After the short 2002 season, with its relatively limited number of team members – almost none of whom were from abroad – and the excavation of only two of our six areas, the 2004 season proved to be a return to (almost) normal course. The excavation ran for seven weeks, with an average of 75 people on the tell, many of them from abroad, and some even sponsored by their universities. We were able to dig four of our six areas, with very fruitful and exciting results. The on-site staff included Directors Israel Finkelstein, David Ussishkin and Baruch Halpern; coordinator of the Expedition and supervisor of Area M, Norma Franklin; supervisor of Area J, Matt Adams ; supervisors of Area K, Eran Arie and Assaf Nativ; supervisors of Area L, Eric Cline and Margaret Cohen; archaeozoologist Brian Hesse; registrar, Noga Blockman ; computer analyst, Elena Zapatsky-Benenson; artifacts analyst, Gilad Cinamon; photographer, Pavel Shrago; surveyors, Eyal Tamir and Israel Vatkin; administrator, Guy Avivi; and assistant area supervisors Jane and Robert Grutz, Philippe Guillaume, Roslan Svartzman and Gilad Yoffe.
Excavation in Area J in the year 2000 exposed the temple-hall of the monumental Level J-4 (Stratum XVIII) temple, dating to the Early Bronze I (radiocarbon measurements from this building provided calibrated dates in the 31st and 30th centuries BCE). This season in order to achieve maximal exposure of the edifice we opened six squares to the west of the uncovered portion of the temple-hall. It was clear from the beginning that a single season would not suffice to reach the floor of the temple-hall. Indeed, this season was devoted mainly to the exposure of domestic remains of Level J-6 (and possibly J-5 – Strata XVI and XVII respectively, which date to the Early Bronze III) extending above the temple-hall. In two places in the western part of the excavation area we reached brick material of Level J-4 at the end of the season. We will probably reach the floor of the temple-hall in the next season of excavation.
Work here was devoted to the continuation of the excavation of Iron I and late-Late Bronze levels. In the beginning of the season we finished exposing the remains of Level K-5 (Stratum VIB) from the early Iron I and fully uncovered the more elaborate remains of Level K-6 (Stratum VIIA) of the end of the Late Bronze Age. It is now clear that the olive press unearthed in 2002 belongs to the latter level and is therefore contemporary to a similar installation exposed by Schumacher in the Nordburg. Olive pits were found under large pressing stones in both installations. In the last weeks of the excavation we uncovered large segments of Levels K-7 and K-8 of the Late Bronze Age. Their full exposure will be achieved in the next excavation season.
The excavation in Area K sheds important light on the end of Late Bronze and the transition to the Iron I at Megiddo. Level K-6 yielded a large number of restorable vessels; the area was abandoned by its inhabitants, but not put to the torch. This is in contrast to the situation in the University of Chicago’s Areas AA and BB, where the Late Bronze palace and “tower” temple were destroyed by a major conflagration, leaving a thick accumulation of collapse and destruction debris. This indicates that only part of the city – mainly the public areas – was entirely destroyed by fire, while other sectors, domestic in the main, were damaged but not completely devastated. Another notable feature is the continuity in the layout of the buildings in the Late Bronze/Iron I transition. And in addition, the material culture of the Iron I (Level K-5 and the rich in finds Level K-4 = Strata VIB and VIA respectively) shows clear signs of continuity from that of the Late Bronze Age. This has been observed in the ceramic tradition, metal and flint industries, etc. All this demonstrates that the transition from the Late Bronze to the Iron I at Megiddo, though not peaceful, was not accompanied by a total destruction, as has been assumed till now. The major break in the history of Megiddo came later, with the total destruction of Stratum VIA.
This season we concluded excavating Palace 6000 of Level L-3 (Stratum VA-IVB) and have now clarified problems related to the layout of the palace and of the set of stables built in Level L-2 (Stratum IVA) on top of it.
