Armageddon Lacunae

d7aad79c_d79ed792d799d793d795 Aerial view of Tel Megiddo, northern Israel by AVRAM GRAICER – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

This story of Tel Megiddo, located in Northern Israel and better known by its Greek name Armageddon came up in a news feed and Since I am an avid reader of Tim Cullen’s Malagabay blog the mention of catastrophe and burnt layers made me perk up:

A consensus of archeologists currently favour a construction date in the first half of the eighth century BC, during the reign of Jeroboam II.

Few think the structure is not a stable, but storehouses or barracks.

Overall, Professor Cline cautions: “Solomonic Megiddo has been extremely difficult to find.”

Another contentious issue arose from an older stratum that revealed fire-blackening and crushed skeletons, including that of a young girl lying where she had been hit by a falling wall.

One 1930s excavator suggested at the time this was caused by a “violent siege and fire by the incoming Philistines, probably circa 1190 C”.

The existence of the Philistines is attested by archaeological evidence elsewhere.

Unfortunately, no arrowheads or other weapons were found in or near the Megiddo bodies and there were no sword marks on the skeletons.

The walls had also been misaligned by forces greater than could have been exerted by humans.

Finally, the layer belongs to the tenth century BC, according to twenty-first-century radiocarbon dating.

The archaeology of Armageddon: Archaeologists fascinated by Biblical city

Now it appears this Express article is in fact based upon a book review of Digging up Armageddon: The Search for the Lost City of Solomon Eric H. Cline Princeton Univ. Press (2020) which appears in Nature::

The book… focuses firmly on 1925–39, the most revealing period of [Megiddo] excavations. These were run by the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, Illinois, under its inaugural director, Egyptologist James Henry Breasted, who coined the phrase ‘Fertile Crescent’. Funded by business magnate John D. Rockefeller…

Unexplained cataclysm
Another contentious issue arose from an older stratum that revealed fire-blackening and crushed skeletons, including that of a young girl lying where she had been hit by a falling wall. But what devastated Megiddo in this period? One 1930s excavator postulated a “violent siege and fire by the incoming Philistines, probably circa 1190 BC”. The existence of the Philistines is attested by archaeological evidence elsewhere. However, no arrowheads or other weapons were found in or near the Megiddo bodies; nor were there sword marks on the skeletons. In addition, the walls had been misaligned by forces greater than could have been exerted by humans, even humans with battering rams. Moreover, the layer belongs to the tenth century BC, according to twenty-first-century radiocarbon dating.

Cline and others suggest that there was a major earthquake. These certainly occur in the eastern Mediterranean — for example, at Jericho in 31 BC and AD 1927 — as Cline explored in his 2014 book 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed. However, ancient earthquakes are notoriously hard to authenticate without a contemporary written record. The only certainty, writes Cline, is that the destruction “was an Armageddon for the inhabitants, regardless of whoever or whatever caused it”.

The archaeology of Armageddon

In light of the lacunae patchwork of fragments stitched together in a Frankenstein like Manner by academia to fit a preconditioned narrative, a quick shufti at Wikipedia to see if there are yet more layers to this story:

Megiddo was important in the ancient world. It guarded the western branch of a narrow pass on the most important trade route of the ancient Fertile Crescent, linking Egypt with Mesopotamia and Asia Minor and known today as Via Maris. Because of its strategic location, Megiddo was the site of several battles. It was inhabited from approximately 7000 BCE[citation needed] to 586 BCE, though the first significant remains date to the Chalcolithic period (4500–3500 BCE).[citation needed]
Iron Age
The city was destroyed around 1150 BCE, and the area was resettled by what some scholars believe to be early Israelites, before being replaced with an unwalled Philistine town.[citation needed] When the Israelites captured it,[dubious – discuss] though, it became an important city, before being destroyed, possibly by Aramaean raiders, and rebuilt, this time as an administrative center for Tiglath-Pileser III’s occupation of Samaria.[dubious – discuss] In 609 BC, Megiddo was conquered by Egyptians under Necho II during the Battle of Megiddo. However, its importance soon dwindled, and it was finally abandoned around 586 BCE.[5] Since that time it has remained uninhabited, preserving ruins pre-dating 586 BCE without settlements ever disturbing them. Instead, the town of al-Lajjun (not to be confused with the al-Lajjun archaeological site in Jordan) was built up near to the site, but without inhabiting or disturbing its remains.

So nothing on the destruction by fire and earthquake, however this does put us in reach of the birth of the Achaemenid Empire usefully it does have links to the papers of the digs by Chicago University where curiosities appear:

The foundations of the palace were sunk to a surprising depth. The floor level of the courtyard was at about the top of the third course of the palace superstructure-1.4 meters above the top of the foundation course. The floor in the building itself, presumably somewhat higher than the level of the courtyard, was undoubtedly supported on an earth filling consisting partly of a core of debris left between the foundation trenches. This debris, composed chiefly of Stratum VI burnt brick, was preserved in places (see Fig. 35 P-Q and R-S), but all traces of the floors and the upper part of the filling had been destroyed.

