REḤOV, TEL (often spelled Reḥob; Arabic: Tell eş-Şarem; Israel map reference 197.207; UTM Grid 873.594), the largest mound in the alluvial Beth-Shean Valley, extending over 26 acres (10.4 hectares); its summit at an elevation of 116m below sea level. Located between the Jordan River and the Gilboa ridge and 5 km south of Tel Beth-Shean, the mound dominates the north–south road through the Jordan Valley. It is located near plenty of water sources and fertile land. The site comprises an upper mound and a lower mound to its north, each covering about 13 acres.
Tel Reḥov was identified since the 1920s with Reḥob of Egyptian texts, based on the preservation of the name in the Byzantine Jewish town Roḥob and the Islamic tomb of esh-Sheikh er-Riḥab, both located nearby. Surveys conducted by W.F. Albright, A. Bergman [Biran], and N. Zori indicated occupation at the site throughout the entire Bronze and Iron ages.
Reḥov (the Hebrew word for "piazza" and "street") was the name of several cities mentioned in the Bible and Egyptian sources. Two cities by that name in the western Galilee are referred to in the city lists of Asher (Josh. 19:28–30). An Aramean city and state of that name are mentioned in Syria, mainly in relation to David's conquests (II Sam 10:6, 8).
Reḥov in the Beth-Shean valley is mentioned as Raḥabu in an Akkadian letter from Taanach (15th century B.C.E.). In the stele of Seti I found at Beth-Shean (c. 1300 B.C.E.), it is mentioned as remaining loyal to the Egyptian imperial rule at a time of local revolts. In Papyrus Anastasi I from the 13th century B.C.E., the city is mentioned in relation to Beth-Shean and the crossing of the Jordan. Pharaoh Shishak's list of conquered cities (c. 925 B.C.E.) mentions Reḥov (No. 17) after "The Valley" and before Beth-Shean. Several additional Egyptian sources refer to either the city in the Beth-Shean Valley or to that in the Western Galilee. These include the Execration Texts (19–18th Dynasties), Tuthmosis III's topographic list (No. 87), a 20th-dynasty papyrus in Torino, and a notation concerning the production of chariots parts in Papyrus Anastasi IV. Reḥov in the Beth-Shean Valley is not mentioned in the Old Testament.
Seven excavation seasons were conducted at the site between 1997 and 2005, directed by Amihai Mazar on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and sponsored by John Camp. Four excavation areas (A, B, H, J) were excavated on the upper mound, and five (C, D, E, F, G) on the lower mound.
Third Millennium B.C.E.
A fortification system dating to the Early Bronze Age II–III was revealed in a narrow trench on the slope of the higher mound (Area H). It includes a 9.5-m-wide mud brick wall preserved to a maximum height of 6.5 m, abutted on its outer side by an earthen glacis preserved to 13 m wide and 3.5 m high. This impressive fortification, which apparently surrounded the upper mound, suggests that Tel Reḥov was the site of a major city during this period.
Evidence for an Intermediate Bronze Age (ebiv/mbi) settlement and cemetery was revealed in surveys of the alluvial plain west of the mound. Several burial caves from this period were excavated close to the southwestern corner of the mound, containing pottery vessels, metal weapons, and beads.
Second Millennium B.C.E.
The excavations did not reveal any remains from the first half of the second millennium B.C.E. (Middle Bronze Age). An
The occupation history during the second half of the second millennium B.C.E. (Late Bronze and Iron Age I periods) was explored in Area D, a 10-m-wide trench on the western slope of the lower mound. At the bottom of the trench (Phase D-11), a layer of dark silt and ash located 1.2 m below the present-day alluvial field west of the mound indicates a significant rise in the level of the plain during historical periods. This layer contained few pottery sherds dated to the 16th–15th centuries B.C.E. This layer was covered by a 2-m-thick layer of travertine (D-10), probably an evidence of a small lake or pond at the foot of the mound during part of the Late Bronze Age. From the 14th century onwards, a continuous urban settlement was detected. The earliest (Phase D-9) included the remains of a substantial building dated to the 14th–13th centuries B.C.E. In the next phase (D-8), still in the 13th century B.C.E., a thick plaster floor covered the remains of the earlier building. Two occupation layers are dated to the 12th century B.C.E.; the earlier (D-7) includes remains of several rooms in a large architectural complex and the later (D-6) includes flimsy walls, plastered industrial installations, and beaten earth floors which were mended several times. Phases D-5 and D-4 represent two architectural phases of an 11th century B.C.E. city, of which a north–south street and parts of houses on either side were excavated. The destruction of stratum D-4 was followed by a total change in the function of this area. In Phase D-3 an open area covered the previous buildings, and more than 40 pits were recovered in a rather small area, used for storage or refuse. The material culture in all phases D-9 to D-3 is Canaanite in nature; painted pottery continued to be utilized until the end of the Iron Age I. Area D thus revealed a continuous development of the Canaanite city from the 13th to the end of the 11th centuries B.C.E., in spite of at least three destructions. No evidence of fortifications was discerned in any of these strata.
The Iron Age IIA: 10–9th centuries B.C.E.
The term Iron Age IIA is used here to define a period of about 150 years, from c. 980 B.C.E. to ca. 830 B.C.E., the time of the Israelite United Monarchy and of the Omride Dynasty. This is the main period studied at Tel Reḥov, and the rich finds contributed much to the study of this debated period in northern Israel. Three strata were defined: VI, V and IV, based on correlation between local phases in various excavation areas. During this period the city was densely built according to a well-ordered town plan, with parallel blocks of buildings. However, no fortifications were found. Both the building technique as well as the buildings' plans are exceptional in the Iron-Age architecture of Israel: the houses were constructed of unbaked mud bricks without stone foundations; wood foundations were constructed for both walls and floors and the buildings lack the pillars which are common in Israelite architecture. An open air sanctuary was found next to one of the dwelling quarters, perhaps serving the local neighborhood and used for ancestors cult. In another area, beehives were found in a building of Stratum V, the first of their kind to be uncovered in the Levant.
The second of these three Iron IIA cities was partly destroyed by fire, and partly continued to survive in Stratum IV. The third (Stratum IV) was violently destroyed by fire, resulting in the abandonment of the lower city. A large number of 14C dates of grain and olive stones as well as conventional archaeological considerations indicate that Strata VI and V belong to the 10th century B.C.E., and Stratum IV to the 9th century B.C.E. The destruction of V occurred during the last third of the 10th century, perhaps during Shoshenq I raid; Stratum IV was destroyed during the 9th century, perhaps during the Arameans attacks in the days of Hazael.
The destruction layers yielded rich assemblage of finds representing a specific regional aspect of the Iron Age IIA material culture in northern Israel. The pottery is characterized by the appearance of red slip and hand burnish, though in Stratum VI Canaanite tradition of painted pottery was still abundant. The painting diminishes in the following strata, and the red slip and hand burnished pottery become dominant.
International trade is detected in the form of Phoenician, Cypriot, and Greek pottery. Of special interest are several Greek Proto-Geometric, Sub-Proto-Geometric, and Middle Geometric sherds, which are rare imports in the Levant and are of special importance for the study of the Greek Iron Age chronology and international connections.
Objects related to a local cult include a group of ceramic horned altars, some with naked female figurines attached to their fronts. These altars retain traditions known from Syria at the end of the Late Bronze Age. A ceramic model shrine was decorated with unique molding on its roof, depicting a crouching animal with its front paws on two grotesquely-shaped human heads. A variety of clay figurines belong to the Canaanite/Phoenician artistic tradition, others are typical of northern Israel, such as several examples of the "drum player" woman. A unique figurine in a crude local style depicts a naked female crouching on her knees.
