Tel Megiddo National Park - the cradle of archeology

Tel Megiddo is one of the most important archeological sites in Israel. However, most of the ruins have not been reconstructed. So, if you come without a guide, it is suggested to focus on just a few aspects of the site, and this can make a very worthwhile visit. These aspects could include the movies in the Visitor Center, the tel’s strategic importance, the nature of a tel, the Canaanite and Israelite gates, and Megiddo’s water supply system.

DirectionsEnter “Megiddo National Park“ into Waze.

Admission: This is a site of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Summer hours are Sunday–Thursday and Saturday 8.00 am- 5.00 pm and Friday and holiday eves 8.00 am to 4.00 pm. In the winter closes one hour earlier. Their phone number is 04 659 0316. This is their website.There is a trailer on their website that is worth watching.

 

A Visitor Center sells drinks and snacks. There is a free brochure with a map in English. The movies in the Visitor Center should be seen.

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The Israelite Gate.

Getting the most from a visit to Tel Megiddo

 

  1. Understanding its location:

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 had to pass through what is now Israel. The international route that they used is called the Via Maris (the Way of the Sea). Starting from Egypt it passes along the coastal plain and then turns northeast into the Jezreel Valley. Between the two, it crosses the Carmel Mountain Range through Wadi Ara, which was otherwise blocked by forests and swamps. Megiddo is located at the northern outlet of Wadi Ara into the Jezreel Valley. There was also a northern road 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 location also 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 chose Megiddo as the place where the forces of good and evil would confront each other before the onset of the Kingdom of God. The Greek for this location is called Armegaddon, which comes from the two words har Megiddo, har being Hebrew for a mountain.

 

What’s a tel?

Megiddo, which is a tel, is considered the cradle of modern archeology. Until the late 1800’s, no one knew what these trapezoidal hills found in Israel and other places were about. Some thought they were hills upon which were constructed palaces. A breakthrough in their understanding came in 1890 when Sir Flinders Petrie, considered the father of modern archeology, while excavating a site in Gaza noticed that a flash flood had split what was in actuality a tel into two and exposed layer upon layer of settlements. He was able to associate the different layers with their pottery and place them in their historical context. Shortly after this, Gottlieb Schumacher did this at Megiddo. This is how stratigraphic 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 create a mound. Because of these 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 by the Southern Observation Point #13 by looking at an archeological trench dug by the University of Chicago Expedition between 1925-1939.

 

The Canaanite and Israelite Gates: Two gates from two periods have been reconstructed – the Canaanite and Israelite periods.

 

The Canaanite period

The Canaanite Gate (#2) was built in the 15th century BCE during the Late Bronze Age. The Canaanite period follows the Chalcolithic (copper) period and extends 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, there are remains of Canaanite palaces and a temple area (#3, #5 and #9) and those interested should read the brochure. According to the brochure the city was then unfortified, although this is difficult to believe. 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 was preserved to a considerable height and did not need much conservation. The stone paving leading to it is original.

 

The Israelite 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 here and was excited to find that the gate was similar in form 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. The present feeling, however, is that this gate was not built by King Solomon, but by a king of the Northern Israelite kingdom, such as King Jeroboam II in the 8th century BCE.

 

The water system #20.

There is a spring of water outside the tel and like other cities Megiddo needed to bring this water into the city whilst making sure that an enemy could not access this water nor use the tunnel system to enter the city. This system was built during the Israelite period and in its final version consisted of a 36-meter deep 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. One can walk through this tunnel, which leads to outside the tel. A path around the tel leads to the Visitor Center. Leave this to the last though.

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This Canaanite Gate was built during the Late Bronze Age in the 15th century BCE. The paving is also from this time.

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This is the 36-meter shaft dug for the water system in the Israelite period

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This is the trench that was dug by theUniversity of Chicago Expedition between 1925 to 1939 that revealed multiple layers of settlement

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Anyone who wished to control the Via Maris had to have the tanks of the day, which were chariots. These and the cavalry needed horses. This is the partially reconstructed stables thought to be from the 9th century BCE and time of King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom.