The 2008 season ran for seven weeks, with ca. 100-110 people on the mound. As in the 2006 season, the expedition’s camp was located in Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet.
Several archaeo-science projects were carried out during the 2008 season: Amotz Agnon of the Hebrew University and Shmuel Marko of Tel Aviv University continued recording evidence of seismic activity; Amotz Agnon took samples for a study on paleo-magnetism. Ruth Shahack-Gross of Bar Ilan University conducted geo-archaeological investigations in the destruction debris of Level H-9 of the late Iron I and the accumulation on the floor of the Level J-4 temple of the Early Bronze I. Adi Behar-Elyahu of the Weizmann Institute carried out an investigation of copper industry in Levels K-4 and K-5. Stuart Manning of Cornell University took two pieces of timber for dendro-chronological investigation.
The first session of the season was devoted to the completion of excavation of Level H-9, dated to the Late Iron I (University of Chicago’s Stratum VIA). This settlement came to an end in a fierce conflagration which left over a meter of destruction debris, with many vessels and other finds, including organic material, spread on the floor and in the collapse. Two more Iron I layers – Levels H-10 and H-11 – were unearthed during the second session. The top of the destruction debris of the next layer down – Level H-12 – was uncovered toward the end of the season. This layer should probably be equated with Stratum VIIA of the University of Chicago dig, dated to the terminal Late Bronze Age in the 12th century BCE (contemporary to Level K-6 of the current excavations). The next season will be devoted to excavating Level H-12; this will be especially interesting as Area H is located only a few meters to the west of the Late Bronze Palace excavated by the University of Chicago in the 1930s in their Area AA.
Excavation of the large Level J-4 temple of the Early Bronze IB was completed. This is the largest and most monumental Early Bronze temple known in the Levant and neighboring lands, which sheds light on the process of the first urbanization in the region in the late 4thmillennium BCE. The temple was probably built on a fill laid behind a terrace on what was the northern slope of the original, natural hill. The inside measurements of the temple hall are ca. 30 x 9 meters. Eight very large basalt slabs, arranged in four couples – two rectangular and two round – were found in the temple hall. They seem to have served as offering tables. Eight smaller stones made of limestone arranged along the long axis of the temple-hall probably served as pillar bases. The entrance to the temple, located off-center in its northern wall, was paved with well-dressed basalt slabs. There are indications that the jambs were covered by basalt slabs. This entrance is located in front of the temple’s altar. Previous seasons showed that corridors extended along the back and side-walls of the temple hall. The overall size of the edifice, including its walls and corridors, is estimated to have been ca. 50 x 30 m. A few more pieces of evidence for the abandonment of the temple as a result of an earthquake were detected this season.
The date of the three “megaron” temples of Level J-7 (Stratum XV of the University of Chicago) has been debated. Gordon Loud equated their date with Tell Beit Mirsim Strata I-H (Intermediate Bronze Age), while Kempinski and Esse associated them with the Early Bronze III. Only half of the third (western) megaron Temple 5269 was unearthed by the University of Chicago, hence an attempt was made in the 2006 and 2008 seasons to excavate the remaining part from above. Excavation in this sector (“Upper J”) has not been finished; the preliminary results seem to indicate that Temple 5269 was never completed: previous excavations showed that it had no floor and no altar. An elaborate Middle Bronze building, with well-preserved plaster basins, was built into a depression in the northwestern part of the earlier, probably unfinished temple.
In “Lower Area J”, located to the east of Temple 4050, in the University of Chicago’s Area BB, an attempt was made to re-investigate Stone Pavement 4008, which belongs to Level J-2 of the Early Bronze IB. A large part of the pavement was re-exposed and two unknown incisions have been detected. It is now clear that the curved wall shown on the plan of Stratum XIX of the University of Chicago dig does not belong to the pavement; it was built over it, with a layer of earth between them.
Work continued in the Late Bronze layers. Most architectural elements of Levels K-7 and K-8 of the Late Bronze II have been removed and Level K-9 exposed. The latter probably dates to the Late Bronze IIA (14th century BCE). Brick material of Level K-10 was unearthed below this layer. A brick structure several meters wide was exposed in the eastern squares of the area, running parallel to the edge of the mound. It seems to have been the core wall of the Middle Bronze rampart or the rampart itself.
This is a new area, located in the southeastern sector of the mound, between Area K of the current excavations and Area CC of the University of Chicago dig. An aerial picture and a plan published in Megiddo I (1939) show remains which were considered as belonging to Stratum III – the Assyrian city of the late 8th and 7th centuries BCE. The 2008 excavations demonstrated that these remains belong to more than one stratum. Buildings now assigned to Levels Q-1 to Q-3 should be equated with the University of Chicago’s Strata III-II. Level Q-4, with several pillared structures, seems to equal Stratum IVA. Debris of Level Q-5, with a large quantity of high quality Iron IIA pottery, including a distinctive concentration of fragments of cult vessels, was exposed in the last days of the season. This debris will be the target of the 2010 season.