Area A1 (Fig. 1) was excavated on a small scale this season; nonetheless, three construction phases dating from the nineth to the eighth centuries BCE were discerned. The southwestern corner of the palace, which was covered with thick layers of buildings from the Iron Age, was revealed below the earliest stratum of this period. The corner was built as a stepped line, similar to the parallel corner in the northwest. At the foot of the wall were six fallen basalt orthostats that had previously stood in a row on top of the stone base of the wall. Along the row were the carbonized remains of a wooden beam that was positioned on top of the orthostats and connected them to the mud-brick construction above them. Remains of similar beams were encountered on top of orthostats that survived in situ, in other walls of the palace.

 

Area A4. The exposure of well-preserved Iron Age strata continued in the higher part of the area, where a thick layer of buildings dating from the nineth to the eighth centuries BCE was exposed in the previous season. An alley flanked by buildings on either side was uncovered in the early Iron Age layer. Some of the buildings were preserved to a height exceeding that of a man and in one of them even a window had survived. It turned out that the Iron Age strata reached a substantial depth, which happened to cause the destruction of the earlier strata. Sometimes, the elevation of the Iron Age buildings' floors was identical to, or even lower than the elevation of the adjacent floors from the Middle Bronze Age. The ceramic finds were very rich and included, among others, an incense burner and an assemblage of Bichrome ware that dated the early Iron Age stratum in this area to the second half of the tenth century or at the latest, to the beginning of the nineth century BCE. Another important find was a letter in written cuneiform script, whose content and date are still unclear.

The exposure of the cultic area in the lower part of the area continued. More standing stones (mazzevot) were discovered, as well as a large circular stone basin (diam. c. 1 m) to their west. As in the previous season, the exposed area was covered with a thick layer of ash and bones. Numerous beads and the upper part of a silver figurine that resembles the figurines revealed during last season were also discovered.

 

Attempts continued to locate the eastern wall of the ancient palace in the eastern and southern part of the area, which was destroyed and plundered. Several floors, some of them plastered, which related to the wall or to the robbed-out line of the wall, yielded a large amount of pottery vessels from Middle Bronze Age II. Middle Bronze Age I (EB IV) potsherds that were devoid of any stratigraphic context emerged as well; together with the wall sections and pottery vessels from this period exposed in the previous seasons in Areas A2, A3 and A5, they supplement the settlement scene. With the progress of the excavation it became increasingly clear that the entire eastern slope of the excavated area in the middle of the tell was inhabited during this period. Early Bronze Age III remains were discerned in the deepest section of the excavation area.

 

Area A5. Excavation of the buildings from the nineth and eighth centuries BCE in the high, eastern part of the area continued; they were founded on top of the fill in the moat from the tenth or beginning of the nineth century BCE, which protected the casemate wall. When the city expanded eastward in the middle of nineth century BCE, the moat that ended up in the middle of the enlarged city was filled in, and dwellings were constructed above it. Most of the building walls, as well as the floors and the installations associated with them, were leaning steeply toward the deep part of the filled-in moat. About three layers of buildings and various installations were distinguished in this area. A noteworthy find was a Phoenician stone seal, bearing a human figure and the Hebrew letters ש and ת.

 

The Iron Age fill was removed in the southern part of the area and three walls of a large hall were exposed (more than 10 m long, more than 4 m wide). The northern, eastern and western walls were built of mud bricks atop a stone foundation. The northern wall was a partition wall between the hall and what appears to be a similarly constructed hall to the north. The southern hall had a yellowish-plaster floor applied to a stone bed; a few non-diagnostic pottery fragments on the floor were of no use in dating the building. Scant building remains and floor segments from the Late Bronze Age were located on top of the mud-brick walls in the eastern and western ends of the area. This probably indicates that at least part of the building complex was no longer in use at the end of the Late Bronze Age, which is in keeping with occurrences known from other locations on the tell. Prior to the fall of Hazor in the last phase of the Late Bronze Age, a decline was evidenced in the city's power. Accordingly, the complex was probably constructed in the Middle Bronze Age and functioned during most of the Late Bronze Age. Until now no entries have been traced in the walls of the hall (preserved height of more than 4 m). If none emerges in the fourth wall, it will be necessary to conclude that this was a subterranean hall, which could explain two extraordinary features: the unusual preserved height of the walls and the fact that they stood exposed to their full height in the Iron Age because the moat's fill, which included a considerable amount of Iron Age ceramic finds, rested against the surface of the mud-brick superstructure of the walls.

 

Bedrock was exposed when a small section of the hall's floor stone bed was removed. To level bedrock surface for the floor, a layer of soil that was rich in Early Bronze Age III ceramics was laid down. A Mesopotamian stone seal in the style of the Jemdet Nasr period, the first of its kind in the country, was recovered from the fill; when deposited in the fill, the seal was already close to a thousand years old.

 

Conservation and Reconstruction. The construction of the Late Bronze Age palace's  protective roof has been completed. The work was coordinated by the Nature Reserves and National Parks Authority, with the support of the Israel Government Tourism Corporation, the Seltz Foundation, the Beracha Foundation and the Edith and Reuben Hecht Fund. It is now possible to proceed with the conservation and reconstruction of the palace in preparation of public visitations. This year's conservation work focused on the reconstruction of the palace’s wooden floor, the courtyard’s stone floor and the southern and western walls of the building. The bema in the northern temple was also looked after.