Tels (prehistoric settlement mounds), are characteristic of the flatter lands of the eastern Mediterranean, particularly Lebanon, Syria, Israel and eastern Turkey. Of more than 200 tels in Israel, Megiddo, Hazor and Beer Sheba are representative of those that contain substantial remains of cities with biblical connections. The three tels also present some of the best examples in the Levant of elaborate Iron Age, underground water-collecting systems, created to serve dense urban communities. Their traces of construction over the millennia reflect the existence of centralized authority, prosperous agricultural activity and the control of important trade routes.
Biblical Tels - Megiddo, Hazor, Beer Sheba
Outstanding Universal Value
Historic settlement mounds, known as tels, are characteristic of the flatter lands of the eastern Mediterranean, particularly in Lebanon, Syria, Israel and eastern Turkey. Of more than 200 such mounds in Israel, the three sites of Megiddo, Hazor and Beer Sheba are representative of those that contain substantial remains of cities with biblical connections, and are strongly associated with events portrayed in the bible.
The three tels extend across the State of Israel; Tel Hazor in the north, near the Sea of Galilee; Tel Megiddo 50 kilometres to the south west; and Tel Beer Sheba near the Negev Desert in the south.
The three sites reflect the wealth and power of Bronze and Iron Age cities in the fertile biblical lands. This was based on, and achieved through, a centralized authority that had control of trade routes to the north east and south; connecting Egypt to Syria and Anatolia to Mesopotamia, and the creation and management of sophisticated and technologically advanced water collection systems. Together, these tels reflect the key stages of urban development in the region.
They are also representative of the large, multi-layered occupation of single sites that persisted for several millennia until the 6th century BCE, and particularly reflect in their final flowering the formative stages of biblical history from the 12th to 6th century BCE. With their impressive remains of palaces, fortifications and urban planning, they offer key material manifestations of the biblical epoch.
The early Bronze Age temple compound at Megiddo is unparalleled for its number of temples, the continuity of cult activity and the record of ritual activity. At Hazor, the ramparts are said to be the best example in the area from southern Turkey to the north of the Negev in Israel. The late Bronze Age palace is the most elaborate in Israel, and one of the best in the Levant. For the Iron Age remains, the elaborate town plan of Beer Sheba and the orthogonal plan of Megiddo have few parallels in the Levant.
All three tels have impressive remains of their underground water catchments systems, which demonstrate sophisticated and geographically responsive engineering solutions to water storage.
Criterion (ii): The three tels represent an interchange of human values throughout the ancient near-east, forged through extensive trade routes and alliances with other states and manifest in building styles which merged Egyptian, Syrian and Aegean influences to create a distinctive local style.
Criterion (iii): The three tels are a testimony to a civilization that has disappeared - that of the Cananean cities of the Bronze Age and the biblical cities of the Iron Age - manifests in their expressions of creativity: town planning, fortifications, palaces, and water collection technologies.
Criterion (iv): The Biblical cities reflect the key stages of urban development in the Levant, which exerted a powerful influence on later history of the region.
Criterion (vi): The three tels, through their mentions in the Bible, constitute a religious and spiritual testimony of Outstanding Universal Value.
All components of the tels are included in the property. The three tels have preserved substantial remains of cities from the Bronze and Iron Age with biblical connection. Each tel relates to the overall property through its temples, fortifications and gate system, palaces, water systems, town planning and prominence in the Bible. None of the attributes are under threat.
All three tels have been generally left untouched and intact since their decline, and subsequent abandonment, between the 10th and 4th centuries BCE. Over time they have retained their authenticity, and acquired the characteristic appearance of a conical shape, with a flattish top, protruding above the surrounding countryside. From the beginning of the 20th century Tel Hazor and Tel Megiddo have been the subject of archaeological investigation, with Tel Beer Sheba being first excavated during the 1960's.
In the interests of safety and interpretation, some interventions have been made to the water systems at all three sites, but these do not seriously affect the authenticity of the overall system.
At Tel Hazor an unconventional approach was taken to dismantle and rebuild a storehouse and residential building elsewhere on site. These two Iron Age buildings had been excavated in the 1950's and had remained exposed to deterioration on an "island" as excavation work proceeded into earlier archaeological levels. This action was considered justified as it also permitted the completion of the site excavation, and the consolidation of earlier evidence around and beneath the two structures.
Protection and management requirements (2010)
The State of Israel owns the three tels. They are designated National Parks administered by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), and protected under the 1998 National Parks, Nature Reserves, National Sites and Memorial Sites Law. Tel Megiddo and Tel Hazor are located in the Northern District, and Tel Beer Sheba in the Southern District, of the INPA.
The Planning and Development Forum of the Director General of INPA approves all significant plans regarding activities in the National Parks. In addition, there is an internal World Heritage Site Forum under the chairmanship of the Authority's Director of Archaeology and Heritage. This body coordinates and monitors activities at all the inscribed sites. It is also concerned with their management, and that of those on the Israel Tentative List.
In order to achieve a comparable conservation standard across the three sites that comprise the property a comprehensive conservation plan and monitoring programme is desirable.
The three tels (prehistoric settlement mounds) represent an interchange of human values throughout the ancient Near East, forged through extensive trade routes and alliances with other states and manifest in building styles which merged Egyptian, Syrian and Aegean influences to create a distinctive local style.
The tels are scattered across the State of Israel. Tel Hazor is in the north, 14 km north of the Sea of Galilee; Tel Megiddo is just north of where the Qishon River reaches its northernmost point; Tel Beer Sheba is to the north of the Negev Desert in the south of Israel. These are three of over 200 tels in Israel. Tels form a distinctive and prominent feature of comparatively flat landscape areas of the Levant - Israel, Lebanon, Syria and eastern Turkey. They represent large and multi-layered settlements, which persisted for several millennia. The tels have a characteristic shape, conical in profile with a flattish top. They reflect nucleated settlements that continued over time in one place, often because of the strategic advantages of the site in terms of communications and, more crucially, the availability of water supplies in what were fairly arid areas at certain times of year. This is supported by the impressive remain of their underground water catchment systems, which reflect sophisticated, and geographically responsive, engineering solutions to water storage.
A considerable number of the tels are the remains of cities and settlements mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, revered by both Jews and Christians, and acknowledged in Islam as a fundamental source. It is for this reason that they are referred to as 'biblical' tels.
Tel Megiddo was one of the most powerful cities in Canaan and Israel, controlling the Via Maris the main international highway connecting Egypt to Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. It is also mentioned once in the New Testament as Armageddon. Its 20 major strata contain the remains of around 30 different cities. During the Iron Age the water systems at Megiddo reached their most sophisticated phase. The water came from a spring at the foot of the mound, accessed by a concealed passageway from within the city under the city wall. In its final manifestation, the water system consisted of a cave hewn round the well, with an 80 m long aqueduct carrying water to the bottom of a vertical shaft in the city.
Tel Hazor is strategically sited at a major cross roads, dominating the trade and military. In the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC the whole enclosure of the lower city was enclosed by earthen ramparts, 9 m high, with a brick core and earthen outer skin and protected by a deep moat. There were at least two monumental gates. During the middle and late Bronze Age, several palaces and temples were erected in both the upper and lower city. In the first Israelite city, attributed to the time of King Solomon, there is a massive six chambered stone gate within a casemate wall encircling the western half of the tel. A noteworthy element is the water system built to supply the city's needs under siege. The late Bronze Age system consists of a 30 m descending tunnel leading to a trefoil-shaped cave and a vaulted corridor. The Iron Age system drew water from beneath the city: it consists of a 20 m vertical shaft, and a sloping 25 m tunnel with steps and a pool.
Tel Beer Sheba is at the intersection between roads leading north to mount Hebron. The main period represented in the tel was founded in the 9th century BC by the Judahite monarchy and then rebuilt three more times until its final destruction at the end of the 8th century. This very last Israelite city was destroyed in a fierce fire during the Assyrian campaign. Beer Sheba was a planned city rather than one that evolved gradually. The Iron Age plan has been nearthed almost in its entirety. The outline is oval, encircled by a wall and gate to the south. The city was divided into three blocks by peripheral streets and the residential quarters were of uniform size. All streets lead to a main city square. Beneath the city streets was an elaborate drainage system of plastered gutters that collected water from houses and channelled under the outer wall to a water cistern, outside the city. Notable structures were six storehouses and the Governor's Palace of three elongated halls and ancillary rooms. Beer Sheba had two water systems: a well outside the city wall and, within the city, a reservoir for times of siege. The well water was some 69 m below the surface. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
The early history for each of the three cities is covered above.
Tel Megiddo has been excavated three times. The first work was from 1903-5 on behalf of the German Society for Oriental Research, the first major excavation of a biblical site. In 1925 the work was renewed by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. This major work persisted until 1939 and revealed most of the Iron Age site. In the 1960s and early 1970s a series of short excavations were carried out by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and since 1994 Tel Aviv University has been working there in alternate years, led by Professors Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin, reinvestigating former work to inform debates about the chronology of the Iron Age strata and the extent of King Solomon's kingdom.
The earliest excavation at Tel Hazor was carried out in 1928 by the Department of Antiquities of the British Mandate, but it was in the 1950s that the major excavation campaign was carried out under the leadership of Yigael Yadin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Excavations were resumed in 1990 as a joint project of the Hebrew University and the Israel Exploration Society, with the object of identifying the extent of Solomon's city and checking earlier chronology.
Tel Beer Sheba
Tel Beer Sheba was excavated as part of a regional study in the 1960s, which continued until the 1970s. This excavation focused on Beer Sheba as part of a frontier area, which consisted of a collection of tels in the biblical "Negev".
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation