Tel Megiddo

The gate of Megiddo overlooks a valley.

The gate of Megiddo overlooks Jezreel.

On October 12 we visited Tel Megiddo, an archaeological site overlooking the Jezreel Valley.  Excavations there have unearthed 26 layers of ruins, including a gateway that some have dated to the time of Solomon.  Ghada Boulos, our guide, was critical of the 1925 excavation by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.  It tried to completely excavate the whole tel, an ambitious process that contemporary archaeologists avoid. Today they limit themselves to investigating a few layers at a time.

Mount Tabor can be seen from Tel Megiddo (Joe Freeman photo).

Mount Tabor’s dome can be seen from Tel Megiddo (Joe Freeman photo).

Tel Megiddo is a national park. We ate our lunch at the administrative center and then climbed the hill to the site.  The hilltop palace guarded the trade route between Egypt and Assyria.  At the Battle of Megiddo (609 BC), King Josiah, the best-loved King of Judah, was defeated and killed by Egyptian Pharaoh Neco II (2 Kg. 23:29-30).  The site includes a circular stone (understood to be an altar or Canaanite high place), a grain pit, stables that date to the time of King Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kg. 16-22), and a water system including a 115-foot deep shaft.

We climbed out of the dry water tunnel.

We climbed out of the dry water tunnel.

We climbed to the bottom of the shaft, descending from the 90-degree heat of the hilltop to the relative coolness underground.  The bottom of the shaft opened into a 330 foot tunnel bored to a water source.  We were able to walk along a raised platform over the bottom of the tunnel. From there we climbed to the surface again, emerging this time at the bottom of the hill.  Above our heads, kestrels were riding the air currents, looking for prey.  The water of the tunnel, and the enormous grain pit, would have allowed the residents of Megiddo to outlast a prolonged siege.  This didn’t help King Josiah, but it gave us a respite from a very warm day.  We were pleased to go to the Villa Nazareth Hotel, where we spent a peaceful night before our next day, October 13, which was spent exploring Nazareth itself.