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Site Report: Megiddo

by Matt Nickel

Megiddo is known by the name “Tell el-Mutesellim” meaning “the tell of the governor.” During the Iron Age Megiddo was on the major route that led from Egypt to Syria with Megiddo being the city most strategically located with controlling the road. An old city, Megiddo was a fortified city through the Bronze Ages and through time, important battles took place near its location, an important one being between Egypt and rebel Canaanite groups seeking autonomy.

The Biblical record expresses that Megiddo was a city of importance during the time of Judges as a major Canaanite location in the Jezereel Valley. This importance is expressed in the Biblical record that mentions Megiddo in a variety of Places. Joshua 12:21 suggests that the Israelites make their first connection to Megiddo through their killing of the king of Megiddo. Joshua 17:11-13 gives control of the city to the tribe of Manasseh, though they were unable to conquer it, as it is not listed so. As a fortified city of Solomon, it is mentioned in 1 Kings 9:15 and 4:12 as being under his rule. The remaining citations in scripture ascribe military or the killing of rulers (Ahaziah and Josiah) type importance to Megiddo’s location. The final mention, despite disappearing from the record after Josiah’s death, is in Revelation 16:12.

After being abandoned in 330 BC, Megiddo was forgotten and eventually lost not just from recorded history, but from local memory as well. Jerome had suspicions in the fourth century and a variety of Middle Age explorers made attempts at discovering its location. The Biblical record provided a general knowledge of its location without concrete evidence. It was not until 1800s its location was definitively known.

Megiddo’s location is an ideal place to place a settlement. Aside from its strategic and commercial location, as mentioned earlier, Megiddo benefits from location to water, fertile land for agriculture, and excellent areas for cattle and livestock to graze. During the Iron Age the settlement at Megiddo was typical of Israelite villages, though the po82ttery record tells a more diverse story. The settlement existed in chains of home structures built against one another so that they for a wall to keep out intruders and these structures resembled the architectural patterns of the traditional four-room house. The pottery of the VI strata are mostly in Canaanite, Philistine, and a third presumably Israelite forms of pottery. The significance of the settlement and the record in pottery is the nature of the settlements quiet transition into the Iron Age such that Megiddo became a “flourishing cultural center.”

In terms of the general excavations of Megiddo, the remains are abundant and extensive. Houses were generally arranged in blocks separated by evenly spaced and parallel streets many in the East. Many of these were four-room houses built into the city fortification, or perhaps their structure formed the city’s fortification. Many of the VIIB strata were reused in the earliest Iron Age VIIB stratum. Stratum VA/IVB (10th C) was destroyed by fire, but uncertain when and by whom. It was listed as a site destroyed by Sheshonk I in his campaign in Canaan, and Megiddo would have been a major base for him, and this would have ended Solomon rule. Stratum II, the final of the Iron Age about 7th C. had domestic houses built in a pattern of streets, had an eastern fortress, and the main city wall 325 was no longer used.

Much of the construction during the Iron Age utilized Ashlar masonry, which is a hewn or squared stone that was used lavishly in the construction of Megiddo. This was used in all buildings and their foundations. Such construction originated in Egypt is used earliest in Canaan in Megiddo for the city gate and temple. Solomon’s reign brought its regular use (1 Kings7: 9-12). Unfortunately for the archeological record, the masonry on occasions was reused in building new buildings of more recent strata, destroying the old buildings.

The Iron Age brought the first “three-room” houses in stratum VIB. Groups of these formed on the tell to signify a recognizable village or settlement. An interesting note about them is that often only three stone pillars would be found indicating that the fourth was made of wood. This indicates the influence of Philistine use of wood with the Israelite structures in VIA. Four room houses came into use in strata VA. One structure in particular, house 2081, had walls of a thickness that indicated the presence of a second floor. Its back rooms in particular were yet divided into smaller rooms for storage. While the presence of the four room house can be found until stratum II, most private buildings were “two or three flanked court-houses” rather than keeping with the Judean popularity of the four-room house.