After the IV B palace had been systematically plundered for its cut stone the ground level over the resulting depression was restored by a filling. This filling consisted of some eight or nine distinct layers of various sorts of debris which were traceable in patches over the whole of the plundered area. The layers were chiefly of crushed limestone or chips alternately inter-stratified with ordinary dark brown earth. The thickness of the layers averaged about 15 to 20 cm., making a total depth of about 1.6 meters. The edges of the deposit were up curved against the sides of the depression, against the inner face of the city wall (325), and against the heaps of Stratum VI d6bris which had formerly composed part of the filling in the IV B palace podium (Fig. 35 P-Q and R-S). Between the bottom two limestone deposits was a layer of ash (1650) about 25 cm. in thickness. Its outline (see Fig. 34) conformed roughly with that of the rest of the filling, that is, with the edge of the plundered depression. The ash appeared to be that of burnt straw. It was light gray in color, hard packed but powdery, finely laminated; and its surface was sun cracked like the surface of a dried-up mud puddle. In the lower part of the ash were numerous pieces of wood charcoal which in some places formed a thin separate layer. There was no sign of burning in the limestone layers above or below the ash. The ash evidently was wet when deposited and allowed to dry out before being covered, and the laminations would seem to indicate that it was actually water-lain; but aside from that nothing can be said as to its origin or mode of deposition. It may be noted, however, that the deposition can only have occurred after the building of city wall 325 and before the construction of the house represented by wall 1444 and the parallel wall south of it (see Fig. 34). The pottery from the debris below the ash layer (which presumably represented the filling on which the floors of building 1723 were supported) was entirely pre-Stratum IV and consisted mostly of Stratum V types with a sprinkling of Stratum VI sherds (see p. 19), while that from above the ash was of Stratum IV. The ash itself contained practically no pottery, and indeed there was very little stone or other such material in it.


SEASONS OF 1925-34


Actually there are greater changes than the plans indicate, for the Stratum VII B palace obviously suffered violent destruction so extensive that the Stratum VII A builders deemed it more expedient to level off the resulting debris and build over it than to remove it all as was the procedure in previous rebuilding undertakings.When excavated court 2041 and room 3091 of Strata VIII-VII B were filled with fallen stone to a height of about a meter and a half (Fig. 70) over which
a new, Stratum VII A pavement must have stretched. The original presence of such a floor is attested by plaster on the upper portion of the walls, a fact which became clear after removal of the debris. The base of the plaster is at level 155.40 m. in the northwest corner of the court (in line with figure’s head in Fig. 71) and at level 155.65 m. in the southwest corner. An approximate pavement level of 155.50 m., roughly 1.65 m. above the Strata VIII-VII B pavement, may therefore reasonably be accepted. Charred horizontal lines found here and there on the walls of the rooms to the north of the court together with the floors of rooms 3098 and 3185, all at about this same level, supply a general floor level throughout the palace.

SEASONS OF 1935-39



There then follows over a half century delay as Megiddo III was not published until 2004:

This volume is the product of a resumption, after almost a half-century hiatus, of the effort to produce the final report of the University of Chicago’s landmark excavations at Megiddo (Tell el-Mutesellim). As invariably happens, numerous factors have contributed over the years to this lengthy delay. It was the intention of the original excavators to produce a series of volumes that presented, in exhaustive detail, the remains of each cultural strata encountered over the course of their excavations. Towards this end, it was decided that Megiddo 1 would present the sequence from Stratum I through Stratum V since the excavators had identified a distinct stratigraphic and cultural break between Stratum V and the earlier Stratum VI. The next volume was to begin with Stratum VI and continue systematically through each of the earlier strata in the sequence. However, as further detailed in Chapter One, a series of events conspired to unravel these plans and the next volume in the series, Megiddo 2, appeared shortly after World War II comprised almost entirely of an extensive catalog of finds, with only the briefest description of the architecture and stratigraphy of these earlier strata. Although the pottery and small finds of Stratum VI are well represented in this volume, the terse description of the stratum provides little hint of the extent of the excavations, nor the remarkable preservation encountered.

As Gordon Loud states in his foreword to Megiddo 2, the reason for this change in plan was twofold. Due to the onset of the war, a planned final season never materialized, with the result that certain parts of the excavations were never completed. In addition, as the war progressed, various members of the staff involved with the publication effort were called away to the war effort. Consequently, rather than delay publication, the decision was made to produce a report in catalog form, detailing the results of the excavations conducted between 1935 and 1939, with the hope that others might take up the task of completing the final publication of these excavations at some point in the future.

