This summary is updated until 2003. For additional discoveries view the "Publications" section
Tel Rehov (often written Rehob; Arabic: Tell es-Sarem; map reference 197.207 UTM Grid 873.594), is the largest mound in the alluvial Beth-Shean Valley, extending over 26 acres (10.2 hectares) , its summit at an elevation of 116 m below sea level. Located about 6 km west of the Jordan River, 3 km east of the Gilboa ridge and 5 km south of Tel Beth-Shean, Tel Rehov dominates the north–south road through the Jordan Valley. The site comprises an upper mound and a lower mound to its north, each covering about 13 acres. The upper mound rises to 20 m above the surrounding plain, while the lower mound stands about 8 m above the plain. A ravine separates the two mounds and a gate may have been located in this ravine on the eastern side of the mound. The closest water source is a spring near the northeastern corner of the mound, and additional springs are to be found at short distances.
Tel Rehov was identified by P. Abel in the early 1920’s
with Rehob of Egyptian texts. The identification is also based on the mention of
the name in several historical sources (see below), and on the preservation of
the name in the Byzantine Jewish town Rohob located at Horvat Parva (Khirbet
Farwana) northwest of the mound, and the Islamic tomb of esh-Sheikh er-Rihab,
south of the mound. Surveys conducted by W. F. Albright, A. Bergman
Rehov (the Hebrew word for “piazza” and “street”) was the name of several cities mentioned in the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern sources. Two cities by that name in the western Galilee are referred to in the city lists of Asher (Josh. 19: 28–30). An Aramean city and state of that name are mentioned in Syria, mainly in relation to David’s conquests (2 Sam 10: 6, 8). However, Rehov in the Beth-Shean Valley is not mentioned in the Old Testament.
Several Egyptian sources mention Rehov in the Beth-Shean valley. cities of in iclued Rahabu in letter No. 2 from Taanach (fifteenth century BCE). In the stele of Seti I found at Beth-Shean (c. 1300 BCE), Pehel, Hamat and Yenoam are mentioned as rebelling against the Egyptian administration, while Rehov remained loyal to the Pharaoh. In Papyrus Anastasi I 22:8 (thirteenth century BCE), the Egyptian scribe mentions Rehov in relation to Beth-Shean and the crossing of the Jordan. Pharaoh Shishak’s list of conquered cities (c. 925 BCE) mentions Rehov (No. 17) after “The Valley” and before Beth-Shean. Several other Egyptian sources refer to a city of this name either in the Beth-Shean Valley or to Rehov in western Galilee. These include the Execration Texts, Tuthmosis III’s topographic list (No. 87 ), (the latter two probably refer to the Western Galilee); bronze vessels from a place called Rehov mentioned in a papyrus kept in Torino which includes accounts dated to the twentieth dynasty, a notation concerning the production of chariots parts at Rehov in Papyrus Anastasi IV (17:3). Back to top!
The excavations at Tel Rehov were directed by A. Mazar on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and sponsored by Mr. J. Camp. The first six seasons took place between 1997 and 2003. Two excavation areas (A and B and H) were opened on the upper mound, and five (C, D, E, F, G) on the lower mound. The number of strata may vary in certain areas or sub-areas, and the correlation between them is tentative in certain cases. Yet from the late Iron Age I onwards, attempt was made to correlate local strata in each of the excavation areas into seven general strata (VII-I) evident a throughout the site. Geophysical and geological surveys were also conducted.
This period has only been reached in a narrow trench in the southwestern part of the upper mound (Area H ) where a fortification system dating to the Early Bronze Age II–III was revealed. The system included a 9.5-m-wide mud brick wall preserved to a maximum height of 6.5 m, abutted on its outer side by an earthen glacis preserved to 13 m wide and 3.5 m high. This impressive fortification system, which apparently surrounded the upper mound, suggests that Tel Rehov may have been the main city in the Beth-Shean Valley during this period, perhaps even a center of a city state, as it would become in the second millennium BCE.
Evidence for an Intermediate Bronze Age settlement and cemetery was revealed in surveys in the alluvial plain west of the mound. Several shaft burial caves from this period were excavated by O.Yogev for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in 1979 and by the Hebrew University expedition in collaboration with the IAA near the southwestern corner of the mound in 2002. The burials contained pottery vessels, metal weapons and beads.