Vital and unique to Megiddo was the water supply through the presence of a spring. A sophisticated tunnel was dug during the Iron Age to reach this water supply without exposing the people to threats when accessing the spring during times of war. This tunnel replaced a passage through the city walls that was used to gain access. The spring flows about 35m below the surface and a tunnel about 80m long allowed passage beneath the earth’s surface. This water system was used throughout the Iron Age into the stratum III, and possibly stratum II.

Among the more prominent structures of Megiddo, considering the reign of kings who valued the city, the palaces take on an important civic presence. Three palaces have been identified as part of the Iron Age records. The earliest of these is Palace 1723, also known as the Southern Palace. Probably the earliest of the Iron Age, it is notable for inheriting and reusing features from its first construction in the Bronze Age and contains some elements of the Hilani style. During a particular time in its use, this palace was only for ceremonial use, but would later become a residence.

Palace 6000, however, is a near replica of the Syrian Hilani building, as it resembles in both size and style. This style is characterized by three rows of rooms and “a broad entrance room.” The palace was believe to have been built in the late VA stratum, while supports the theory that Solomon’s administration hired Neo-Hittite architects while Syria and Israelite governances were building a relationship. Due to the large size of this palace, it likely was used only for ceremony. This palace’s architecture exemplifies stylistic elements that support the understanding that David and Solomon would have employed builders from Canaanite and Phoenician settlements on the nearby coast, bringing new elements to create a formation of a distinct Israelite style.

The final palace, 338, was also a residency. Cult objects were found in the excavation here, and it was built on a different kind of architectural plan than the other palaces of the Iron Age. It was built using principles identified by other buildings in Megiddo, and reused material.

These temples were built with very intentional functionality for the Iron Age unlike the predecessors of the Bronze Ages. Turning to Munchen for conclusions of the value of Megiddo to study, the evidence found through the changes Megiddo evolved through in the passage of time tell us much about cities that would have existed far from Jerusalem. It shows the relationships to foreign culture through artifacts and architecture.

Summary of Additional Findings:
As we visit the site, a summary of archeology I think will be useful as we seek to delineate different buildings and their constructions. I tried to organize in outlines of categories as would be useful in a site visit.

A = Anchor Bible Dictionary
O = Oxford Encyclopedia of Arch. In the Near East.
N = New Encyclopedia of Arch. Excavations in the Holy Land

General Excavations of Megiddo:
The remains here are large and extensive. Houses were generally arranger in blocks separated by evenly spaced and parallel streets many in the East (O, 468). Many of these were four-room houses built into the city fortification, or perhaps their structure formed the city’s fortification. Many of the VIIB strata were reused in the earliest Iron Age VIIB stratum (N, 1014). Stratum VA/IVB (10th C) was destroyed by fire, but uncertain when and by whom (O, 466). It was listed as a site destroyed by Sheshonk I in his campaign in Canaan, and Megiddo would have been a major base for him, and this would have ended Solomon rule (A, 675). Stratum II, the final of the Iron Age about 7th C. had domestic houses built in a pattern of streets, had an eastern fortress, and the main city wall 325 was no longer used (A,678).

Ashlar Masonry: Is a hewn or squared stone that was used lavishly in the construction of Megiddo. This was used in all buildings and their foundations. Such construction originated in Egypt is used earliest in Canaan in Megiddo for the city gate and temple. Solomon’s reign brought its regular use (1 kgs 7:9-12). (A, 675/O, 465).