The resumption of the Stratum VI publication effort can be traced to a graduate seminar organized by the late Douglas L. Esse in the fall of 1988. While preparing for the seminar, he noticed an inconsistency between unpublished archival records and the existing published reports. Later, during the summer of 1990, while filing through the Oriental Institute photographic archives, he came across images depicting the well-preserved remains of a violently destroyed settlement. Further search established that these photographs were part of an extensive record of unpublished material documenting the destruction of Megiddo Stratum VI. Realizing that a considerable portion of the stratum remained unpublished, in particular the extensive exposure uncovered during the 1934 season, Esse began gathering these records with the intent of producing a monograph on this material. He was working on this project at the time of his death in the fall of 1992

As one of his students, I was first introduced to the Stratum VI material during the 1988 seminar. My interest and involvement with the Megiddo collections in the Oriental Institute grew, and following completion of my doctoral studies in 1995 responsibility for producing the final report of the Stratum VI material was transferred to me. In 1997, after receiving a grant from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications, I resumed the effort Esse had begun, assembling the architectural plans, field notes, locus lists, artifact registers, and photographic evidence of Stratum VI preserved in the field records produced by the original Megiddo Expedition. Although Esse had intended to focus primarily on the Area CC exposure uncovered in 1934, it soon became apparent that the final report would benefit from a more comprehensive treatment of the stratum, including those remains encountered during prior and subsequent field seasons in the other excavation areas opened by the Chicago team.

The paper then explores the history of digs at Megiddo which began at the turn of the 20thC with Gottlieb Schumacher:

Gottlieb Schumacher (21 November 1857 – 26 November 1925) was an American-born civil engineer, architect and archaeologist of German descent, who was an important figure in the early archaeological exploration of Palestine.



From 1903 to 1905 Schumacher carried out excavations at Tell el-Mutesellim, the mound containing the ruins of the ancient city of Megiddo. The first volume of his report on Megiddo, covering the stratigraphy and the architecture, was published in 1908. The second volume, a study of the small finds, was published in 1929 by Carl Watzinger and contained the material which survived destruction during World War I.

Schumacher’s approach to excavation was, like most of his contemporaries, based on the careful clearance of architectural horizons, rather than the dissection of layers of earth. However, by the standards of the day the work was carefully recorded. His report is illustrated with a wealth of photographs of the excavated areas. It also includes simple but beautifully drawn sections, both a main section across the site from north to south and smaller ones to illustrate detailed stratigraphic points.

His main excavated area at Megiddo was a trench 20–25 metres (66–82 ft) across, running north–south through the center of the mound, a method widely used in those days[1] and influenced by Heinrich Schliemann’s digs at Troy,[2] but considered unfortunate by later archaeologist due to the very large amount of soil removed in a manner that offers little stratigraphic information to future researchers. The massive intervention in this relatively small tell led for instance to overlooking the potentially very important stele fragment of Pharaoh Sheshonk I, usually identified with biblical King Shishak, which was later found in the pile of dump created by Schumacher’s trench, thus out of its original stratigraphic context and rendered almost useless for dating purposes. If found in situ, the stele would have provided chronological evidence about the city from the time of Sheshonk’s campaign, related to the disputed historical existence of King Solomon (1 Kings 14:25; 2 Chronicles 12:1-12).[3]

In the trench Schumacher identified eight strata, which he numbered from bottom to top. Most of them may be dated, by the pottery found in them, to the Middle Bronze Age II-Iron Age II periods. His work was the basis for later excavations by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in 1925-1939.

Wikipedia | Gottlieb Schumacher

However, unlike Wikipedia, Megiddo III is less magnanimous with Schumacher:


Under the sponsorship of the Deutsche Palästina-Verein (German Society for the Study of Palestine), Gottlieb Schumacher, a surveyor by training who had participated in the excavations of Ernst Sellin at Taªanach, launched the first excavations at Megiddo, conducting three field seasons between 1903 and 1905. During the 1903 season, Schumacher surveyed the mound and its surroundings, produced a topographic map of the site (at 1:1000 scale), and investigated a large complex on the eastern edge of the tell (his “Tempelburg”). He also cut a 20 m wide trench from north to south through the center of the mound (fig. 2). The 1904 and 1905 seasons were devoted primarily to widening and deepening this trench, with a series of shallow subsidiary trenches cut in a radiating pattern from it. Schumacher’s excavations were halted before he could section the mound completely, but he did reach bedrock in a limited area beneath a structure he labeled the “Nordburg” (Schumacher 1908: 7–10).

