Among the important finds are a uniquely impressive water system, a Canaanite palace, and buildings from the Early Israelite period. Tel Hatsor is a World Heritage site.
Points of interest in detail:
The visit to the tel focuses on the upper city.
Solomon's gate: A gate with six rooms and two towers, dated to the 10th century BCE. The gate was built in a form that was common in this period, and is similar to the gates at Gezer and Megiddo. To the south of the gate are the remains of a casemate city wall from the same period (made of two parallel walls with a space between them, divided into chambers by partitions). Beneath the middle room in the southern wing of the gate, the basalt threshold of a Canaanite temple was found.
The Canaanite palace: The ruins of the palace are sheltered by a roof, protecting them from wear. The palace was used by the kings of Hatsor in the 14th – 13th centuries BCE. A ritual dais was uncovered in the palace, and at the top of the stairs leading to the entrance there are two giant basalt pillars. A throne room was found in the middle of the palace.
The water system: One of the jewels in the crown of the visit to the site, the water system comprises three parts. The access structure is made of large ashlar blocks. Alongside this, a vertical shaft has been excavated, penetrating through the ancient layers of the mound down to the bedrock. 3 m wide steps have been carved out along its walls. It is 45 m in depth. Where the shaft ends, a 25 m tunnel begins, sloping diagonally downwards to the water-bearing deposits. The purpose of the water system was to supply local residents with water even at times of drought, without having to draw it from the springs outside the city. Construction of the water system is attributed to the time of King Ahab.
Israelite fortress and altar: The west of the upper city was bounded by a 10th century [BCE] casemate wall. After this, and until the Hellenistic period, fortresses were built. The large fortress whose remains were found here is attributed to King Ahab. The building work is of an excellent standard of craftsmanship. In Ahab's time, the spaces in the wall were filled in with earth and stones. Later considerable changes were made to the wall in preparation for the invasion of the Assyrian ruler Tiglath Pileser III, but to no avail. Alongside the fortress, a dais from the beginning of the Israelite period has been reconstructed.
Residential building and storeroom from the Israelite period: The buildings, from the 8th century BCE, were originally built over the Canaanite palace and were moved to the northern part of the upper city in order to conserve them. The residential building is of the four-area type typical of the Israelite period. The other building, which has two rows of pillars, served as a public storeroom.
The passage between the lower city and the upper city: Here, part of the wall was dismantled in order to reveal the basalt stairs which, in the Canaanite period, led from the upper to the lower city. From this point it is possible to see the remains of a large building, in the center of which is a ritual dais of smooth basalt stones daring to the Late Bronze Age. The surface of the dais is made of a single basalt slab, weighing around two tons. There are four indentations in the center of the slab, perhaps for a throne.
Hatsor Antiquities Museum (Ayelet Hashahar): The museum is situated by the entry gate to the kibbutz, and is a must for every visitor to the tel. The museum showcases fascinating exhibits found at Tel Hatsor, including photographs and maps of the excavations, finds from the temples and graves of Canaanite Hatsor, imported objects from neighboring countries - Egypt, Cyprus and Crete, and finds from the Israelite period.
Entry to the museum is for groups only, by arrangement with the staff of Tel Hatsor National Park.
Tel Hatsor lies to the east of the Rosh Pina – Metula road (Road 90), some 4 km north of Mahanayim Junction, by Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar.
View over the lower city: At the entrance to the site is a point overlooking the lower city from the heights of the tel. Israelite period tower: The tower, built to withstand the Assyrian invasion, stands at the western end of the acropolis and affords a beautiful view of Tel Hatsor, the Hula Valley, the Galilee hills and the Golan.
Tel Hatsor National Park is a declared national park on an area of 760 dunams. Within its grounds are Tel Hatsor, areas to the east and west of the old Road 90, and the Hatsor Museum in Kibbutz Ayelet HashaharReasons for declaration:
Tel Hatsor lies in the Hula Valley, to the side of the ancient international route connecting the land of Israel with Syria and Babylon, and with Phoenicia and the Lebanese coast. The city drank from the abundance of water from the Hatsor Stream, and was fed by the fruits of the fertile land of the valley.