The Middle Bronze Age
The excavations have not yet reached this period. Zori published an Old Babylonian seal from his survey of the mound and mentions Middle Bronze Age pottery, although no such pottery has been revealed by the Hebrew University expedition. Few graves from this period were excavated by Yogev near the mound.
Late Bronze Age
In area D, a 5–10-m-wide step trench on the western slope of the lower mound exposed 11 occupation strata dating from Late Bronze Age I to Iron Age IIA. The limited exposure of these strata and the severe erosion of the edges of buildings on the slope has hampered our study of this area. However, the clear stratigraphic sequence from the end of the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age IIA is one of the most dense in the entire country.
Stratum D-11 consists of a layer of dark brown silt and ash at the bottom of the trench above travertine bedrock. The top of the layer is about 1.2 m below the present-day alluvial field to the west of the mound, indicating a significant change rise in the level of the plain during the historical periods. The few pottery sherds found in this layer include cam be dated to the end of the Middle Bronze Age II or the beginning of the Late Bronze Age.
Stratum D-10 is a layer of light yellow travertine, over 2 m thick, uncovered at the foot of the mound. In a trial trench excavated 20 m north of area D, this travertine layer was about 6 m deep. This stratum is void of finds, except for one Late Bronze Age carinated bowl. The travertine must have accumulated in a body of water – a small lake or pond – that existed at the foot of the mound during part of the Late Bronze Age and may have covered much of the present-day field. The presence of this pond raises questions as to possible tectonic changes which prevented the water from being drained, as it is today, into a brook that flows northeast to the Jordan River.
In stratum D-9b of the Late Bronze IIA (?), a substantial building was founded above the travertine layer. A 1-m-wide, east–west wall with two subsidiary walls was uncovered, along with a complete clay plaque figurine of a naked woman with a leonine head (?). In a later phase of this stratum (D-9a) a cobble floor was constructed. No evidence for a violent destruction was found. In phase D-8, dated to the thirteenth century BCE, a thick plaster floor covered the remains of the earlier building upon which lay a c. 1-m-thick accumulation of fallen mud bricks and debris.
Iron Age I (12-11th centuries BCE)
In stratum D-7, in area D, part of a building was revealed and two “foundation deposits” of the “bowls-and-lamp” type were related to this building. The local pottery is typical of the first half of the twelfth century BCE, although unlike at Beth-Shean, Egyptian forms are rare. A thick accumulation of brick debris covered this building.
Only disturbed remains could be attributed to stratum D-6, including fragments of flimsy walls, floors and ovens. Floor surfaces had been raised many times, resulting in striations which at one point included 65 superimposed thin horizontal layers. This phase can tentatively be dated to the mid- to late twelfth century BCE.
Strata D-5 and D-4 represent two architectural phases of the same city which was constructed, destroyed and rebuilt during the Iron Age IB. Stratum D-5 was destroyed, creating thick brick debris. In stratum D-4 the buildings were rebuilt. In both these strata a north–south street and parts of houses on either side were excavated in the middle of the slope in area D. This was a lengthy period, when floor surfaces were raised several times and architectural changes occurred. The destruction of stratum D-4 was followed by a total change in the function of this area.
In stratum D-3 an open area was revealed in the upper part of the slope, above the D-4 debris, and more than 40 pits of various sizes and depths were uncovered in the rather small excavation area, some small and shallow, others larger and well plastered. They were probably used for the storage of grain or other products. The few finds in these pits include pottery sherds, olive pits and some grain seeds.
The pottery of strata D-5 to D-3 is typical of the Iron Age IB in this region: painted decoration was common, mostly in a crude, local style of dull red paint on a buff surface, the main designs comprising horizontal stripes and irregular wavy lines. A few Philistine sherds were found in stratum D-4. Radiocarbon assays confirm a date in the twelfth–eleventh centuries BCE for stratum D-4 and the late eleventh–early tenth centuries for stratum D-3.
Area D thus revealed a continuous development of the Canaanite city from the thirteenth to the end of the eleventh centuries BCE, in spite of at least three destructions. No evidence of fortifications was discerned in any of these strata, and the edges of the buildings were eroded along the western slope of the mound.
In area C, stratum C-3 (general stratum VII) , parallel to stratum D-3, only a few mud brick walls and floor surfaces were excavated.
The Iron Age IIA
We refer here to the Iron Age IIA as a period starting sometime during the first half of the tenth century BCE (c. 980 BCE?) and ending during the second half of the ninth century, probably shortly after the end of the Omride Dynasty, with the final destruction and abandonment of the lower city (areas C, D, E, F, G). This is the main period studied at Tel Rehov in six excavation areas (B–G). Three strata were defined: VI, V and IV, based on correlation between the local stratigraphic phases in various areas.
The architecture of this period is exceptional in Iron-Age Israel: the buildings were constructed of mud bricks without stone foundations, and wood foundations for both walls and floors are a common feature, particularly in stratum V (areas C, B and G). The buildings were well-planned, and the town plan appears to have been preconceived and well-ordered, with parallel blocks of buildings. However, the buildings cannot be classified typologically and are unusual compared to other Iron Age II towns in Israel. There is no evidence of "pillared buildings" of the “four room” or “three room” types at Tel Rehov. No fortifications were discerned in the lower mound, though the excavation reached the edge of the tell in areas D, C and E. The rich assemblage of finds, especially from the later two strata, represents a specific regional aspect of the Iron Age IIA material culture in northern Israel.
Area B (Northern Slope of the Upper City).
Stratum B-6. Only a few floors and
fragmentary walls were revealed. Among the finds was an incised inscription on a
pottery sherd comprising three obscure letters, two incised one on top of the
other; a possible reading is: lnh
Stratum B-5. Remains of four buildings were exposed. Two buildings at the western and eastern edges of the area were partly excavated. Both had beaten-earth floors on wooden foundations, resembling the buildings of stratum V in area C, and both were destroyed by conflagration. In the southern part of the area a third building was partly excavated, and in the open space between these buildings a fourth building was constructed sometime during stratum B-5. In the central and southern buildings no evidence for destruction by fire was detected. Several subphases were detected at the central part of the area.
Stratum B-4. The character of the area changed completely in this stratum. The buildings were replaced by a double wall constructed parallel to the slope of the mound, apparently part of a fortification system or a fortified building. A drain passed through this wall. On the western side of the area the double wall was abutted by a massive tower. Fragments of dwellings and an open courtyard were excavated to the south of the double-wall system. The correlation between the local strata at Area B and the general strata numbers is not finally determined. It appears that local stratum B-6 corresponds with general Stratum VI and, local Stratum B-5 with general Stratum V and perhaps also IV. Stratum B-4, though still in the Iron IIA, could be constructed either contemporary with general Stratum IV or could be constructed somewhat later, after the abandonment of the lower city at the end of Stratum IV.
This area is located in the uppermost part of the lower town, near its
northwestern corner. It is the largest area and the key for studying the Iron
Age IIA at Tel Rehov.
Stratum C-2 (general Stratum VI ). Parts of three buildings were excavated: building A in the northwest includes four rooms, two of medium size and two small chambers; building B in the central part of the area includes a large, well-preserved hall with two openings still intact and rooms continuing to the east; building C in the south was only partly excavated. Open spaces and cooking areas were also defined. No evidence for violent destruction of this city was found, yet thick mud-brick debris, intact fallen bricks and cracks in the walls allude to destruction or severe damage caused by an earthquake. Fragments of additional buildings were excavated in the northeastern part of area C, yet too little was exposed to define building plans.
Area C, view to the west with structures of Strata V and IV
Stratum C1b (general Stratum V)
The area was rebuilt, retaining some of the plan’s earlier features. A typical building technique in this city was the use of wooden foundations for both floors and brick walls. About half of the wood samples analyzed were of olive trees, the rest were of various other species.
Building A of the stratum VI city was rebuilt with a different inner plan (now termed building D). To its south, the area of building B appears to have been vacant in stratum V. New buildings were founded in the northeastern, eastern and southern parts of area C, representing a considerable change in plan compared to the previous city. This part of area C was well planned, and appears to have been part of a densely-built insula. In the northeast, at least three buildings were defined (E, F and R) yet only partly excavated. Building F was a large, elaborate, well-planned structure which continued in use into stratum IV after substantial architectural changes and reuse of almost the same floor level. In the east-central part the area, building G is a unique unit composed of three small square chambers without openings. This appears to have been a storage building, with chambers entered from an upper level. Its southernmost room had collapsed to the east, and a rich assemblage of pottery was found in the destruction debris. In the central chamber, a concentration of charred grain was recovered below the destruction layer. To the south, building H, only partly excavated, was a spacious building with what appears to have been a basement with a wooden roof which served as the floor of the first floor. Both buildings G and H were destroyed in a heavy fire; the wooden roof in Building H collapsed to the southeast and large amounts of restorable pottery vessels and other objects were found in the destruction debris. Objects related to a local cult include a unique, horned pottery altar decorated with figures of two naked females on either side of a tree, an elaborately painted petal large chalice and numerous other chalices. The full plan and function of this building are still enigmatic. In the south and western parts of area C, segments of additional buildings were revealed.
|Stratum C-1a (general Stratum IV). Following the destruction of stratum V, the area was renovated. Some of the older buildings were rebuilt with a somewhat new plan, while building H in the southeast was replaced by a new building (L). The central part of area C, uncovered just below topsoil, was now a large open courtyard or piazza with a floor and installations. Building F in the northeast was rebuilt after its destruction at the end of stratum V as a well-planned building with unique features. The building included a large central room with a smaller room behind. Its western wing comprised four chambers, the first containing a sophisticated grinding installation, the other three arranged one behind the other with benches along their walls. The walls of building F are preserved to over 1 m high and were mud plastered.|
| The thick layer of burnt debris in this building covered many finds,
including a rich pottery assemblage of mainly local types. A ceramic
model shrine from this building was decorated with unique molding on its roof
depicting a crouching animal with its front paws on two grotesquely-shaped human
heads. A large pottery box with a lid was found in the innermost small chamber
of the western wing. In the second chamber a “hippo”-type jar bore an incised
Building G of the previous city was perhaps partly reused in stratum IV, as evidenced by stratum IV floors abutting its walls on both the west and east (just below topsoil), yet no floor of this level was preserved in the building itself. Building L, in the southeastern part of area C, replaced the destroyed building H of stratum V with a totally different plan. This building too was destroyed in conflagration.
Area D. In the easternmost square of area D (strata D-1 and D-2), which is a continuation of area C, building remains of at least two Iron Age IIA strata were found close to the slope of the mound, their western ends eroded away. These remains can be related to strata VI and V in area C, and indicate that the city had no fortifications, since it is not plausible that an entire fortification system as well as parts of houses could have completely disappeared due to erosion.
|Area E. In this area, at the northeastern corner
of the mound, an open-air sanctuary and a dwelling were identified. The
sanctuary is known mainly in its final form in local stratum E-1a (general
stratum IV), though it appears that it was first founded in local stratum E-1b
(general stratum V). The local stratum E-2 (general Stratum VI) occupation is
little known, except that it included red-slipped vessels. The sanctuary of
strata V–IV included a spacious, open courtyard or piazza in which floor
surfaces and occupation debris reached a depth of over 1 m, representing a long
period of use. Installations in this courtyard included circular clay bins,
ovens and benches. The courtyard was bounded on the north by brick walls, and on
the south by two structures with a wide passage or open area between them. The
western structure included a main hall and two large rooms on either side. In
one of the rooms the walls were lined with mud plaster decorated with seal
impressions depicting motifs of volutes, lotus flowers and buds in Phoenician
style. In the northeastern corner of this building was a platform made of mud
bricks. Upon this was a smaller stone platform into which three upright stones
were embedded. Although relatively small and unworked, these stones appear to
have served as standing stones or masseboth. The stones and the platform
face the open courtyard to the north. A large flat stone in front of the
platform probably functioned as an offering table. A discarded broken pottery
altar found near the platform may also have played a role in the local cult. It
was square in shape and had two rows of triangular windows and perhaps a horned
cornice similar to the complete altar from area C. The eastern building was
probably an auxiliary building: it had several plastered compartments used to
store food supplies, and a room where many pottery vessels, included several
chalices, were found in the destruction layer of Stratum IV. Among the finds in
the courtyard was a Phoenician jar elaborately painted with geometric designs in
red, black and white, including a unique guilloche motif and rosettes. This was
probably an expensive imported item, placed as an offering in this sacred place.
One of the jars in the building next to the platform bore a broken inscription;
the meaning of the preserved letters “m’..’m” remains elusive.
It appears that this was a local
sanctuary (bama), perhaps serving the neighborhood. The masseboth may
have commemorated ancestors of local families or a clan, and perhaps the entire
sanctuary can be related to an ancestor cult.
|Area F. This small area to the south of area E
provided additional data on stratigraphy and town planning. Four construction
phases were attributed here to the Iron Age IIA. The walls are parallel to those
in nearby area E, suggesting a well-organized town plan with defined blocks of
Area G. In this area, located south of area C near the western slope of the mound, parts of additional dwellings of local strata G-1, G-2 (general strata V–IV) were excavated. The stratum G-1 houses, found close to topsoil, contained rich assemblages of pottery and other artifacts on the floors. In the earlier stratum G-2, remains of wooden foundations for floors resemble those in areas B and C. Circular installations made of unfired clay were used for food storage, as in areas D and E.
The Finds from the Iron IIA Period. The large amount of pottery and other artifacts retrieved in the Iron IIA strata VI–IV have contributed much new data to our knowledge of the material culture of the tenth–ninth centuries in northern Israel. The pottery assemblages of all three strata are very similar, with red slip and hand burnish a common feature. Yet some distinctions between the strata can be made; thus in stratum VI also present are vessels with an unburnished pale red slip. “Hippo”-type storage jars are common in strata V and IV, but not in VI. Thin delicate bowls with burnished red slip first appear in stratum V. Crude geometric painting in red, common in the Iron Age I strata in area D, continues to appear to some extent until stratum IV. The best parallels to the strata VI–IV assemblage are to be found at Megiddo strata VB and VA–IVB, Taanach periods IIA and IIB, Horvat Rosh Zayit strata 3–2, Tel `Amal, Tell el-Hammah and Jezreel.
Imported pottery in strata V and IV includes Phoenician Bichrome, Cypriote Black-on-Red I(III), White-Painted and Bichrome vessels as well as a few sherds of imported Greek vessels, including a rare Euboean Sub-Proto-Geometric pyxis in stratum V, few sherds of Proto-Geomtric vesseles (mostly in Stratum V) and two sherds of Attic Early Middle Geometric cup (in stratum IV).
Strata VI–IV yielded a variety of seals and cult objects. Pyramidal and scaraboid-shaped seals and seal impressions were curved in a local style style representing a variety of animals (horned animals, ostriches, crabs, birds), while one example depicts two human figures on either side of a palm tree. A unique type of seal impression on jar handles, known so far only from Tel Rehov and Tel Beth-Shean, shows schematic human figures (or deities?) striding on mountaintops (?); in two cases, two such figures appear in a tète-beche composition. A unique ivory object from stratum IV is a human figurine dressed in a long garment, sitting on a throne (only part of the body and throne are preserved). The object is hollow, and the head, hands and legs were made separately and attached to the main body.
Ceramic horned altars were common: in addition to the two complete examples from areas C and E mentioned above, additional fragments were recovered and it appears that this type of altar was common in the region, with parallels at Pella. It retains traditions known from Syria at the end of the Late Bronze Age. A variety of clay figurines belong to the Canaanite/Phoenician artistic tradition, others are typical of northern Israel, such as two examples of the “drum player” woman and female heads. One unique figurine in a crude local style depicts a naked female apparently crouching on her knees.
dates indicate that Strata VI-V existed during the 10th century,
Stratum V was destroyed during the second half of this century, while Stratum IV
existed during the ninth century, and was destroyed no later than 830 BCE. It is
tempting to relate the destruction of stratum V to the invasion of Shishak and
that of stratum IV to the Aramean wars, following the end of the Omride Dynasty,
though an earlier date to this destruction should not be ruled out.
The Iron IIB period
Stratum III. Following the destruction of stratum IV, the lower city was abandoned and never resettled. During the Iron Age IIB (c. 830–732 BCE) the city was reduced to half its former size and limited to the upper mound.
Area A. On the summit of the upper mound three stratigraphic phases of the Iron Age II city preceded the Assyrian conquest (local strata A-4–A-3b and A3a), the last of which terminated in a violent destruction with evidence of people slaughtered in their houses, most probably during the Assyrian assault: two human skeletons, one of them decapitated, were found in the destruction layer.
|Area B. Dwellings of stratum B-4 were
rebuilt and the floors raised. However, the northern edges of these houses were
now cut by the foundation of a 9.5-m-wide offset–inset city wall built of mud
brick without a stone foundation. The wall overlay the former double-wall system
of stratum IV, yet incorporated the stratum IV tower in the western part of the
area. This must have been a very high wall, as its destruction resulted in thick
layers of brick material to the north. This massive wall was probably intended
to withstand the Assyrian battering rams, and collapsed following the Assyrian
conquest of the city, most probably in 732 BCE.
Stratum II. Two graves were found in areas A and B, each containing the remains of a single individual in contracted position, with one Assyrian pottery bottle near the head. These are perhaps the graves of Assyrian soldiers or officials, buried in the ruins of the city. A few floors and installations on top of the collapsed city wall in area B provide evidence of squatters who lived for a short time above the ruined city, soon after its destruction.
The Early Islamic to Medieval periods: Stratum I.
The site was completely abandoned until the eighth century CE when a small settlement (village?) existed on the summit of the mound until the twelfth century. In areas A and B what seem to be the edges of this settlement were revealed, including a few floors, very poor architectural remains and mainly eroded refuse layers, perhaps evidence of garbage dumps outside the settlement. These layers reached up to 1 m deep in several places.
A number of Islamic graves were found in areas B and E. These lacked finds and their date remains obscure.
The first six seasons of excavations at Tel Rehov have revealed a major Bronze Age and Iron Age city in the Beth-Shean Valley, one of the largest sites in Israel. The history of the Bronze Age city is still vague, although the Early Bronze Age fortification system is one of the most immense in the country. Excavation work in the lower city has provided evidence of occupation at the end of the Middle Bronze Age or beginning of the Late Bronze Age, and continuous urban settlement throughout the thirteenth to ninth centuries BCE, in spite of a number of destructions. Additional Bronze Age strata may still be buried in both the lower and upper mounds. The Canaanite character of the material culture was maintained until the end of the Iron Age I, and thus it appears that the inhabitants were local Canaanites who enjoyed trade relations as far as Philistia. Strata VI–IV of the Iron Age IIA represent the development of the city during the tenth and ninth centuries, the time of the Israelite United Monarchy and of the Omride Dynasty. The conflagration which destroyed parts of stratum V may be attributed to the conquest by Shishak, while the violent end of stratum IV and the abandonment of the lower city may be related to one of the events in the ninth century BCE, probably the Aramean wars after the end of the Omride Dynasty. The last two Iron Age IIA cities (strata V–IV) were prosperous, maintaining trade relations with Phoenicia, Cyprus and Greece. The wide variety of cult objects, seals, ivory artifacts etc, indicate that Canaanite/Phoenician and northern Syrian traditions were retained by the local population. Much of this population could have been descendents of the previous Iron Age I Canaanite inhabitants, though now the city was part of the Israelite geopolitical entity.
During the late ninth and eighth centuries (stratum III), the city was restricted to an area of 20 acres on the upper mound and surrounded by an immense fortification wall. The Assyrian conquest of 732 BCE is dramatically documented by the evidence of total destruction and slaughter. Two graves with Assyrian pottery, as well as scant occupational remains (stratum II), are evidence of a short period of activity after the Assyrian conquest, but the site was soon abandoned.
In the Early Islamic and Medieval periods a small village existed on the summit of the upper mound.
* Iron Age IIA, although stratum B-4 may be later than the final destruction of the lower city. In such a case, Stratum B-5a corresponds to general Stratum IV.
A.Mazar (Based on article submitted to the Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Supplementary Volume (edited by E.Stern).
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