirshi, is the Amarna letters of the mid-fourteenth century BCE. It also is included, as ḥḍr, in the lists of conquered towns in Canaan compiled by the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, such as those of Thutmosis III, Amenophis II, and Seti I. The latest Egyptian reference to Hazor is in Papyrus Anastasi I, ascribed to Rameses II.

Hazor is mentioned several times in the Hebrew Bible in connection with the conquest and settlement accounts, first in Joshua 11:10–13 and then in Judges 4–5. The apparent contradiction between these two sources with regard to the process of conquest of Canaan by the Israelites in general, and to the history of Hazor during that time in particular, has been one of the most controversial subjects in the study of the history of ancient Israel as well as in the understanding of the books of Joshua and Judges. In 1 Kings 9:15, Hazor is mentioned, along with Megiddo and Gezer, as one of three cities Solomon rebuilt. The last reference to Hazor in the Bible. 2 Kings 15:29, describes the conquest of Hazor and most of the northern kingdom of Israel by Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria.

The latest reference to Hazor in connection with historical event—the battle between the Hasmonean Jonathan and the Syrian Demetrius in 147 BCE, on the Plain of Hazor—is made in 1 Maccabees 11:67. It is last mentioned in Josephus (Antiq. 5.199).

Excavation Results.

Excavation has revealed that there is a difference in the history of occupation for the lower and upper cities. For this reason, the strata encountered in the upper city, where six areas were opened (A, AB, B, G, L, and M) were designated by Roman numerals, while those in the lower city, where seven areas were opened (C, D, E, F, H, K, and 210), were designated by Arabic numbers.

Hazor was first settled in the Early Bronze Age, but only in the upper city. The lower city was not occupied until the second millennium BCE. For most of the second millennium the upper and lower cities existed side by side as one city. Toward the end of the Late Bronze Age, both the upper and lower cities were violently destroyed. Following that destruction, occupation was confined once again to the upper city, until Hazor was finally deserted in the second century BCE.

Early Bronze Age (strata XXI–XIX).

Remains datable to the Early Bronze period have been encountered only in deep soundings in areas A and L. Because of this limited exposure, the extent of the EB settlement is not yet known, and the date of its establishment is yet to be determined. The earliest sherds clearly connected with architectural remains date to EB II, and it is to that phase that Yadin ascribes Hazor's earliest occupation. A fine assemblage of Khirbet Kerak ware indicates a settlement in EB III. In general, the ceramic repertoire of these early strata shows a close affinity with Syria. Noteworthy are several cylinder seal impressions on storage jars, of types well known from other EB sites in the north of the country.


HAZOR. Plan of the ancient city and excavation areas. (Courtesy A. Ben-Tor)

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Middle Bronze I (stratum XVIII).

The transitional phase between the Early and Middle Bronze Ages is represented at Hazor by a handful of sherds found exclusively in the upper city. Most of these belong to the black-slipped and reserve-slipped wares of the Orontes valley, demonstrating again the site's close relationship with Syria.

Middle Bronze Age II (upper city: strata pre-XVII, XVII, XVI, and post-XVI; lower city: 4, 3).

The question of the date of the first settlement and that of the construction of the first fortifications in the lower city are of the center of a wide scholarly debate. Hazor's floruit as the most important city in southern Canaan is assigned by Yadin to the MB II–III, when the lower city was first settled (strata 4 and XVII), and when both the upper and lower cities were first encircled by impressive defensive systems. According to Yadin this “greater Hazor,” founded sometime in the mid-eighteenth century BCE is the city mentioned repeatedly in the Mari archive. In the preceding phase, the MB I (stratum pre-XVII), Hazor was a rather insignificant site, confined only to the upper tell, consisting of a few buildings and several tombs. A tomb containing a large assemblage of complete clay vessels, discovered in area L in 1971, seemed to Yadin to confirm this view. The entrance to the burial cave must have been located under the (as yet undiscovered) line of the city's fortifications, so it must have preceded their construction. Because the vessels were attributed typologically to the transitional MB IIA-B phase and dated by Yadin to the mid-eighteenth century, the construction of the fortifications must have occurred later—early in the MB IIB, in the second half of the eighteenth century. Other scholars differ with regard to such points as the date of the first occupation in the lower city, the date of construction of the fortifications, and the absolute dates to be assigned to the different phases of the Middle Bronze Age.

