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Bronze and Iron Age Remains (Area X) of the Upper City of Aphek

Dr. Yuval Gadot
Esther Yadin

Tel Aphek-Antipatris (previous name: Tell Ras el-'Ain, Israel grid: 143.168), a 30-acre site that guards the Aphek Pass of the Via Maris, is located at the Yarkon River headwaters in the Sharon Plain. The site was inhabited continuously from the Chalcolithic period to the Ottoman period and is, thus, one of the most important ancient sites in Israel. Aphek's identification, made secure by Albright and Alt in 1923, was based on the many occurrences of the site's name both in the Bible, and in Egyptian, Assyrian and Roman-Byzantine sources. This project, in which the Upper City of Aphek was excavated from 1976-1985, was carried out under the
supervision of Professor Moshe Kochavi for the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University.

The most important results of the Aphek-Antipatris excavations relate to the Upper City Wall, at the site's acropolis (Area X). The five superimposed Middle Bronze through Late Bronze palaces of Area X will serve as the core of the volume, with all the additional finds from these periods treated as well. The Iron Age I remains uncovered on top of this series of palaces, which are of great importance for the study of the Late Bronze Age-Iron Age I transition in the Levant, will also be included. The importance of the projected publication, however, is more than just the completion of a report on Aphek's history and archaeology. It will clarify and shed new light on some of the most debated issues in biblical archaeology.

The excavations also revealed an MB II palace and several pottery kilns, an LB built tomb and two wine presses, and IA private houses as well as major parts of Roman Antipatris including its cardo, forum and theater. Preliminary excavation reports of the Tel Aviv University expedition have dealt with all the written material unearthed as well as a large part of the initial MB pottery.

Two MB palaces, three LB palaces and the overlying early IA strata will be considered. Some unique items in this context are:

1. A sequence of Canaanite palaces covering most of the second
    millennium BCE, including Early Bronze Ib fortifications, which
    rank Aphek among the earliest fortified Canaanite cities.

2. The earliest known palace of the initial Middle Bronze Age.
  • Impressive second millennium BCE fortifications, dwellings, burials and rich finds, which make Aphek the best site known to date for studying the stratigraphy and the cultural stages of the initial Middle Bronze Age of the southern Levant.
  • Exposing the nature of the earliest palace of the Middle Bronze Age will contribute to the ongoing debate about the nature and the absolute dates of the initial stage of this period.
3. The last palace, which constitutes the only final LB complex in the
    country with an absolute date for its destruction. This absolute
    date provides a better chance for dating the various phases of the
    Late Bronze Age-Iron Age transition.
  • Five superimposed palaces of the second millennium BCE in the Upper City. The uppermost, an Egyptian Residence, has been securely dated on the basis of finds and of written documents.
  • Presenting the stratigraphy and architecture of the five subsequent palaces, covering most of the second millennium BCE, will shed new light on the Canaanite city-state's elite.
  • One of the only absolute dates for a late-13th-century destruction is attested by Aphek's last palace, the Egyptian Residence. Sandwiched between an earlier Canaanite palace and an overlying early IA stratum, this dated destruction layer is apt to contribute a great deal to the intriguing question of the Late Bronze Age-Iron Age transition.
  • Cuneiform clay tablets unearthed by the expedition enhanced the uniqueness of the site for an archaeological-historical synthesis.


Aphek-Antipatris I: Excavations of Areas A and B - The 1972-1976 Seasons: Monograph No. 19.
Aphek-Antipatris II: In Press.

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