History

Megiddo overhead

Megiddo is the jewel in the crown of biblical archaeology. Strategically perched above the most important land route in the ancient Near East, the city dominated international traffic for over 6,000 years — from ca. 7,000 B.C.E. through to biblical times. As civilizations came and went, succeeding settlements at ancient Megiddo were built on the ruins of their predecessors, creating a multi-layered archaeological legacy that abounds in unparalleled treasures that include monumental temples, lavish palaces, mighty fortifications, and remarkably-engineered water systems.

Megiddo was the site of epic battles that decided the fate of western Asia. It was here that the Egyptians took their first steps toward empire building when Pharaoh Thutmose III, in the 15th century B.C.E., conquered Canaan; it was from here that Assyria staged its deportation of the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel; and it was here that Josiah—the last righteous king of the lineage of David—was killed by Pharaoh Necho II, opening the way for centuries of messianic yearning.Megiddo is the only site in Israel mentioned by every great power in the ancient Near East. In the New Testament it appears as Armageddon (a Greek corruption of the Hebrew Area LHar [=Mount] Megiddo), location of the millennial battle between the forces of good and evil. Megiddo is an archetypal historical site whose cast of characters includes Canaanites, Egyptians, Israelites, Assyrians, and Persians in the biblical period and Ottoman Turks and Englishmen in the modern era. No wonder that it was the inspiration for James Michener’s bestseller, The Source.Megiddo’s importance was undoubtedly due to its role as a way station and control point for international trade. Its strategic location on the Via Maris (the major international military and trade route of antiquity that linked Egypt in the south with Syria, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia in the north and east), gave it control of a bottleneck where the road emerges from the narrow ‘Aruna Pass into the fertile Jezreel Valley.lb_ivory_box_sm

Megiddo is widely regarded as the most important biblical period site in Israel. Surrounded by mighty fortifications, outfitted with sophisticated water installations, and adorned with impressive palaces and temples, Megiddo was the queen of cities of Canaan and Israel.

Megiddo began to dominate the surrounding countryside in the 4th millennium B.C.E. (ca. 3500) — at the dawn of urbanization in the Levant. Today its monumental architecture provides the most impressive evidence of the rise of the first cities in the region.

In the late 4th, 3rd and 2nd millennia B.C.E. Megiddo was probably the most powerful city-state in the north of Canaan. When the Canaanite city-states revolted against Pharaonic attempts at hegemony, it was at Megiddo that they assembled to do battle. The Egyptian army, led by Pharaoh Thutmose III, surprised the rebels by choosing the most dangerous route of attack — through the narrow ‘Aruna Pass. After routing the Canaanite forces and capturing rich booty, Thutmose III laid siege to the city for seven months. His decisive victory enabled him to incorporate Canaan as a province in the empire of the New Kingdom. The description of the battle of Megiddo is the earliest account of a major war in antiquity.

Six letters sent by Biridiya, King of Megiddo, to the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten in the 14th century B.C.E. were discovered in the archive of amarna_365_smel-Amarna in Egypt. The letters indicate that Megiddo was one of the mightiest city-states in Canaan. The magnificent ivories found in the Late Bronze Age palace at the site also attest to the city’s wealth and grandeur and its varied cultural contacts in this era.

The Bible lists the king of Megiddo among the Canaanite rulers defeated by Joshua in his conquest of the land (Josh. 12:21). According to I Kings (9:15), King Solomon built Megiddo together with Hazor and Gezer. At that time the city had become the center of a royal province of the United Monarchy. The Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak took Megiddo in the second half of the 10th century. His conquest of the city is affirmed both in his inscriptions at the Temple at Karnak and in a stele erected at the site. In the 9th and 8th centuries B.C.E., the rulers of the Northern Kingdom refitted the fortress even more elaborately than before. The palaces, water systems and fortifications of Israelite Megiddo are among the most elaborate Iron Age architectural remains unearthed in the Levant.Megiddo overhead2

In 732 B.C.E., the Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser III took the region from the Northern Kingdom. In the following years Megiddo served as the capital of an Assyrian province. With the fall of the Assyrian empire the great religious reformer, King Josiah of Judah, was called to Megiddo to report to Pharaoh Necho of Egypt, who was on his way to assist the crumbling Assyrian army in its last-ditch efforts against the Babylonians. Josiah was slaughtered by Necho (II Kings 23:29). Recollection of this event, along with the memories of the great battles fought here, were probably the bases for the idea in the Book of armageddon_painting_smRevelations (16:16) that Armageddon (the mound of Megiddo) would at the end of days be the site of the last battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil.

In the modern era Megiddo has also played a decisive role in battles for the control over the Jezreel Valley. In World War I, British Field Marshal Edmund Allenby, leading an Australian cavalry division and the Tenth Indian infantry, dislodged from the advantageous heights of the mound a group of about 100 Turkish fighters defending the last vestiges of the Ottoman Empire. Allenby used tactics similar to allenby_1919_smthose of Thutmose III (over 3000 years earlier), by cutting through the ‘Aruna Pass and catching the Turks unaware. The historical significance of the site prompted Allenby to include the name of Megiddo in his family’s hereditary title.

Previous Excavations

Megiddo has been excavated three times in the past, and has yielded some of the richest finds ever found in Israel. Gottlieb Schumacher conducted the first excavations at the site from 1903-1905, on behalf of the German Society for Oriental Research.

In 1925, excavations at Megiddo were renewed by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. This large-scale undertaking, directed successively by Clarence Fisher, P.L.O. Guy and Gordon Loud, continued until the outbreak of World War II in 1939. These excavations revealed twenty major levels of occupation, covering the entire history of the site. The most important remains were the sacred compound, the monumental fortifications and gates, the impressive water systems of the site, various palaces, and the so-called ‘Solomonic stables’.

Yigael Yadin carried out a few short seasons of excavation at Megiddo in the 1960s and early 1970s on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He partially uncovered the monumental Palace 6000, generally attributed to King Solomon, in an attempt to clarify the complicated stratigraphic problems related to the Iron Age remains at the site.

The previous excavations at Megiddo laid the foundation for the discipline of biblical archaeology.However, archaeological methods were still in their infancy and nearly every layer and major architectural feature, in fact, almost every wall and vessel unearthed at the site, has become the focus of fierce scholarly dispute.

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2 Responses to “History”

  1. Steven Teng Says:

    Dear Sir,
    I am interested to find out what this place looks like ? Do have a current picture of it ?

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