3,000-year-old wheat traces said to support biblical account of Israelite conquest

Archaeologist Amnon Ben-Tur claims find at Tel Hazor is a remnant of Joshua’s military campaign in 13th century BCE

Ancient city at Tel Hazor (photo credit: CC BY ritculio, Flickr)
Ancient city at Tel Hazor (photo credit: CC BY ritculio, Flickr)

Traces of burnt wheat found in Israel’s Upper Galilee are evidence of the 13th-century-BCE Israelite conquest of the Promised Land, an archeologist said.

Tel Hazor, a national park, has long been recognized as one of the country’s most important archaeological sites. From the 18th to the 9th centuries BCE, it was the largest fortified city in the country and had commercial ties with both Babylon and Syria. The Book of Joshua describes Hazor as the “head” of several kingdoms that united to fight the Israelites. In 2005, Tel Hazor was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In recent years, the archaeological digs at Tel Hazor revealed a monumental structure, which scholars believe was the royal castle of Hazor, dating back to the Canaanite Period (third to second millennium BCE).

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This season, the excavation, which is being conducted under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, uncovered a storage room in the castle. In the room were 14 large clay jugs containing seeds of burnt wheat.

Professor Amnon Ben-Tur of the Hebrew University has been in charge of the Hazor excavations since 1990. In an interview with Ynet, Ben-Tur said that the jugs were destroyed around the 13th century BCE, a period, he said, which coincided with the biblical account of Joshua’s capture of Hazor. According to Chapter 11 in the Book of Joshua, Hazor was the only city in the Land of Israel that was destroyed by fire during the conquest.

Ben-Tur’s assessment regarding the destruction of Hazor is far from being a foregone conclusion in the archaeological world. Scholars are at odds as to when Hazor was destroyed and by whom. While the most widely accepted school of thought accepts the theory that Hazor was destroyed by the Israelites in or around the 13th century BCE, there are many scholars who hold that Hazor was destroyed by either the Egyptians, the Sea Peoples, or nomadic tribes that wandered the region at the time.

Ben-Tur disagreed, noting that Hazor was not included in any of the lists of Israelite cities destroyed by the Pharaohs. Furthermore, Ben-Tur holds that the Sea Peoples traditionally stayed close to the coastline, and would not have conquered a city as far inland as Hazor.

Ben-Tur said that the recent discovery at Hazor “sheds even more light on Israelite history.”

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