Tel Megiddo National Park - a Cradle of Modern Archeology
Tel Megiddo was once one of the most important archeological sites in Israel. Most of the ruins have not been reconstructed, but there is still much of interest here. This includes the movies in the Visitor Center, the strategic importance ofMegiddo, its Canaanite and Israelite gates, and its water supply system.
Directions: Enter “Megiddo National Park“ into Waze.
Admission: This is a site of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Summer hours are Sunday to Thursday and Saturday 8.00 am to 5.00 pm and Friday and holiday eves 8.00 am to 4.00 pm. In the winter the site closes one hour earlier. There is an admission charge. Their Visitor Center sells drinks and snacks. There is a brochure in English with a map. Their phone number is 04 659 0316. This is their website. The trailer on their website is worth watching.
Public transport: Numerous bus lines stop at Megiddo. Enter "Megiddo National Park" into Moovit.
This Israelite Gate may have been built by a king of the Northern Israelite kingdom, such as King Jeroboam II, in the 8th century BCE.
Understanding the different aspects of Tel Megiddo
When the empires of Egypt in the south and Syria and Mesopotamia in the north wished to pay each other a call, either as friends or enemies, they would have had to pass through what is now Israel. The road they used is called the Via Maris (the Way of the Sea). From Egypt this route passed along the coastal plain and then turned northeast into the Jezreel Valley. To do so, it crossed the Carmel Mountain Range through Wadi Ara. The Carmel Mountain Range was otherwise blocked by forests and swamps. Megiddo is located by the outlet of Wadi Ara into the Jezreel Valley. There was also a road that went north to Phoenicia at this crossroads. Megiddo’s strategic location can be appreciated from the Southern Observation Point (#12), which overlooks the outlet of Wadi Ara to the Jezreel Valley.
Megiddo’s strategic location almost guaranteed it would be site of major battles. This is why the prophet Zecharia mentions Megiddo in his end of days prophecy (Zecharia 12:11), and why the Book of Revelation in the New Testament describes Megiddo as being the place where the forces of good and evil will confront each other before the arrival of the Kingdom of God. This location is called Armageddon in Greek, which comes from the two words har Megiddo, har being Hebrew for mountain.
The nature of a tel
Megiddo is a tel, and this tel is considered the birthplace of modern archeology. Until the late 1800s, no one knew what these trapezoidal hills in Israel and other places were. Some archeologist thought they were hills on which palaces had been constructed. A breakthrough in their understanding came in 1890 when Sir Flinders Petrie, who is considered the father of modern archeology, noticed that a flash flood had split one of these hills in Gaza into two and had exposed layer upon layer of settlements. He was able to place the different layers into their historic context through their pottery. Shortly after this, Gottlieb Schumacher did the same at Megiddo. Thus, stratigraphic archeological research was born.
We now know that a tel is formed from successive layers of habitation that collapse for various reasons and are then built over again. Over thousands of years this creates a mound. Because of the layer after layer of collapsed outer walls, the tel narrows and squares off as it rises. In Tel Megiddo there are 26 layers of settlement since the Chalcolithic period. Some of these layers can be seen at the Southern Observation Point (#13) by looking at an archeological trench dug by the University of Chicago Expedition between 1925 to 1939.
The Canaanite and Israelite Gates: Gates from the Canaanite and Israelite periods have been reconstructed:
The Canaanite Gate (#2) was built in the 15th century BCE during the Late Bronze Age. The Canaanite period followed the Chalcolithic (copper) period and extended from the early Bronze Age (3300-2200 BCE) to the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BCE). Megiddo was abandoned during the Intermediate Bronze Age (2200-2000 BCE). By the gate are remains of Canaanite palaces and a temple area (#3, #5 and #9), and those interested should read the brochure for the details. According to the brochure the city was then unfortified, and this gate may have been ceremonial or the entrance to an inner fortress. At its base are slabs of basalt, which would have been more durable than the limestone from which the rest of the gate was built. The gate had been preserved to a considerable height and little conservation was needed. The stone paving leading to the gate is original and from this period.
The Israelite Gate (#4) consists of a two chambered outer gate at the top of a ramp and a six-chambered inner gate connected to the outer gate by an L-shaped plaza. Yigael Yadin excavated at Megiddo and noticed that the gate was similar to that found in Hazor and Gezer. Based on the Bible, he assumed they were built by King Solomon: “And this is the account of the levy which King Solomon raised, to build the House of the Lord, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor and Megiddo and Gezer” (I Kings 9:15). He also built stables here. However, the present feeling is that this gate was not built by King Solomon but by a king of the Northern Israelite kingdom in the 8th century BCE, such as King Jeroboam II.
The water system (#20)
There was once a spring of water outside the tel. Like other fortified cities, Megiddo needed to bring water into the city whilst ensuring that an enemy could not access the spring nor enter the city via its tunnel system. The system you see was built during the Israelite period and in its final version consisted of a 36-meter-deep vertical shaft connected to 70-meter horizontal tunnel. The incline of the tunnel was such that water flowed into the city. The spring was blocked off from the outside by a thick wall and then hidden with earth. You can walk through the tunnel and this leads to outside the tel. A path around the tel then takes you back to the Visitor Center. Leave this to the last though.
The Canaanite Gate was built during the Late Bronze Age in the 15th century BCE. Its paving is also from this time.
A 36-meter vertical shaft dug in the Israelite period for the water system.
This is the trench that was dug by the University of Chicago Expedition between 1925 to 1939 and that revealed multiple layers of settlement.
Anyone who wished to control the Via Maris had to have chariots as these were the tanks of the day. These and the cavalry needed horses. These partially reconstructed stables are thought to be from the 9th century BCE and the time of King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom.