Hazor Excavations’ Amnon Ben-Tor Reveals Who Conquered Biblical Canaanites

The Hazor excavations at the so-called “ceremonial palace” revealed this unique bronze statue, depicting an unidentified ruler of the Biblical Canaanites. Excavator Amnon Ben-Tor reveals who destroyed this king’s once-mighty city. Photo: Courtesy Amnon Ben-Tor/The Hazor Excavations.

“Joshua turned back at that time and took Hazor, and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor was formerly the head of all those kingdoms. And they struck all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them … Then he burnt Hazor with fire.”
—Joshua 11:10–11

Thus does the Book of Joshua describe how the Israelites vanquished the Biblical Canaanites at Hazor. But is that what really happened? Many archaeologists have called into question the Book of Joshua’s account of the Israelite conquest of the Biblical Canaanites, saying it is not supported (or is contradicted, in some cases) by the evidence on the ground. Early Hazor excavations, led by the late Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin in the 1950s and 1960s, set out to explore this question about the Biblical account’s historicity. Yadin’s findings seemed to support the theory that the Israelite settlement followed the Biblical Canaanites at Hazor.

Excavations left many questions about the Canaanite city’s destruction unanswered, however.

Enter Amnon Ben-Tor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who has directed the renewed Hazor excavations since 1990 (with the assistance of codirector Sharon Zuckerman of the Hebrew University from 2006 until her death in 2014). In 25 seasons, the renewed excavations have uncovered more of the Hazor acropolis, which boasted temples, palaces and other public buildings, as well as parts of the lower city, where the commoners lived. Their findings reveal much about the destruction of the Biblical Canaanites’ Hazor.

As the point where three of the world’s major religions converge, Israel’s history is one of the richest and most complex in the world. Sift through the archaeology and history of this ancient land in the free eBook Israel: An Archaeological Journey, and get a view of these significant Biblical sites through an archaeologist’s lens.

The largest structure revealed in the recent Hazor excavations is the so-called “ceremonial palace” in the middle of the acropolis. In the ruins of the palace, Ben-Tor and his team have discovered many rich finds—including bronze statues (see photo above), ivory, jewelry, seals and even a lion-headed rhyton, or drinking vessel—that all point to the wealth of the Canaanite rulers. They also uncovered evidence of the massive fire that destroyed the ceremonial palace and much of Canaanite Hazor—a blaze that would have been memorable for its intensity.

Relying on these finds and much more, Amnon Ben-Tor convincingly concludes that it was indeed the Israelites who conquered the Biblical Canaanites’ city at Hazor.


For more about the Hazor excavations and Amnon Ben-Tor’s theory about the demise of the Biblical Canaanites, read Amnon Ben-Tor, Who Destroyed Canaanite Hazor? as it appears in the July/August 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

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This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on July 5, 2013.


Read more about Hazor in Bible History Daily:

Where Are the Royal Archives at Tel Hazor?

Crafty Israelites: Iron Age Crafts at Tel Hazor

Rare Egyptian Sphinx Fragment Discovered at Hazor

Scorched Wheat May Provide Answers on the Destruction of Canaanite Tel Hazor

In Hazor: Canaanite Metropolis, Israelite City, a popular summary of 30 excavation seasons by long-time Hazor dig director Amnon Ben-Tor, discover ancient Hazor’s remarkable history.


Read more about the destruction of Hazor in the BAS Library:

Amnon Ben-Tor, “Excavating Hazor, Part One: Solomon’s City Rises from the Ashes,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1999.

Amnon Ben-Tor and Maria Teresa Rubiato, “Excavating Hazor, Part Two: Did the Israelites Destroy the Canaanite City?” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1999.

Sharon Zuckerman, “Where Is the Hazor Archive Buried?” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2006.

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16 Responses

  1. Gertoux says:

    The dating method used by Amnon Ben-Tor to establish a synchronism between the commercial exchanges between Mari, Hazor and Egypt is scientifically irreproachable. I came to the same conclusion using synchronisms dated by astronomy (see ).

    Gerard Gertoux

  2. Denish Sebastian says:

    @Steven Bible is inerrant word of God. But that’s ‘our’ belief and other religions thinks their sacred test is the authoritative divine truth. When Bible says something about matters such as conquest of Canan we believe it is a claim about history and is not some sacred mythology. So we should “dig up the dead people” and see if the evidence corroborates or contradicts biblical narrative. If it corroborates then we can be more confident that our beliefs about bible. As Bible is true we should expect Bible to be corroborated by archaeological remains within the limitations of this scientific field. Suppose if evidence clearly contradicts biblical narrative about the conquest of Canan then we should modify our claims about these passages. That is what everyone who seeks truth have to do. So if we love truth then we should love the work of Archaeologists as they can contribute something of great value to our knowledge of truth about biblical narratives.

  3. Steven P Williams says:

    The biblical accounts of every thing we read today in the Bible are inherently correct regardless. No man can and will ever thwart the hand of our God as He alone gave the words to men to recored exactly what happened and how so…stop digging up dead people and thank Him for what your little minds CAN comprehend.

  4. Daniel says:

    No coincidence that bronze statue has an elongated head. I do realize that it is a hat or helmet of somekind, but there would be no need to make one that high without some purpose.

  5. Eric says:

    So, there was a fire and the city certainly was invaded, but what exactly proved that it was the Israelites? So far, the actual identity of the invader is based only on conjecture.

  6. ari zuker says:

    Joshua 6:24 jericho is burned like hazor. Hazor was not the only city burned down. And modern day jericho is most likely grar where isaac lived during the famine and he dug there many wells. Mount hor is probably masada where aaron is burried

  7. ari zuker says:

    Mount Abel was called abel in memory of abel son of adam who was killed in the garden of eden where he offered his sacrifice. Gerizim was never called gerizim. It was called gezerim and later changed to gezer. When abraham was told his sons would be under oppression and the fire came from heaven to burn the pieces he prepared piieces means gezerim. So these two mountains have meaning in connecting the garden of eden with abraham. Meron hss many slopes and i beleive one of these slopes contains the altar joshua made at ebal with the plastered stones. I suggest you start digging :)) good luck.

  8. ari zuker says:

    Benjamin tudaleto in his journeys describes shammai and hilels graves as being together with his 20 disciples not seperate. The place where the spring would rise up from the earth and water the garden is called the huta on mount meron a giant cavity in the mountain. Moses struck the rock near by and created the meron stream. How much more evidence do you need? Hebron is really tzfat. Abraham and isaac and jacob are burried there with their wives but rachel was burried on the way to betlehem in the nachal amud pillar. It is on the way to the real betlehem and we know there were two bethlehems one in galil and one fake betlehem in the south

  9. ari zuker says:

    Horeb which means sword was named horeb because of the everturning sword that protects the way to the tree of life. Jacob saw these angels in his vision of the ladder. Abraham also first came to shechem and sett up his tent between bet el and ai. In other words shilo. Judges 21 tells us shilo is north of bet el on the east side of the highway. To shechem. Take a map and from elijah chair to the shammai tomb which isnt really shammai tomb is exactly north on the east side of the rd to shechcm or meron.

  10. ari zuker says:

    Abraham and isaac knew exactly where to dig in the desert since they lived in the time before and after sodom and gmorrahs destruction when the pishon and the gihon still flowed through the negev. Jacob prophesised that the scepter shall not depart from judah until shilo come . Shilo being the original chosen place in shechem and bet el.

  11. ari zuker says:

    Because of archaeologists mistakingly thinking gerizim and ebal were in samaria this is why everybody is confused. Joshua is burried north of gash or noth of gush halav. People mistake his grave for the grave of joel. Shame. Samaria was edoms land until king david took over and then when assyria came they sent the northern tribes to samaria. Of course this was all part of gods plan to protect mount meron. The same is mount sinai mount horeb and also the garden of eden. The missing two rivers once flowed through the negev the pishon and the gihon. Once sodom and gmorrah were destroyed at sea of galilee and dead sea they fire from heaven formed the two lakes. They didnt exist before the destruction. Moses on the way to sinai or modern day mount meron and stopped at elim which is beit shean and continnued to the waters of marah which is the sea of galilee. The waters were still salty at the time but moses purified them. Leaving only one salty lake. People need to wake up to these ideas. Meron or shechem was always the centre of israel until king david foolishly broke the covenant by building another altar

  12. ari zuker says:

    Hazor is the real jericho. They were on the way to mount gerizim and ebal which are located in mount meron. Jacobs two pillars are their. Elijahs chair and shammai tomb are jacobs pillars he built at bet el. First the dream at elijahs chair and then he built a second pillar to mark shilo. These places are exactly west of gilgal rephaim in golan heights. This was also built by jacob called glead. Rachel is burried at nachal amud at the amud that jacob built. See deuteronomy 11

  13. Costy Rose says:

    Thank you ,prof.Amnon BenTor for your lessons of archaeology .
    I studied with you in summer 2004 in Tel Hatzor,with respect from Romania.

  14. Sonoftruth says:

    Was there any indication of the giant race of people there,according to the bible they were the Canaanites !

  15. KIRCHNER Bernard says:

    At the 17th and 16th centuries BC, Egypt was ruled by Hyksos pharaohs who had semitic names. Those Hyksos were defeated around -1560 by Ahmosis 1st (founder of the 18th dynasty) who pursued them up to Syria.
    There are several reasons for thincking that these Hyksos pharaohs actually were Hebrews (cf. the story of Joseph in Genesis): this sphinx (or part of sphinx) might have been brought back by the last Hyksos pharaoh Hyksos “as a souvenir” or maybe “as an exhibit” to support a possible future claim to the pharaoh’s throne.

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