There are obvious problems with the results of Schumacher’s excavations. He employed large numbers of untrained local villagers (including men, women, and children) to clear his vast trench through the center of the site, and he maintained only minimal control over the immense archaeological record these excavations uncovered. Moreover, he managed to publish only a cursory report of the results of his efforts, and what field records he did keep were later lost, hindering subsequent attempts to re-examine his work.

Nevertheless, it is clear that Schumacher succeeded in isolating significant remains of what would later be identified as Stratum VI. Beneath a structure he identified as the “Palast,” Schumacher uncovered a thick layer of ash and destruction debris he called the Brandschicht, or “burnt layer”. It contained a rich assortment of artifacts, including a series of bronze stands, weapons, and tools concentrated approximately 25–30 m north of a fortified southern gateway to the settlement (Schumacher 1908: 85–88; see also Watzinger 1929: 26–31). In the center of the site, above his “Mittelburg,” Schumacher’s excavations uncovered further evidence of this destruction layer, including a hoard of scaraboid seals and faience amulets

Schumacher’s first volume has been translated into English and can be read here [pdf]. It is from Schumacher’s report that we gain an idea of the depths the trenches were dug:

I had the crew dig below the bottom of Wall m to a depth of 22 m under the tell surface but we found no continuation of the foundation of the city wall. We only retrieved fieldstones of different size, building debris, thick-walled pottery, remains of bones, combed sherds, and flint knives. Consequently we can conclude that the city brickwall was erected on top of more ancient remains, which continued down to the bedrock at ca. 160 m. To summarize, the settlement layers might have had a total height of more than 26 m at Stake 4. White mice with long tails lodged themselves in the cavities of foundation Walls k and l. These animals apparently rarely or never saw daylight, as the natural line of the slope rested 6 m above the walls and access holes were not found.

Megiddo III continues the excavation story:


The German excavations directed by Gottlieb Schumacher produced the first attempt at a reconstruction of the stratigraphic sequence at Megiddo. In the first volume of his final report, Schumacher identified eight superimposed strata, withthe earliest (Schicht I) resting directly on bedrock, and reached in the central part of his north-south trench beneath theNordburg, and the latest (Schicht VIII) consisting primarily of a medieval/Ottoman watchtower on the summit of themound. He assigned the principal remains of the Nordburg and adjacent “Mittelburg” to his third stratum (Schicht III). Theupper levels of these two structures were then combined with a southern gate complex to form his fourth layer (Schicht IV). Sandwiched between this stratum and the “Palast” (actually the gatehouse of Building 1723), which Schumacher assigned to Schicht V, he encountered a thick layer of ash and destruction debris, his Brandschicht, or “burnt layer,” with its wealth of artifact remains (Schumacher 1908: 85–90). Although a few chronological correlations were made in this first volume, Schumacher apparently intended to deal more fully with the chronological framework of his sequence in a second volume. However, the outbreak of the First World War occurred before this second volume could be completed, and Schumacher’s unpublished notes and field records unfortunately were lost in the ensuing conflict. Following the war, another attempt was made to synthesize and publish the results of Schumacher’s excavations. In a masterful study by the German scholar Carl Watzinger (1929: 24 –25), the early levels of the Nordburg and Mittelburg (Schicht III) were dated to the latter part of the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1600 B.C.), while their upper levels were assignedto the Late Bronze Age, with the Mittelburg lasting until 1400 B.C., and the Nordburg until 1300 B.C. According to Watzinger (1929: 56 –59), Megiddo then lay abandoned for almost three centuries until it was reoccupied during the reign of Solomon, with the southern gate complex (Schicht IV) and its ashlar-like masonry preserving evidence of this building activity. The great burnt layer (Schumacher’s “Brandschicht”) that sealed this stratum was attributed to the destruction caused by Sheshonq I during his campaign through the region in ca. 925 B.C. The “Palast” (Schicht V), in turn, was dated by Watzinger to the ninth and eighth centuries, with its destruction linked to the 733 B.C. campaign of Tiglath-pileser III (1929:67–68, 90 –91).

Later digs seem to have found a break in sequence at Megiddo with the use of the Bible to calibrate the sequence:


