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Tel Megiddo National Park - the birthplace of modern archeology

Megiddo was once one of the most important cities in the country because of its strategic location overlooking the Via Maris. Its tell can be considered the birthplace of modern archeology. There is much to see here, including movies in the Visitor Center, its Canaanite and Israelite gates, the stables and water supply system. All are nicely explained.

DirectionsEnter “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.

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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.

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Megiddo - past and future


When the Egyptian empire in the south and the northern empires of Syria and Mesopotamia wished to pay each other a call, either as friends or enemies, they had to pass through what is now Israel. The road they would have used was called the Via Maris (the Way of the Sea). This route went from Egypt along the coastal plain and then turned northeast into the Jezreel Valley. To reach the Jezreel valley, it was necessary to cross the Carmel Mountain Range through Wadi Ara. Megiddo is located by the outlet of Wadi Ara into the Jezreel Valley. This site was also a crossroads for a road that went north to Phoenicia. The strategic location of Megiddo can be appreciated from Megiddo’s Southern Observation Point (#12), which overlooks the outlet of Wadi Ara into the Jezreel Valley.


Megiddo’s strategic location almost guaranteed that it would be site of major battles. King Josiah of the Kingdom of Judah was killed here when he confronted Pharoah Necho king of Egypt on his way to Mesopotamia (2 Kings 23).


Its location is also why Megiddo is considered by many to be the site of the final apocalyptic confrontation between the forces of good and evil at the End of Days. This struggle is first mentioned by the prophet Zephaniah, who describes a destruction encompassing the entire Middle East. The prophet Zechariah also describes a final apocalyptic struggle when nations will wage war against Jerusalem (Zechariah 14). The prophet Ezekiel is the first to mention that the forces converging on Israel will be Gog from the land of Megog. Finally, the Book of Revelation in the New Testament describes Megiddo as the site where the forces of good and evil will confront each other in the final battle of Gog of Magog before the coming 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.

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

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A 36-meter shaft was 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.

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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 from the Israelite period.

What is a tell?

Megiddo is a tell, and this particular tell can be considered the birthplace of modern archeology. Until the late 1800s, no one knew what these trapezoidal hills in Israel and other places were. A breakthrough in their understanding came in 1890 when Sir Flinders Petrie, considered the father of modern archeology, noticed in Gaza that a flash flood had split one of these hills into two and had exposed layer upon layer of settlement. He was able to place these 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 tell is formed from successive layers of habitation that collapse for various reasons and are rebuilt on top of the ruins. Over thousands of years this creates a mound. Because of the layer upon layer of collapsed outer walls, the tell narrows and squares off as it rises. At Tel Megiddo there are 26 layers of settlement from the Chalcolithic period onwards. Some of these layers can be appreciated from the Southern Observation Point (#13) where an archeological trench was dug between 1925 to 1939 by the University of Chicago Expedition.

Exploring Tel Megiddo


Even archeologists will admit that Tel Megiddo is a difficult place to understand. This is because 30 layers of civilization are stacked one on top of each other, much of the site has not been excavated, the buildings displayed are from different historic periods, and there is controversy surrounding the dating of some of them. So, what is a casual visitor to do? My advice is to take one period, such as the Israelite period, and focus on this rather than trying to understand everything in the brochure map. Make sure also to go to the Observation Points.

The Canaanite Gate (#2 in the brochure). You will first come to the Canaanite Gate. The history of Canaan is very much linked to that of the Egyptian empire since it controlled the Canaanite city states for hundreds of years, particularly during the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BCE). During this period, Pharaoh Thutmose II defeated a coalition of Canaanite kings at the Battle of Megiddo in 1475 BCE. Egypt considered its control of Canaan to be important for its own defense. This was also a time when the country flourished. In the Intermediate Bronze Age (2200-2000 BCE) Megiddo had been abandoned.


This Canaanite gate was neither fortified nor attached to a wall and it probably had a decorative function as an approach to the adjoining Canaanite Palace, a wall of which can be seen, and the temple areas (#3, #5 and #9). These were destroyed in the Late Bronze Age and rebuilt, and finally destroyed again by a massive conflagration in the Iron Age at the beginning of the 10th century BCE.


At the base of the gate are slabs of basalt, which would have been more durable than the limestone from which the rest of the gate was built. The gate has been preserved to a considerable height and little conservation was needed (a concrete line delineates the sections that were conserved). Excavations revealed charred remains of olive wood beams that were inserted between the stone slabs and these beams were replaced and can be seen. The stone paving leading to the gate is the original paving.


The Israelite Gate (#4): Continue up the steps to the Israelite Gate. It 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.


The Book of Joshua mentions that the king of Megiddo was defeated by Joshua and his territory was assigned to the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 21). However, the tribe of Manasseh was unable to drive out the Canaanites from Megiddo and other cities assigned to them, and the Canaanites continued to live in these cities (Judges 1:27). Thus, the first Israelite layer identified in Megiddo comes from considerably later than the Israelite conquest of Canaan, from around 920 BCE.


When the Israeli archeologist Yigael Yadin excavated at Megiddo he noticed that the gate at Megiddo was of a similar design to Israelite gates at Hazor and Gezer. Based on a sentence in the book of Kings, he suggested that 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 may also have built the stables here since he had a large chariot force. However, other archeologists dispute this dating and suggest it may have been built a century later during the Omride dynasty, who were 9th century BCE rulers of the Kingdom of Israel.


The Stables: There were two large stables in Megiddo as this was the military center for the Israelite kingdom. The stable in the north (#6) was for cavalry horses and the southern one (#16) was for chariot horses. A Deep Granary (#15) next to the southern stable provided fodder for the horses. These partially reconstructed stables were built by either Jeroboam II in the 8th century or King Ahab in the 9th century BCE. Chariots were the tanks of that time. Each chariot needed three horses, two to pull it and the third as a replacement. There was growing concern in the 8th century BCE about the growing power of Assyria, and Assyria would eventually destroy the Northern Israelite kingdom and exile its people.

The Northern Observation Point (#8) and Southern Observation Point (#12): See the brochure for what can be seen from these points.  


The Water System (#20): There is a spring of water outside the tell, and this is one of the reasons the settlement and then the city were built here. Like other fortified cities, Megiddo needed to bring water into the city, whilst ensuring that an enemy would be unable to access the spring or enter the city via its tunnel system. This system was built during the reigns of Jehoash and Jeroboam II of the Northern Israelite kingdom in the 8th century BCE. In its final version, it consisted of a 36-meter-deep shaft dug down to the water level, which was connected to a 52-meter horizontal tunnel hewn into the rock to reach the spring. The incline of the tunnel was such that water flowed into the city. Water was drawn from the bottom of the shaft. The spring was blocked off from the outside by a thick wall which was covered with earth.


The amount of water that collects in the pool depends on the rainfall. Heavy rains can flood the tunnel. You can walk through the tunnel and this will bring you to outside the tell. A path around the tell then takes you back to the Visitor Center. Leave this to the last, though, since you will otherwise have to reenter the site.

Links to the HOME PAGE and best family activities, hikes and historic sites in the GOLAN, EASTERN GALILEE, UPPER GALILEE, LOWER GALILEE, JORDAN VALLEY & LAKE KINNERET, the SHEFELAH, TEL AVIV-YAFFO and surroundings, NORTH of TEL AVIV, and SOUTH of TEL AVIV.

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