The Survey of the
Megiddo Countryside

Another aspect of the Megiddo Expedition is the Survey of the Megiddo Countryside. The goal of this survey is to shed light on the economy, society and demography of Megiddo’s hinterland in ancient times in relation to the information gathered from the mound. It will investigate the Jezreel Valley systematically and summarize all available data in order to draw a comprehensive picture of the settlement history of the region.
The survey is directed by Prof. Israel Finkelstein (TAU), Prof. Baruch Halpren(PSU), and Prof. Michael Niemann (Rostock). It is part of a project funded by the German-Israeli Foundation for Reasearch and Development (GIF), aimed at studing the mechanism of Iron Age state formation. The Survey work is comprised of both research and fieldwork. Information concerning the settlement patterns is collected from previous surveys and excavations, many of them unpublished. This effort involves bibliographic work, gathering unpublished data from field archaeologists, checking material stored at the Israel Antiquities Authority and visiting regional museums and private collections.
The actual fieldwork consists of a systematic pedestrian search for archaeological features, mainly pottery sherds, and building remains. The team members spread out at a distance of 20 to 30 metres from one another, then comb the site for any datable finds, usually pottery. The site is measured and, if need be, photographed, and a description of the site, including all features visible from the surface, is written.
The goal of the first stage of the survey (1995) was to establish a complete database for the western part of the Jezreel Valley. Prof. Axel Joffe participated in the survey season of 1995. The designated area covers the Valley itself and the hills surrounding it, to a distance of ca. 3 km. from the edge of the Valley. It encompasses an area of approximately 600 sq. km. This area includes some of the most important Bronze and Iron Age sites in the country: Megiddo, Tel Shimron, Jezreel, Yoqne’am and Ta’anach.
This area has been covered by previous surveys. However, in most cases past surveys have not provided certain essential details necessary for a sophisticated study of settlement transformation, such as the size of the sites and the quantity of sherds of each period of occupation. This data is vital for estimating the size of a site in a given period. Hence, most of the sites surveyed in the past were rechecked by our team. Altogether about 60 sites have been revisited so far. Add to that the 25 sites which have been thoroughly excavated and the southern sites not rechecked by our team, there is a total of about 120 sites with detailed information.
In all periods, most of the settlement sites were concentrated on the margins of the valley. This is an ideal location, since the inhabitants could cultivate the valley without suffering from mosquito-borne diseases in the swampy marsh. This location afforded them with good fresh water and with rock formations suitable for quarrying. The few sites found in the middle of the valley are usually located next to important springs, however, most of the perennial water sources are situated along the valley edge. The most important Pottery Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age I sites are located in the north where there are more springs.
Because of the location of the major water sources, there were always more (and larger) sites in the northern part of the western valley than in its southern tip. It seems that the population in the southern part of the valley grew only in periods of prosperity in northern Samaria (that is, the Middle Bronze, the Iron I and the Persian periods).
In contrast to the hilly areas to the north and south of the valley (i.e. the Lower Galilee and Northern Samaria), where changing settlement patterns show sharp fluctuations, the Jezreel Valley was much more stable, with a relatively steady number of sites throughout the ages, indicating a more continuous settlement system.
There was only a slight increase in the number of sites in the Valley from the Chalcolithic Period to the Early Bronze Age I, a significant decrease in the Early Bronze Age II-III, and another decrease in the Intermediate Bronze Age (though the crisis during that period was not as dramatic as in other parts of the country). The Middle Bronze Age is characterized by a dramatic increase in the number of sites, followed by a slight decrease in the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age I. A third growth took place in the Iron Age II, with almost no change in the Persian Period.
Data outlining the total built-up area in the valley presents a slightly different picture of the demographic history. There were three peaks: in the Early Bronze Age I, Middle Bronze Age and Iron Age II.
The second season of the archaeological survey of the Megiddo countryside took place in the fall of 1999. Prof. Axel Knauf of the University of Bern, Dr. Gunnar Lehmann of Ben-Gurion University (Israel) and Profs. Dough Knight and Jack Sasson of Vanderbilt University (USA) participated in the 1999 season.
The 1999 season was devoted to the examination of the archaeological sites in the eastern part of the valley. The area which was surveyed strech from the town of Afula in the west to the outskirts of the town of Bet-shean in the east, and from Mt. Gilboa in the south to Mt. Tabor in the north, a total of ca. 220 square kms.
The survey team examined ca. 40 sited of diffrent size ranks, from relatively large multi-period tells, to small, single period settlements. Nine of them were occupied in the Early Bronze Age, 12 in the Middle Bronze Age, four in the Late Bronze Age, nine in the Iron I, 13 in the Iron II and 16 in the Persian period.