In 1929, the same year that Watzinger’s reanalysis of Schumacher’s work appeared, Fisher published the first preliminary report summarizing the results of the Oriental Institute excavations. In it, Watzinger included a description of the stratigraphic sequence he had uncovered along the eastern edge of the summit, assigning the earliest stratum he had reached (his Stratum III) to the “Hebrew period,” which he dated to 800–600 B.C. (1929: 67–74). The expansion of excavations on the summit following Fisher’s departure soon necessitated a revision of his initial synthesis, and in 1931 his successor P. L. O. Guy published an updated phasing sequence subdivided into five principal strata, adding two new strata to the sequence Fischer had defined. To the latter of these two, designated Stratum IV, Guy assigned a two-chambered city gate attached to the northern extent of the offset-inset wall (325), the northern complex of stables, and the finely constructed Building 338 (1931: 23 – 44). In places, the excavations had penetrated into an earlier stratum characterized by buildings with walls made of “kilned mudbrick.” These buildings, which appeared to have no structural relationship with the succeeding Stratum IV, were assigned to Stratum V. Guy (1931: 44 – 45) used the presence of Philistine pottery to date the stratum to the Early Iron I, with the subsequent Stratum IV given a “post-Philistine” Early Iron I date. To date Stratum IV more precisely, Guy drew significance from the description of Solomon’s building legacy in I Kings 9:15–19. He was intrigued in particular by the reference to the construction of “cities for his chariots” and made a direct linkto the northern complex of “stables” his team had excavated. For the terminal date of the stratum, he turned to the campaign of Sheshonq I and the chance discovery of a stela fragment bearing Sheshonq’s cartouche made a few years before by one of Fisher’s foremen. The fragment had been recovered from a dump next to one of Schumacher’s minor trenches along the eastern edge of the summit, just east of the northern complex of stables (no. 409 in Square M14; see Guy 1931, fig. 17). Although the find spot was not precise, Guy noted that Schumacher’s trench had penetrated “barely below Stratum IV” and used the presence of the stela to date the destruction of the stratum to Sheshonq’s campaign (1931: 44 – 48). The expansion of excavations to the western part of the summit, following purchase of the remainder of the mound in 1929, led to further exposure of the Iron Age strata Fisher and Guy had articulated and resulted in the redefined stratigraphic sequence published in Megiddo 1. Stratum Sub-II was redesignated Stratum III, and Guy’s Strata III and IV were merged to form Stratum IV (subdivided into IVA and IVB respectively). Guy’s Stratum V, in turn, with its burnt mudbrick architecture, was redesignated Stratum VI, and a new stratum, consisting predominantly of structures from Fisher’s original Stratum III, was assigned to Stratum V (Megiddo 1: xxvii). These phasing reconstructions are correlated in table 1.The new Stratum V evidently occupied the whole summit of the mound, as fragmentary remains of walls were uncovered wherever the lower levels of Stratum IV were cleared. Nevertheless, the stratum was exposed to a significant extentonly in Area B (the later Area CC), beneath the Stratum IVB courtyard of Palace 1723, and in Area C to the east. The most striking feature of the settlement was the layout of its buildings, which were oriented north-northwest, except along the periphery, where they were aligned perpendicular to the edge. The walls of the buildings were thin and made of rubble masonry or sun-dried mudbrick. Their generally poor construction and evident lack of public architecture and fortifications led the excavators to characterize the Stratum V settlement as a peaceful agricultural one. The stratum was dated to the late eleventh century (ca. 1050 –1000 B.C.) based largely on its stratigraphic position between VI and IV (Megiddo 1: 3 –7)

In the letter, Guy keyed his description to a series of enclosed aerial photographs (figs. 59 – 63). Some of these were eventually published in Megiddo 1, but those showing the earlier strata were not. The earliest stratum depicted in a published aerial photograph, referred to in the letter as “air photo 2,” shows remains from Stratum IVA (the stables), Stratum IVB (Palace 1723, Enclosure Wall 1610, and Building 1648), and most importantly, Stratum V (fig. 60; see Megiddo 1, fig.123). The aerial photograph shows the remains of large substantial houses from Stratum V, after the thick lime plaster pavement of the Stratum IVB courtyard of Palace 1723 had been removed. This aerial photograph and the published plan (Megiddo 1, fig. 5) are clear evidence that Stratum V was not ephemeral. Moreover, it clearly was sealed by the plastered courtyard of Palace 1723 and lay directly over the massive destruction layer of Stratum VI, easily identifiable wherever encountered. The published aerial photograph also shows that Stratum V was encountered below the stables and administrative Building 1648. Enough is preserved to indicate that Stratum V was completely different from Stratum VI in orientation, and that it was completely superseded by the well-planned complex of Palace 1723. This sequence also agrees with the phasing reconstructed along the eastern edge of the mound, where the radiating complex of houses in Area C was replaced by thelarge Building 338 of Stratum IVB (see Megiddo 1, fig. 6). As Guy mentioned in his report to Breasted, referring to the buildings confined within Enclosure Wall 1610,

the pottery found among them looks downward in time, and is a precursor of the full developments of the Middle Iron types rather than a successor of the Late Bronze ones. The reverse seems to be true of the pottery from Stratum VI, found just below V but distinct from it, and shown in air photos 4 and 5 [figs. 62–63]. The houses of this stratum were mostly of mudbrick which had collapsed after a fire and had generally remained near their rubble foundations (letter from Guy to Breasted, July 13, 1934)

The bulk of Guy’s letter was spent describing the results of the excavations in Stratum VI. Since there exists almost no description of the Area CC Stratum VI remains in the published reports, his account is worth repeating in full.