A variety of seals and seal impressions represent animals (antelopes, ostriches, crabs, birds), while one example depicts two human figures on either side of a palm tree. A unique type of seal impression on jar handles, known so far only from Tel Reḥov and Tel Beth-Shean, shows schematic human figures (or deities?) striding on mountaintops (?). A unique ivory object shows an enthroned human figure dressed in a long garment. The object is hollow, the head, hands and legs were made separately and attached to the main body.
Three alphabetic inscriptions incised on pottery jars were found. One from Stratum VI reads lnḥ[ ], perhaps to be reconstructed "belonging to Nach[um]." A second inscription reads: lšq[?] nmš – "belonging to Shky (?) [son of?] Nimshi." The name Nimshi is known from a contemporary inscription at nearby Tel Amal, and in the Bible as the name of Jehu's father or grandfather. The third inscription was broken, only the letters m'..'m were preserved and the meaning remains elusive.
Reḥov, though not mentioned in the Bible, must have been one of the most important cities in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The specific material culture found in the 10th–9th centuries levels may indicate that much of its population could have been descendants of the previous Iron Age I Canaanite inhabitants, though now the city was part of the Israelite geopolitical entity.
The Iron Age IIb
During the Iron Age IIB (c. 830–732 B.C.E.) the city was reduced to half its former size and limited to the upper mound. The city was now surrounded by a 9.5-m-wide mudbrick wall, probably intended to stand against the Assyrian threat. Several occupation phases were detected (Stratum III) ending with dramatic destruction, including evidence of people slaughtered in their houses, most probably during the Assyrian conquest in the year 732 B.C.E.
Two graves with Assyrian pottery, as well as scant occupational remains (Stratum II), are evidence of a short period of activity after the Assyrian conquest, but the site was soon abandoned.
The Early Islamic to Medieval Periods
After a gap of about 1,000 years, a small village was founded on the summit of the mound in the 8th century C.E., and it survived until the 12th century C.E. Only the edges of this settlement were excavated.
H. Bruins, J. van der Plicht, and A. Mazar, "14C Dates from Tel Reḥov: Iron Age Chronology, Pharaohs, and Hebrew Kings," in: Science, vol. 300, no. 5617:11 (2003), 315–18; N. Coldstream and A. Mazar, "Greek Pottery from Tel Reḥov and Iron Age Chronology," in: IEJ 53 (2003), 29–48; A. Mazar, "The 1997–1998 Excavations at Tel Reḥov: Preliminary Report," in: IEJ, 49 (1999), 1–42; idem, "Three Tenth–Ninth Century B.C.E. Inscriptions from Tel Reḥov," in: C.G. den Hertog, U. Hübner, and S. Münger (eds.), Saxa loquentur: Studien zur Archaeologie Palästinas/Israels. Festschrift für Volkmar Fritz zum 65. Geburtstag (Alter Orient und Altes Testament 302) (2003), 171–84; idem, "Greek and Levantine Iron Age Chronology: A Rejoinder," in: IEJ, 54 (2004), 24–36; idem, Tel Reḥov: The Contribution of the Excavations to the Study of the Iron Age in Northern Israel," in: 2 ICAANE Proceedings Winnona Lake 2004 (2006); A. Mazar, H. Bruins, K. and van der Plicht, "Fine Tuning Iron Age Chronology: Radiocarbon Dates from Tel Reḥov, Israel," in: Bietak (ed.), "The Synchronisation of Civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean in Second Millennium B.C." in: II: Proceedings of the SCIEM 2003 – EuroConference. Vienna (2006); A. Mazar, "The Excavations at Tel Rehov and their Significance for the Study of the Iron Age in Israel," in: Eretz Israel 27 (2003), 143–60 (Heb.); A. Mazar, H. Bruins, N. Panitz-Cohen, and J. van der Plicht, "Ladder of Time at Tel Rehov: Stratigraphy, Archaeological Context, Pottery and Radiocarbon Dates," in: T. Levy and T. Higham (eds.), Radiocarbon dating and the Iron Age of the Southern Levant. Proceedings of a Conference at Yarntom Manor (2005).