The most important monuments dating to that period are the huge earthen rampart and moat defending the western and, to a lesser extent, the northern flanks of the lower city; the city gates (one in area K and one in area P); the first in a series of temples (in area H); and the corner of a huge building, probably a palace (in area A). The earthen rampart is some 90 m wide and 15 m high. Similar examples known from such sites as Carchemish, Qatna, and Ebla, in Syria; from Dan, in Israel; and from other sites. The gates are of the “Syrian” direct-axis type, with three pairs of pilasters flanking the entrance. Similar gates are known again from such sites as Carchemish, Qatna, Ebla, and Alalakh in Syria, and Tel Dan, Beth-Shemesh, Yavneh-Yam, and elsewhere in Palestine. The area H temple, built in stratum 3, consists of an entrance hall flanked by two small rooms and a main room with a rectangular niche in the wall opposite the entrance. It is similar in plan to the temple in stratum VII at Alalakh. The same is true of the corner of the palace in area A: both stratum VII and the stratum IV palaces at Alalakh have a staircase located in the corner of the building, just as at Hazor. The use of finely cut orthostats, such as those incorporated into the walls of the area H temple and in the area A temple and palace, is another indication of the strong influences that reached Hazor from the north. The close connections between Hazor and the Syro-Mesopotamian cultural sphere, evidenced in the Mari documents, are also clearly reflected in a few cuneiform documents discovered at Hazor. These include a clay liver model for divination and a fragment of a bilingual Sumero-Akkadian text discovered by the Yadin expedition; the legal document discovered on the surface in the 1970s (see above); and an economic text and fragment of a royal letter discovered by the present excavation team.

Transitional Middle Bronze II–Late Bronze I (stratum post-XVI).

The end of the prosperous MB city was catastrophic: a thick layer of ash separates its remains from those of the first Late Bronze Age city. A transitional phase was encountered only in areas A and B of the upper city, termed post-XVI by the Yadin expedition. It consists of several graves unrelated to any architectural remains.

Late Bronze Age (upper city: strata XV–XIII; lower city: strata 2–1A).

No major change in population accompanied the destruction separating the Middle from the Late Bronze Age settlements at Hazor. The material culture, including the major architectural monuments (the earthen rampart, the city gates, the area H temple), shows a marked degree of continuity. A more profound change occurred at the end of the first LB stratum (XV; 2), dated to LB IB. In the next stratum, LB IIA (Yadin's LB II; stratum XIV of the upper city and 1B of the lower city), an open cultic area succeeded the stratum XV longroom temple in area A; a temple was founded in area C; an open High Place was founded in area F; and a major change took place in the plan of the area H temple. The city's defenses underwent minor changes, but the layout of the domestic buildings differs completely from that of the previous stratum. Stratum XIV (and 1B) was violently destroyed, perhaps by the end of the fourteenth century BCE, by Seti I, while, according to Yadin, Mycenaean IIIA was still in use. The last LB stratum at Hazor (XIII; 1A), dated to LB IIB (Yadin's LB III), shows a marked decline. Imported pottery, such as Mycenaean and Cypriot wares, is found in much smaller quantities than in the previous strata, and there is even some doubt about whether the city's fortifications were still in use.

Among the most significant finds attributable to LB Hazor are the various temples and the cultic and artistic objects connected with them. Noteworthy from the Stelae Temple in area C are several small stelae; a stela decorated in relief bearing the emblem of the moon god, Sin; a small orthostat of a crouching lion; a small basalt statue of a decapitated deity (or king) whose head was found nearby: a silver-plated bronze cult standard; and a pottery mask. Another important building is the Orthostat Temple in area H. Its plan in stratum 2 more or less follows that in stratum 3. In strata 1B and 1A, however, its plan is tripartite—including an entrance hall, a middle hall, and a rear hall (the temple's Holy of Holies)—an arrangement similar in concept to that in the Solomonic Temple in Jerusalem. The temple's walls are lined with smoothly cut basalt orthostats, which, together with its plan, are clearly reminiscent of the stratum IV temple at Alalakh. Important finds from this temple are a lion orthostat, a basalt statue of a decapitated king (or deity?), and offering and libation tables. The palace at LB Hazor is probably located in area A, on the acropolis. The Yadin expedition uncovered a corner of this impressive building in the mid-1950s. The current expedition is continuing the investigation of this building. Several orthostat-lined walls, two enormous column bases, and two steps uncovered so far probably belong to its entrance.

The last LB city at Hazor was violently destroyed. A level consisting of fallen mud brick, debris, ash, and burnt wood (in some places more than 1 m thick) was encountered almost everywhere in both the upper and lower city. It is the best indication of Hazor's catastrophic end. In areas C and H there is evidence of the deliberate mutilation and desecration of cult objects. Yadin fixed the date of that destruction in the last quarter of the thirteenth century BCE and tended to attribute it to the conquering Israelites, as described in Joshua 11:10. The current excavation encountered that same destruction layer in area A. The date of the destruction Yadin proposed, as well as its cause, should, for the time being, be left open.


HAZOR. Cultic stela. From the Canaanite temple, area C. (Courtesy A. Ben-Tor)

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Iron Age I (strata XII–XI).

Meager remains of a settlement clearly postdating the destruction of LB Hazor have been discovered in various places on the acropolis. The remains consist mainly of stone-lined storage pits, close to thirty of which were encountered in areas A and B; cooking installations; and what appear to be foundations of huts and tents. The pottery associated with these remains is characteristic of Iron IA. In area B, a second level containing that same pottery was discerned. The most important feature of this stratum, XI, is the so called high place, consisting of several walls, remnants of pavements, stone pillars (some of which may have had cultic significance), two broken incense stands, and what is most probably a foundation deposit, a jar containing metal votive objects, the most important of which is a bronze figurine of a seated male deity. Yadin believed that the remnants of strata XII–XI belonged to an Israelite settlement in the twelfth–eleventh centuries BCE.