There had obviously been a disaster of some sort in VI, of which the fire was the culmination, and that disaster may have been either a battle or an earthquake. In the course of it a number of people had perished. Some skeletons were found crushed under walls in positions of obvious agony (B 1015 [fig. 83], B 1018 [fig. 94]), but a number of othershad been buried (B 1017 [fig. 75], A 1013 [fig. 73]). They had, however, been buried very summarily, with no orientation and practically no furniture: the most we found was a bowl over a man’s head, and a number of sherds coveringthe skeleton of a child of perhaps 12. A few people had been stuffed into pots, but not in the Middle Bronze fashion. It looked as if survivors had come back after the catastrophe and had left where they were those bodies that had been hidden by fallen walls but had hastily buried those who were visible.

In favor of the earthquake theory was the fact that several walls were cracked, and a few apparently displaced bodily (A 1017), and the further fact that no weapons, such as arrowheads, were found in any of the skeletons, and very few in the whole of the area excavated. But this is not very conclusive.

The disaster, whatever it was, had been pretty sudden, for most of the rooms contained very large quantities of pottery in situ… though we did not get a great number of interesting small finds, we had one real piece of luck. This consisted in digging up a fine collection of bronzes (A1009 [fig. 97], A 1010 [fig. 98], B 1014 [fig. 99]) — spearheads, axheads, bowls, plates, jugs and strainers — about thirty pieces in all, stuck together in a pile. It looked as if somebody had made them into a bundle with the view of getting away from the city with them, but had had to drop them in his flight. They were not in a house, but in an open space. I have handed them to the Department for treatment, but this has not yet been completed.

There were three other features about VI which may be mentioned. First the presence of quite a lot of burnt wood, some pieces being posts or other structural articles but others almost certainly planted trees. We have kept
samples for examination. Then we found three large stone baths (air photo 5 [fig. 63]), one of which had a seat and a water-basin in it (B 1012 [fig. 96]). There were also a number of stone-built pits with flagstone floors — a feature unknown in similar pits found in later strata (letter from Guy to Breasted, July 13, 1934).

There can be little doubt from this description that the 1934 season had uncovered the terminal phase (destruction) of Stratum VI, or what would later be designated Stratum VIA (see below). Moreover, the remarkable state of preservation encountered by the excavators, described in vivid detail in Guy’s letter, mitigates against the possibility that remains from earlier strata might have been mixed inadvertently with this destruction layer, despite what some have tried to maintain (cf.Finkelstein 1998a: 169; 1999b: 38, n. 1). The excavators were clearly well aware of what they were uncovering and were careful to separate the remains of Stratum VI from those of earlier strata. They were also astute enough to observe that the life of the Stratum VI settlement had been long enough to permit internal renovations within individual houses before thewhole settlement was destroyed.


Since its discovery, there has been considerable speculation regarding the date and cause for the violent destruction of Stratum VI. As we have seen, Watzinger attributed it to the campaign of Sheshonq I (1929: 56 –59). Albright was the first to credit the establishment of Stratum VI to Israelite expansion, following their victory in the Jezreel Valley against a Canaanite coalition, as recorded in Judges 5. He dated this conflict to 1125 B.C., with the destruction of the Stratum VI settlement occurring sometime during the mid-eleventh century (ca. 1050 B.C.) or later, presumably a result of the north-ward expansion of the Philistines (1936; 1937). The staff of the Oriental Institute Expedition, however, strongly disputed Albright’s characterization and dating of the stratum. They noted the stratum’s Late Bronze Age Canaanite connections and attributed its violent end to natural causes, possibly an earthquake, which they dated to the end of the twelfth century (Megiddo 1: 7; Engberg 1940).

Although subsequent studies have continued to debate the cultural character of the Stratum VI settlement (see further discussion in Chapter Seven), these studies generally follow Albright’s mid- to late-eleventh century date for its destruction,with some linking it directly to the military campaigns of David (Mazar 1951a: 23; 1976). Whatever the absolute date, however, as these studies further demonstrate, it is clear that in broad cultural terms Stratum VI falls securely within the Late Iron I period, with its destruction marking the transition to the Iron II period. Despite the recent attempt to down-date Stratum VI to the tenth century and reassign its destruction to the Sheshonq campaign of 925 B.C. (cf. Finkelstein 1996a; 1998a;1999b), the accumulated evidence continues to favor a late eleventh or early tenth century date for this transition.

