Why Excavate Tel Hadid?

Adorned by generations-old olive groves, Tel Hadid sits atop a high hill overlooking the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area. Over three millennia of settlement history has been sporadically explored during the last three decades, primarily through salvage excavations conducted in the late 1990s. These excavations revealed three main periods of human activity at Tel Hadid: the Iron Age (10th–6th centuries BCE), the Late Hellenistic period (second and first centuries BCE), and the modern Arabic village which was abandoned in 1948. Our innovative interdisciplinary project on the modern village was awarded an ISF research grant.

the olive groves of Tel Hadid

The Iron Age: Studying Communities of Deportees

A fascinating aspect of Tel Hadid’s history was revealed within the remains of an Iron Age II settlement. Two cuneiform tablets were found and precisely dated to the first half of the 7th century BCE. These two legal documents refer to individuals who bear non-local (mainly Akkadian) names alongside local names (including one, Ahab), and were interpreted as members of a mixed community of locals and deportees brought to the site by the Neo-Assyrian Empire. A similar scenario emerges from two tablets found over a century ago at Tel Gezer, where Aramean and Akkadian names are mentioned alongside a local name.

As such, the study of the remains at Tel Hadid holds great potential for the advancement of an archaeological understanding of displaced communities. The displacement to remote colonial margins forced groups (passively uprooted from their homelands) to reinvent their new home through language, narrative, and myth. The disruptive and disorienting experience of dislocation pressured these groups to adjust their identity, or even form a new one. Textual reflections of such experiences, both ancient and modern alike, have been studied through a postcolonial lens. Yet the archaeology of such situations is rather limited.

How would the behaviour of these uprooted groups have looked compared to their neighbours, and how would it have materialized? What do we, as archaeologists, expect to find in the field? Could we identify differences in architecture, pottery assemblages, animal remains, botanical remains, or various other material remains? With these questions in mind, we aim to study this exciting period in the site’s history.

Tablet bearing a legal document written in Neo-Assyrian cuneiform
One of the cuneiform tablets found at Tel Hadid

The Late Hellenistic Period: The Hasmoneans in the West

During the 2019 season, evidence for a large ancient construction project was discovered on the northwestern edge of the upper mound. Our excavation team located this prior to digging due to the path cutting through this side of the mound created by 4×4 vehicle activity. During the 2019 and 2022 seasons a portion of this mega-structure was excavated, and we interpreted it as a podium serving to support walls to protect Hadid. This fortification is of great significance, since the historical sources suggest that Simon Thassi (the last survivor of the Maccabean brothers) fortified Hadid during his struggle against the Seleucid Empire in the mid-2nd century BCE (1st Macc. 12:38, 13:13). This literary evidence adds to the mystery of this construction, since the archaeology suggests that it was built in the late 2nd to early 1st centuries BCE, during the reigns of John Hyrcanus I and/or Alexander Jannaeus (Simon’s son and grandson). The Hasmonean presence in Hadid only at the end of the 2nd century BCE raises some key questions:

Area T1 at the end of the 2022 season. looking north. (photo: Omer Ze’evi-Berger)

  1. How should we examine the finds at Tel Hadid within its historical context?
  2. Why does the discrepancy between the historical and archaeological evidence exist?
  3. What may we learn about the Hasmonean expansion west during this time?

Our aim is to further excavate the construction fills of the fortification in order to get cleaner context, so we can better date and understand the building process of the fort, and the artificial podium on which it was established.

To discover more about Tel Hadid, email us at hadid.excavations@gmail.com.

Excavation Dates: June 25th – July 21st, 2023.