Middle East


Layers of civilization are visible at Megiddo.

The archeological site of Megiddo in Israel
shows continued rebuilding in the wake of adversity. Whether you believe in the theory of Armageddon, you will be totally absorbed in this excavation site.
Text and photos by Toby Saltzman

The archeological splendor at the ancient site of Megiddo portrays the history of civilized man. It demonstrates the incredible stamina to continuously restructure battered cities and re-establish disintegrated societies by overcoming hardships, arising from the ruins to re-create their lives, rebuild their homes and start anew.

Megiddo is situated on a mound in the southwest corner of the Jezreel Valley at the narrow opening of the Eron Pass of the Wadi Arah that leads to the sea. In ancient times, this place was considered the most strategic spot on the route connecting Egypt in the south to Mesopatamia in the north, because it overlooked the main transportation artery. It was believed that he who controlled Megiddo controlled all the lands around it. This special geographical position involved Megiddo in many wars, which each time brought about the destruction of the city and then the reconstruction by its conquerors and their slaves. The city was destroyed and rebuilt 20 times.

It is impossible to visit this hill-top excavation without being overcome by a sense of wonder at the thought that more than 6,000 years of history are layered in the 20 rocky strata of cities, each built upon the ruins of a former city. The idea that the Egyptians held court here, that the Persians thrived here in a highly organized society, that the Phillistines fought the Israelites here, that King David and King Solomon walked the very paths and entered homes in a least one layer of this site is incredible.

This is the place where the war carriages were kept in the days of Ahab and where King Josiah fell attempting to fight Pharoah Necho. It is easy for even an inexperienced eye to see how the building of homes improved from the lowest layers of loose stones piled with packed sand, to the next layers of dressed stone, to the more finely executed walls of rectangular-cut stones.

As the levels rise, the height of the strata of each ruined civilization becomes taller and taller, proving that the strength and architecture of the cities improved with the centuries.

After a few moments of looking at these magnificent slices of history, one's mind wanders in the imagined cycle of life styles of one generation living, growing, working and dying, only to be followed by the next in the pursuit of cultural growth and communal existence.

Megiddo boasts some points of particular historic interest to visitors. The ascent to the actual site brings you to the ancient gates of the town and an intact portion of the wall of Solomon. There is a tremendous remnant of a 5,000-year-old temple and several smaller temples with altars. There are the rough remains of a large palace and a deep pit with steps leading to a granary used 2,700 years ago. Also visible are the animal typing posts and water troughs as evidence of the stables.

There is a small museum at the site displaying some of the artifacts that were unearthed in the discovery. It has examples of iron rings and ploughshares as well as pottery utensils that date back to the thirteenth century BC. It also has a model of the grounds to help interested tourists get their physical bearings before embarking on an exploration of the area.

The most impressive site at Megiddo is the ancient water tunnel, at least 2,900 years old, that gave the city access to water from the spring outside the walls during times of siege. The tunnel, which inspired James Michener to pen The Source was hidden from the eyes of the enemy and represents a stunning feat of architecture and precise engineering design. From the hill-top of Megiddo, a shaft was sunk into the ground and at the bottom a sloped tunnel was dug seven meters to the spring so that water would flow into the Shaft. A staircase created inside the shaft may still be climbed and it is exciting to venture down the steps into the tunnel while mentally reliving the effort that the people had to exert for simple survival.

This site hits a special nerve for North American visitors concerned about the environment and the outlook for survival for future generations. Without pollution, nuclear warfare and abuse of nature, the survivors and conquerors of Megiddo were able to regenerate their lives after each catastrophe. Megiddo makes one wonder: Would our society be able to rebuild itself?

Megiddo has a history of battles between nations. According to the Christian tradition of the New Testament, the final battle of all times in the struggle between good and evil, the "Battle of the End of the Days" will be fought on the Hill of Megiddo, or Armageddon. Whether you believe in the theory of Armageddon, you will be totally absorbed in the excavation as you stand amid the amazing site of Megiddo.

Located at the junction of highways 65 and 66, it is an easy, scenic drive to Megiddo by car from Jerusalem or Tiberius. When you arrive, you are bound to come upon archeologists and volunteer assistants who are working under the auspices of Tel Aviv University, Israel to clarify the chronology of the Megiddo compound from the Early Bronze Age to the late Iron Age.

Details: Best Israel website: www.goisrael.com




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