Work in Area M concentrated in the 12 northern squares (Fig. 1). The goals of this season were to unearth the monumental building dating to the Late Bronze Age and the remains of the destruction layer attributed to this phase. The remains uncovered this year were assigned to five stratigraphic phases, dating from Early Bronze Age III to Iron Age II.
Pre-Late Bronze Age Remains
Two walls and two floors abutting them were excavated in the southwestern corner of Area M. These were attributed to Early Bronze Age III, on the basis of the ceramic assemblage on the floors, which included mainly large potsherds of metallic storage jars, and an alabaster mace-head. Both floors and one of the walls were cut on the north side by the foundation trench of the Late Bronze Age monumental building (see below).
The next phase in Area M is represented by several stairs and paved surfaces between them, which were exposed in the eastern half of the area. The stairs, excavated to the north and south of W11-303 (Fig. 2), were constructed in a similar manner. Each stair consists of a row of flat stones with a straight northern face. The areas between the stairs are paved with small stones on a level of hard-packed mud-brick material. A large paved courtyard connects the northern stair exposed this year with that to its south, which is sealed by W11-303.
Walls W12-315 and W12-316 in the southern part of the area should probably be attributed to this phase (Fig. 2). The construction technique of these walls is unique: the lower course consists of huge slabs of limestone, overlain with three courses of light mud bricks, and the top course is composed of fieldstones. These walls are not associated with any of the other walls in the area, and the northern end of W12-315 is cut by the monumental LB building. The date and stratigraphic context of all the elements described above, i.e., the stairs, pavements and the walls, will be examined during the next season.
Late Bronze Age Remains
The area witnessed a profound architectonic change in this period. A system of monumental walls, composed of huge partially dressed lime stones, was built in the area. It seems that the southern part of the area went out of use until the Iron II period; it may have served as a terrace, which accounts for the lack of architectural remains from this period.
Two sub-phases were defined in the northern part of the area, to the north of W11-303.
The earlier phase includes the foundation of the monumental walls that comprise at least two units, an eastern and a western one. The walls of the eastern unit seal the earlier stairs and floors (W11-303), or cuts them (W11-316). The large paved surface that separated the most northern stair from the southern one continued to serve as the floor of the eastern unit. The southern wall of this unit was built directly above the stair that is abutted from the south by the early pavement (Fig. 3). The walls of the western unit included in this phase only the monumental walls. The floors of this unit should be exposed during the next season.
In the later sub-phase, some of the walls were cut but the building continues in use. At the end of this sub-phase, the building was destroyed in a violent conflagration, which is marked by a thick mud-brick collapse layer, fragments of plastered ceiling, burnt logs and ash layers. It is not clear whether the use of the eastern unit continued in this phase.
Its northern and eastern walls were cut during this phase, probably to clear the passage that was blocked in the earlier sub-phase. The eastern unit was subsequently filled with a homogenous fill, which contained a large amount of potsherds, bones and small pieces of mud-brick material and plaster. The fill was unearthed during the pervious season (HA-ESI 124) and in the current season, pieces of fresco were found.
A mud-brick wall (W11-302) was built in the western unit, dividing it into two rooms.
Thirteen pithoi, filled with burnt wheat/barley grains and arranged in two rows, were discovered, in-situ, leaning against the eastern face of W11-302 in the eastern room. The grains were sent for archaeobotanical and 14C analysis. Accumulations of broken bowls and jugs were also uncovered in this room. Fragments of the pithoi were found in the fill covering the continuation of the lower courses of the eastern monumental wall of this room (W10-307), which was cut in this phase. Hence, it is clear that the destruction of the building post-dates the cutting of the walls (Fig. 3).
The pithoi were found sealed under pink mud bricks, which are extremely hard and contain negatives of reeds. These were interpreted as the remains of the ceiling, and were found only to the east of W11-302, thus proving that the pithoi area was roofed.
Several burnt logs were exposed in the western room, mainly in its northern and western sides, as well as an installation of burnt logs that were overlain with plaster. The areas to the west and north of W11-302 might have been open spaces. Two additional rooms, separated by a wall that had a basalt orthostat incorporated in its northern end, were found to the north. Many burnt logs were also found in these two rooms. The northern wall of the structure is the southern wall of the ‘podium complex’, which was unearthed in the 1990s.
Following the destruction of the monumental building, several pits were dug into the destruction level and clusters of pottery vessels, dating to the LB, were found on top of the mud-brick collapse.
Post-Late Bronze Age Remains
Remains of a later phase were uncovered in the southeastern part of the area. These included a sloping ramp constructed from five rows of flat stones, sloping down to the north. The ramp is built against a wall built of large and coarsely-worked limestone boulders. Both features are dated to Iron Age II, on the basis of the pottery associated with them. The ramp is cut in the north by a wall of the southern Three Halls Building, which is dated to the ninth century BCE (HA-ESI 122). It is possible that the ramp is contemporaneous with the "Masseboth Complex”, found in the northwestern end of the area during the 2011 season (HA-ESI 124). Supporting this reconstruction are the identical building technique, the ash layer found above all these elements, and the pottery found in association with them.
The latest phase uncovered this season includes segments of walls that are attributed to the southern ‘Three Halls Building’, exposed during the 2009 season (HA-ESI 121).
Conservation and Reconstruction
At the end of the season, the mud-brick walls of the Late Bronze Age monumental building were covered with a layer of Geo-Technic soft material, placed directly on top of the remains, and overlain with large plastic sheets, to protect them from the winter rains.
A narrow test trench was opened between the north of the ‘Southern Temple’ and the wall parallel to it on the north, which had been exposed in the Yadin excavation (Fig. 4). The aim of the excavation was to uncover the earlier remains below the pebble-paved street connecting the temple and the Bronze Age walls to its north, and to establish the stratigraphic connection between the ‘Southern Temple’ and the northern ‘Long Temple’, which was excavated by Yadin in 1968 and published in Hazor V (Bonfil 1997:12–176).
Three phases were defined in the area, all of them preceding the drainage channel, which was excavated in previous seasons and leads to the water reservoir excavated by Yadin to the east of this area (HA-ESI 121). All these phases are contemporary with the ‘Southern Temple’ and represent its continuous existence throughout the Middle and early Late Bronze Ages.
The upper pavement connects the northern wall of the ‘Southern Temple’ and the parallel wall to its north (W588), which had been excavated by Yadin. This pavement is attributed to the Late Bronze Age.
A wide plastered layer, attributed to an earlier phase, was identified in the eastern part of the trench (Fig. 5). This layer seems to have been used as a workshop area, attested to by shallow pits containing ashes, small channels, a large basalt stone and remains of metal production and limestone working.
The earliest occupation phase in the trench is represented by a pebble pavement, serving as bedding for a thick layer of white plaster (Fig. 5). This pavement abuts the wall of the ‘Southern Temple’, continues to the north belowW588 and connects to the pavements, identified by Yadin’s expedition, which abutted the wall preceding the ‘Northern Temple’. These pavements are dated to Middle Bronze Age II.
A homogenous fill of mud-brick material and fallen burnt mud bricks, extending below W588, was identified in a small test pit, dug in the northernmost part of the trench. The fill contained only EBIII potsherds and no clear architectural remains and it represents the earliest use of the area.
The trench in Area A6 was covered after the completion of the excavation.