Iron Age II–III (strata X–IV).

Stratigraphically, the following phases were established in the Iron II–III: X (Solomonic), with minor changes in IX, ending in a destruction attributed to the Aramean king Ben-Hadad I; VIII, with minor changes in VII (Omride dynasty), ending in a destruction attributed to the Aramean king Hazael; VI, destroyed by an earthquake in the mid-eighth century BCE; V, restoration and then final destruction by the Assyrians in 732 BCE; and IV, a minor phase of later Israelite squatters in the ruined city.

The most important monuments belonging to strata X–IX are the six-chambered city gate and casemate walls. Built in the tenth century BCE, Yadin ascribed them to Solomon, believing that, as at Megiddo and Gezer, they represent the defenses Solomon undertook (1 Kgs. 9:15). During that time only the western half of the acropolis was settled. The most prosperous period in the history of Israelite Hazor was the ninth century BCE. Under King Ahab the city expanded eastward, and the entire acropolis was encircled by a solid 3-meter-thick defensive wall. A water system, to ensure the water supply to the city in times of siege, was cut to ground-water level (area M). It is one of the most impressive engineering works so far found in Israel. A citadel was built on the western tip of the city (area B), and huge storage facilities were constructed (area A). In the second half of the eighth century BCE (stratum V), in the face of the growing threat posed by the Assyrian Empire, Hazor's fortifications were strengthened and a watchtower was constructed in area B. Even these improved defensive works could not withstand the might of Assyria, which conquered and destroyed Hazor in 732 BCE.


HAZOR. Reconstructed entranceway to the citadel. Ninth century BCE. (Courtesy Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

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Later periods (strata III–I).

The stratum III settlement is confined to the western edge of the upper city. The Assyrians constructed a citadel in area B, and remnants of an Assyrian palace, contemporary with the stratum III citadel, were encountered within the bounds of nearby Kibbutz Ayyelet ha-Shaḥar.

Stratum II dates to the Persian period. Meager building remains and pits were encountered throughout the upper city. The most important remains are the restored and partially altered citadel in area B and a cemetery in area A. Imported Attic ware and a silver coin fix the date of stratum II to the fourth century BCE.

Stratum I is mainly the final phase of restoration of the area B citadel, which dates to the third-second centuries BCE.

[See also Alalakh; Mari Texts; and the biography of Yadin.]


  • Ben-Tor, Amnon, ed. Hazor III–IV: An Account of the Third and Fourth Seasons of Excavation, 1957–1958. Jerusalem, 1989.
  • Ben-Tor, Amnon. “The Hazor Tablet: Foreword.” Israel Exploration Journal 42 (1992): 18–20, 254–260.
  • Ben-Tor, Amnon, and M. T. Rubiato. “Tel Hatsor. El gran monticulo mágico de la Alta Galilea.” Arqueologia 148 (1993): 22–33.
  • Cole, Dan P. “How Water Tunnels Worked.” Biblical Archaeology Review 6.2 (1980): 8–29.
  • Geva, Shulamit. Hazor, Israel: An Urban Community of the Eighth Century B.C.E. British Archaeological Reports, International Series, no. 543. Oxford, 1989.
  • Hallo, William W., and Hayim Tadmor. “A Lawsuit from Hazor.” Israel Exploration Journal 27 (1977): 1–11.
  • Malamat, Abraham. “Silver, Gold, and Precious Stones from Hazor in a New Mari Document.” Biblical Archaeologist 46 (1983): 169–174.
  • Malamat, Abraham. Mari and the Early Israelite Experience. Oxford, 1989. See pages 55–69.
  • Reich, Ronny. “The Persian Building Ayyelet ha-Shahar: The Assyrian Palace at Hazor?” Israel Exploration Journal 25 (1975): 233–237.
  • Shaffer, Aaron, and Wayne Horowitz. “An Administrative Tablet from Hazor: A Preliminary Edition.” Israel Exploration Journal 42 (1992): 21–33, 165–167.
  • Tufnell, Olga. “Hazor, Samaria, and Lachish.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 91 (1959): 90–105.
  • Yadin, Yigael et al., Hazor: An Account of the Excavations, 1955–1958. 4 vols. in 3. Jerusalem, 1958–1961.
  • Yadin, Yigael. Hazor: The Head of All Those Kingdoms. London, 1972.
  • Yadin, Yigael. Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible. New York, 1975.
  • Yadin, Yigael. “The Transition from a Semi-Nomadic to a Sedentary Society in the Twelfth Century B.C.E.” In Symposia Celebrating the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 1900–1975, edited by Frank Moore Cross, pp. 57–68. Cambridge, Mass., 1979.

Amnon Ben-Tor

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