Tel Hatsor comprises two clear sections: the top of the tel (the upper city), covering an area of 120 dunams, and the lower city, on an area of 700 dunams to the north of the upper city.
Human settlement at Tel Hatsor began in the third millennium BCE, and only the acropolis was settled. At the end of the third millennium, the tel was abandoned until the Middle Canaanite I period (23rd - 21st centuries BCE). According to the finds of archaeologist Yigal Yadin, the turning point in the history of the tel came at the beginning of the Middle Canaanite IIb period (around 1750 BCE). At this time, settlement expanded to the lower city, apparently as a result of the wave of immigrants, for whom the area of the upper city was insufficient. Because the lower city lacks natural fortifications, the inhabitants were forced to dig a deep moat to the west. The excavated earth was used to build a rampart to the west and north of the settlement. The eastern slopes were reinforced with glacis, thus creating a well-fortified complex within which public buildings, temples, and residential homes were built. The lower city was the largest in the land of Israel in the Middle Bronze Age. It appears that the site developed in this period, creating a city with thousands of inhabitants.
Hatsor is first mentioned in the Egyptian execration texts (19th century BCE). Not long after, the name of the city appears in documents found the archives of the city of Mari. Hatsor is the only city in the land of Israel mentioned in these documents. The city had commercial ties with cities in Babylon and Syria, and considerable quantities of tin were sent to it for its bronze industry.
The lower city existed throughout the Late Bronze Age, alternately being destroyed and rebuilt. Hatsor reached the height of its prosperity in the 14th century BCE, and it is probable that at this time it was the largest city in the land of Canaan.
Canaanite Hatsor was destroyed in a great fire in the 13th century BCE. Prof. Yadin was of the opinion that it was Joshua Ben-Nun who destroyed it. Jabin, King of Hatsor, headed an alliance of northern Canaanite cities, but the cities of the alliance were routed by the Israelites in a battle at Lake Marom. The events are described in the book of Joshua: "And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hatsor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hatsor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms" (Joshua 11:10). The signs of fire found in the excavations are in line with this biblical description: "But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, Israel burned none of them, save Hatsor only; that did Joshua burn" (Joshua 11:13). According to this version, Hatsor was conquered around 1230 BCE.
On the other hand, Prof. Yohanan Aharoni holds that Hatsor was conquered later, during the period of settlement of the tribes of Israel, as described in the book of Judges, chapters 4 - 5, when Barak Ben-Avinoam defeated the army of Sisera, commander of Jabin's army. According to Aharoni, it was this victory that led to the fall of Hatsor.
In later periods Hatsor flourished again, but it never regained its former status. Only the area of the upper city was inhabited. In the 10th century BCE, the city was rebuilt and Ahab doubled its size (9th century BCE). In his days, Hatsor once again played an important role as a fortified city on an important highway, and was a base for carriages, horsemen, and chariots, and for provisions and storage.
In the battle campaigns of the armies of Aram and the kings of Assyria, the city was destroyed a number of times, but it was rebuilt each time until, in 732 BCE, Tiglath Pileser III, King of Assyria, conquered all the cities of Galilee and destroyed them for good.
How to get here: From both the north and the south – take Road 90 (Rosh Pina – Kiryat Shmona) in the direction of Ayelet Hashahar.
Length of visit: 1 – 3 hours
Last entry to the park is one hour before closing time
Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 5 pm Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 4 pm
Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 4 pm Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 3 pm
On the eve of New Year, the eve of the Day of Atonement, and Passover eve: 8 am – 1 pm
Entrance fee (including museum)
Individuals: Adult - NIS 22, child – NIS 9
Group (over 30): Adult - NIS 19, child – NIS 8