Recently published radiocarbon dates from Level K-4 of the Tel Aviv University excavations, which clearly correspond to the terminal phase of Stratum VI, have virtually confirmed this datum line. Three samples, drawn from carbonized Oleaeuropaea wood, have produced calibrated date ranges of 1112–1102 B.C. at 10% probability, and 1062–1006 B.C. at 90% probability (Finkelstein 1998a: 170; Carmi and Segal 2000: 502– 03). Since the wood these samples came from may have been in circulation for an extended period of time, from the point they were first cut from living trees until they were carbonized, the destruction of Stratum VI must have occurred towards the end of the eleventh century, or possibly a little later, in the early part of the tenth century.

Regardless of dates the congflaguration was violent:

Also notable is the significant number of articulated human skeletal remains. Many clearly were individuals caught in the conflagration that destroyed the Stratum VIA settlement, either killed violently or trapped under falling debris (see, e.g., figs. 83, 85, 94). Others appear to have been laid formally to rest (figs. 70, 73, 75–76, 84, 86, 95), including a number of child jar burials (figs. 77, 87).


The entire 1934 field season, with the exception of the work in the great water shaft, was devoted to Area CC. Excavations ceased on June 28, and on July 13 Guy sent a letter to Breasted detailing the major discoveries of the season, particularly the extensive evidence of destruction in Stratum VI, which included articulated human skeletons, charred wooden beams, a hoard of bronze tools, and large quantities of pottery smashed in situ.


Ruins atop Tel Megiddo, Israel. The modern highway to Haifa is visible in the background. | Joe Freeman, Wikipedia

In 2009 Israel Finklestein looked at the destruction(s) of Megiddo. The period known as Stratum VIA seems to be the best candidate for something more akin to a biblical apocalypse than a rival clan or army.

The Destruction of Stratum VIA Evidence for the destruction of Stratum VIA was unearthed by all excavators, in almost every area of excavations.

The Schumacher Excavations

Gottlieb Schumacher noted the fierce collapse and conflagration that sealed his vierte Schicht (fourth stratum), which is equivalent to the University of Chicago’s Stratum VIA. A layer of destruction that he found under the Palast (the University of Chicago’s courtyard and Gate 1567 to Palace 1723) was labeled the brandstätte (area of conflagration).


The University of Chicago Excavations

The Oriental Institute’s team uncovered Stratum VIA in all four areas dug in 1935–1939 (AA to DD) and reached its easy-to-detect remains in other areas on the mound, excavated in the early phase of the dig. In Area AA, Building 2072—which probably served as the palace of the city of Stratum VIA—and the less monumental buildings to its west, were destroyed by a heavy conflagration, which left charred wooden posts (Loud 1948:45), wooden roof beams (Harrison 2004:29–30), and a large number of pottery vessels in situ (Loud 1948:fig. 85; Kempinski 1989:pl. 6; Harrison 2004:fig. 19). Dramatic evidence for this destruction—crushed skeletons, charred wooden posts, a hoard of bronze vessels, and a large number of vessels on the floors—was uncovered in the domestic quarter in the south.


The Tel Aviv University Excavations

Evidence for the fierce destruction of Stratum VIA was detected in almost every excavation area (F, H, K, L, and M). In Area F, located in the lower mound, pottery vessels were found on the floors of Level F-5 (Ilan et al. 2000:97–99). No evidence for conflagration or collapse debris was found, but the remains were detected close to the surface of the mound which means that much of the evidence could have been washed away or ploughed away. In Area H, the 2006 excavations uncovered a destruction layer of Level H-9, with pottery crushed on the burned floors and thick debris of collapse (the bricks turned red and white in the heavy conflagration). A large courtyard building that had been destroyed in a violent fire was unearthed in Level K-4 (in the southeastern sector of the mound) with collapse debris of burned bricks up to one meter thick (Gadot et al. 2006). A rich assemblage of pottery (Arie 2006) and several crushed skeletons were found on the floors. Evidence of destruction by fire, a thick brick collapse, and pottery on the floors were found in Level L-5 (Cline 2006). Finally, evidence for a violent destruction by fire, including an extraordinary thick collapse of burned bricks, was unearthed in Level M-4 in the center of the mound (see figure 2).