Palaces: Both have thick walls made of ashlar masonry, but only the foundations are preserved.
1723 – (southern palace) Porticoed entrance and large central hall. (O, 466)
o Built as a bit-hilani – a ceremonial palace w/ porticoed entrance typical of N. Syria. (A, 675).
o Gatehouse 1567 – Two decorated seals inscribed in Hebrew found: “(belonging) to Asaph” and “(belonging) to Shema, Servant of Jeroboam.”
o These probably belonged to royal Israelite officials.
o Sherma dated to 784-748 BCE (reign of Jeroboam II). (O,?)
• Some date to 928-907BCE (Jeroboam I).
• This would mean 1723 was not destroyed till Jer. I.
• Destroyed by fire (A, 675)
o East of stables 1576 (N, 1017)
o Believed to be built by David (N, 1017)
o An isolated fort, destroyed during Solomon’s construction.
o Stable compound 407 is superimposed on it
6000 – (northern palace) bit hilani plan in place here, characteristic of residences of rulers in north Syrian cities of the period.
 Incorporated into the city’s fortification wall (N, 1017)
 Much pottery was found in the rooms dating to 10th c. BCE (Time of Solomon) (N, 1017)
338 – In the east (A, 675)
o At the highest point, and controversy exists over whether it was a palace, sanctuary, the temple of Astarte, or the residence of the military commander. Today it is generally accepted to be the residence. Though it served a secular function, a shrine exists in the southern part of the building. (Stratum VA/IBV,~1000, which was destroyed by fire, though unclear when and by whom).
o Parts of it likely had a secular function (A, 675)

Other Buildings:
Building 2072 (Area AA)
o Possibly two stories (NEA. 1016)
o Philistine Pottery found, including decorated beer jugs.
o Might have been used by Philistine ruler.
Stone Storage Pit (1414) – 780-650 (Stratum III)
o Remains of chaff and grain were found. (O,467)
o Between stables in the south.
o About 7m deep.
o Would hold food for 300-350 horses for 130-150 days.
Temple Area:
o Walls built from rubble.
o Temple (VIIB)
o South wall built with holy of holies niche, supported by buttress (NEA, 1015.
o Platform of stone and mud is in front of niche. (NEA,1015)
o Worshipers ascended it via SE stairway)
o Temple (VIIA)
o Built over the ruins of VIIB
City Wall 325 – Adjoins the city gatehouse but antedates it (OEANE, 467).
o A road lead past a four-entry gatehouse, to an outer gatehouse.
o ~3.6m thick (O,467)
Gatehouse – (2156) Located to the north.
o Four-entry: believed to be built by Solomon’s architects (similar to those in Hazor, Gezer, but is controversial and might have been built later. (Stratum IVA, 9th-8th) (A,675).
o A new gatehouse was built ~732 BCE when Megiddo became capital of Assyrian province Megiddo. One or two gatehouses were built over the footprint of the four-entry gatehouse.
o Nearby to the west, several public buildings were found that show Assyrian architectural features, notably rectangular courtyards (OEANE 467-8).
o In Stratum III, 780-650, a three-entry gatehouse was attempted, but modified into a two entry. The gatehouse is superimposed over the four-entry from Solomon (A, 677).

Military: Megiddo is considered to be unfortified except for one building that could possibly be a fort that is considered to be Israelite and dated to the reign of David (O, 464).

Water System: Subterranean (N, 1002).
o Ascribed to the late monarchy, between VA-IVB it was not in existence).
o In the SW.
o Ingenuity in creating an underground system to supply water in war and peace (N,1021)
o Water System 629 existed in the earlier part of the city. (N,1021)
o Permitted access to the spring.
o Was blocked by the exterior wall (325) in 9th/8th c. BCE.
• A square shaft was built at this time, going to a tunnel 80m long, about 35m below the surface.

Bibliography
Meyers, E., ed. Oxford Encyclopedia of Archeology in the Near East.
Stern, E., ed. New Encyclopedia of Archeological Excavations in the Holy Land.
Davies, Graham. Cities of the Biblical World: Megiddo. Eerdmans Publishing: Grand Rapids, 1986.
Munchen, Verlag and C.H. Beck. Megiddo: A City-State and Royal Centre in North Israel.

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