Out and About: an Archaeological Tour to Tel Dan and Hazor

Posted by on May 16, 2013

Out and About: an Archaeological Tour to Tel Dan and Hazor


A couple of weeks ago we went on our first archaeological tour of the second semester.


Our first stop was Tel Dan, a mere 3 hour bus ride from campus at the northern tip of Israel, and the second stop was the ancient city of Hatzor.


During the drive our tour guide, Ph.D. student Ido Koch, explained interesting facts about the landscape and how it changed as we drove and pointed out several important locations in the history of the land as we passed them.

The Horns of Hattin: the site of a crucial battle between the invading Crusaders and the armies of Saladin.

Tel Dan

Despite having traveled through much of Israel over the past six months I was unprepared for what Tel Dan had to offer. Not only is it an important archaeological site, but it is a nature preserve. Popular opinion sees Israel as a desert, and while some regions definitely match that description, there are areas that more closely resemble a South American rainforest.

At Tel Dan: Ido giving a short explanation on the importance of the area

After a brief hike we emerged from the forested path to find a large section of fortification wall with a gate. Seeing something so large and man-made seemed out of place in such a wondrous place. Before passing through the gate, we walked a little further to see an earlier preserved gate that contains one of, if not the oldest, complete arches ever excavated.

International MA students admiring the Canaanite Gate

The Canaanite Gate: The covering is there to keep rain from further deteriorating the mud bricks that compose the arch.

After seeing this earlier gate we retraced our path to the larger gate, commonly known as the Israelite Gate, and entering through it made our way up to the “High Place”. As described in 1 Kings 12, Dan was one of the two sites chosen by Jeroboam, the new king of the northern kingdom of Israel, to build a temple to replace the Jerusalem Temple which was in the territory of the southern kingdom of Judah.

The group preparing to enter through the ‘Israelite’ Gate.

At the alter, Abra Spiciarich, one of the first year MA students, who dug at Tel Dan a few seasons ago told us how the excavators had discovered jaguar remains on and near the alter, suggesting that even non-kosher, exotic animals were sacrificed here.

A metal frame was put in place by the excavators to show what the alter looked like. The stone one that was here was taken to a museum

From here we made our way back down the trail through the woods and found Winnie the Pooh’s tree. After walking back through the incredible forest of the nature preserve we ate lunch and boarded the bus to head down to Hazor, the largest tel in Israel.

The woods of Tel Dan: We never imagined Winnie the Pooh's Thousand Acre Woods were in northern Israel.

Tel Hazor

Once at Hazor we gathered to the side of the current excavation area and Ido gave us an overview of the history of the tel and its excavations.

At Hazor we gathered to listen an overview of the history of the tel and its excavations.

First we saw the trench on the northern edge of the upper tel which is currently being excavated. It shows a probably entrance from the lower tel through a gateway, leading to stairs which would have led to the area in front of the palace or temple.

The current excavation area of Tel Hazor


The group then proceeded through the ‘Solomonic’ Gates of Hazor to the biggest debate of the site. There is a monumental structure that one of the excavators calls the palace while another believes it is a temple. As a compromise it is now referred to as the “ceremonial palace”. There is speculation on where a palace may be and future excavations may help solve this debate.

Standing in front of one wing of the gate of Solomon

The Ceremonial Palace with its protective awning.

Continuing around the tel we walked past Hazor’s incredible water system that goes through several layers of the city to reach its source of water. Unfortunately the stairs were locked and we were unable to descend.

The top of the Tel Hazor water system

The water system that goes through several layers of the city to reach its source of water.

A little farther past the water system there are ruins from a later Israelite occupation which include a watch tower.

An Israelite watching the road path to Hazor

After exploring the remains of Hazor a hot, tired group of students, crowded back onto the bus and traveled back to Tel Aviv.

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