It is now clear that the eastern segment of the complex served as an open courtyard rather than a hall in the palace. Hence, the palace proper was square in shape and is therefore more similar to Palace 1723-the southern palace of the same stratum-in both shape and size. Since only the foundation levels of the palace have been preserved, it is hard to determine whether
The Southern Stables excavated by the University of Chicago team had a large courtyard in their front. The situation in the Northern Stables was not clear. The 12 northern stables are built around a specious space in which the University of Chicago team uncovered remains of a large building (labeled 434), which they affiliated with the same layer of the stables – Stratum IVA. This has resulted in a problematic layout, with a narrow corridor separating between the front wall of the stables (with entrances into the stalls) and Building 434. Excavations of the southern part of our western stable in 2000 and sounding to the south of this stable in 2004 show that Building 434 should in fact be affiliated with Stratum III. A cobble pavement related to the building clearly overlays the remains of the stables and another cobble pavement, belonging to the stable system, was found under the floor of the building. The area between the 12 northern stables was therefore an open, cobble-paved courtyard. This large space was open in the west all the way to the city-gate, which provided easy access to the Northern Stables.
The excavation of Area L has now been terminated. The Nature and Parks Authority, which commissioned the work here, will now deal with the preservation of the monuments and with presenting them to the public.
During this season, too, Area M revealed important information regarding the Nordburg and the monumental Chamber Tomb, also known at the “Aegean Tomb”(described hereafter as “the Monument”) – both excavated by Schumacher.
We have now exposed Level M-4 (Stratum VIA) in the entire area of our excavation to the east of the Schumacher trench. The most important feature of this level is a large, possibly megaron-shaped building, constructed immediately to the east of The Monument, in the elevation of the top of its still-standing roof. This building was destroyed in a fierce fire. Several vessels, including two collared-rim jars, were found on its floor. Remains of another layer with fragmentary walls and patches of ashy floors, lying about 0.5 m under the floors of Level M-4, belong, according to Finkelstein and Franklin (the area’s supervisor) to Level M-5 (Stratum VIB). Further below we exposed a well-preserved sector of the Nordburg (Level M-6 = Stratum VII), with well-plastered floors and walls still standing to the height of over a meter. Several vessels, including a “Tyrian” pithos, were found lying on the floor of one of the rooms. The floors of the Nordburg lie in about the same elevation as the upper elevation of the flight of steps leading to the Monument. Notable among the small finds of Level M-6 was a small piece of painted plaster from the Nordburg.
Schumacher found the Monument empty of finds. He identified it as a tomb based on its plan and shape and on the fact that it was constructed near (and on top of the level of) Chamber Tombs I and II (dating to the Middle Bronze III/Late Bronze I) which he unearthed in the Mittelburg. An equally appealing possibility is that the Monument served as a shrine. We could not reach agreement regarding the stratigraphy and date of the Monument. According to Finkelstein and Franklin the Monument and the Nordburg relate to each other, that is, they both stood here in Level M-6, at the end of the Late Bronze Age. At that time the entrance to the Monument must have been through an elaborate, stepped dromos which has not yet been uncovered. According to this view the builders of Level M-4 recognized the location of the Monument and reused it. They blocked the dromos, rearranged the entrance to the Monument, and then constructed the megaron-shaped building on top. According to Ussishkin the Monument was constructed in the days of Level M-4. It was incorporated in the ruined Nordburg and its exterior walls were supported by a constructional fill. According to this view the Monument has only one stage in its construction.
The Monument started showing signs of weakening and hence we have conducted, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority, conservation and stabilization work without and within. On the outer side we backfilled the areas excavated near the Monument in 1998-2000. Inside we cleaned the Monument and brought it back to the state in which it was left by Schumacher a century ago. Architect Danny Abu Hatzeira and conservator Elyakim (Kimi) Maman then stabilized the structure by reinserting small stones between its courses and supporting the large stone plates of its roof with wooden beams.
The next season in Area M will be crucial for revealing the nature and date of the Monument.