Figure 2. Destruction layer of Level M-4 at Megiddo (Stratum VIA)

There can be no doubt that the whole city of Stratum VIA was completely annihilated by a terrible fire that left debris of burned bricks up to one meter and more thick, as well as hundreds of pottery vessels on the floors (Arie 2006). The high temperature of the conflagration turned the bricks red, thus it is easy to trace the remains of this layer in many places on the surface of the mound where the University of Chicago’s excavations ended by removing the remains of Stratum V. In certain locales, piles of burned bricks can still be seen on the surface, for instance under City Wall 325 of Stratum IVA in the eastern sector of the mound (see figure 3 below). It seems that the destruction of Stratum VIA was followed by a short occupational gap. The next phase in the Megiddo settlement sequence (Stratum VB) features a drastic change in both material culture and layout of the city—from the second-millennium B.C.E. conventions of Stratum VIA to the Israelite traditions of Stratum V (Finkelstein 2003). Similar destruction layers were detected in contemporary strata in the north, such as Yokneam XVII, Bethshean Upper VI, and Tel Hadar IV (Finkelstein 2003). At first glance, the pottery assemblages from these strata seem to be identical, but a more thorough study (Arie 2006:227–31) revealed certain differences, which may attest to slight chronological differences in their end-phase.

Thankfully, Finkelstein does at least try to quantify the rather nebulous term “destruction”:

The exact nature and meaning of “destruction” has never been fully deliberated on in the archaeology of the Levant. The word is used quite freely to describe ashy layers found in a dig. The fact of the matter is that not every ashy layer represents destruction, that not all destructions entail heavy conflagration, and that not all destructions are of the same nature. A real destruction of a settlement should be defined by the presence of at least two of the following features:

1. A black layer with charcoal, representing burnt beams, on the floor, usually overlaid with a thick ashy layer.

2. A thick accumulation of collapse—of bricks or stones—on the floor. This accumulation can at times be as much as one meter or more deep. In the case of bricks and a strong fire, the bricks may turn red or even white.

3. In most cases, an accumulation of finds, mainly broken pottery vessels, on the floors.

Megiddo features four destruction layers in a relatively short period of ca. 400 years, between the mid-to-late twelfth century and the late eighth century B.C.E. Since the site was thoroughly excavated, in each case the evidence comes from several sectors of the mound (in two of the cases discussed below from the entire tell) and therefore provides a relatively detailed, reliable picture on the fate of the city. This makes Megiddo an excellent “laboratory” for the study of destructions: their magnitude, their vertical dimension, and their horizontal extent. And the rich assemblages of pottery associated with the Megiddo destructions make it easy to compare them to contemporary events in neighboring sites.


Returning to Mediggo III and Building 2072, we find that the building technique was widespread in the vicinity:

Building 2072, approximately 30 ≈ 32 m in size, was constructed of reddish-brown mudbricks laid on semi-hewn stonefoundations. The walls of the building ranged between 1 m (interior walls) and 2 m (primarily exterior walls) in thickness, and in places were preserved to more than 2 m in height. Despite significant damage caused by later digging activity, it is possible to reconstruct most of the building’s layout, as detailed in Chapter Three. Its primary entrance appears to have been from the south and opened into a long central corridor (Room 2072) flanked on both sides by smaller rooms.


As noted in Chapter Three, buildings with similar plans and architectural features have been uncovered in contemporary levels at several sites in the vicinity of Megiddo. These include a two-building complex at ªEn Hagit (on Mount Carmel), a cluster of buildings at Tell Keisan (Stratum 9a–c), the so-called “Oil Maker’s House” at Jokneam (Stratum XVII), and a number of possible buildings in Area D at Tell Qiri (Stratum VIII). This apparent regional distribution has raised the prospect of a common lowland architectural tradition (cf. Wolff 1998). More specifically, it is possible that Building 2072 reflects a distinctively “Philistine” presence at Megiddo. The similarity in plan, size, and methods of construction with Building 350, uncovered in the early Iron Age Philistine levels at Tel Miqne/Ekron, as well as the types of associated small finds and their distribution within both complexes, argues in favor of a shared cultural tradition.

with contributions by

Series Editors
Thomas A. Holland
Thomas G. Urban


There’s also the small matter of a rather incongruous building – the church built in the Roman style, next door to what is the only eastern example of a Roman military base [Legio] and apparently comes before Constantine – all right next door to a town called Armageddon.


But that dark web is for another day.


Whilst researching for more recent news on Megiddo church I came across our old friend, Israel Finklestein:

Their team has used modern radiocarbon dating and laser-assisted distance measurements to precisely date and record the many layers of history on the tel, including monuments once thought to have been built in the era of King Solomon.

These, Finkelstein says, can now be attributed to the later era of Ahab, king of the northern kingdom of Israel in the 9th century BC.

The most important things was to date things accurately.

‘One way is to date according to Biblical verses, and one way is to date according to radiocarbon studies. Biblical verses, with all due respect, are always problematic because there are questions regarding their author, their goals, the ideology behind the author and so on and so forth.’

Israeli prison to join Armageddon’s list of ancient ruins | Reuters

8th August 2018

One could argue about that carbon dates, with all due respect, are always problematic because there are questions regarding their author, their goals, the ideology behind the author and so on and so forth.