In the spring of 2019 Tel Aviv University began the first (non-salvage/academic) excavation project at the site, directed by Shua Kisilevitz (IAA and TAU) and Professor Oded Lipschits (TAU). The aim of the Moẓa Excavations Project is to fully unearth the Iron IIA Temple Complex and determine its relationship with the surrounding elements at the site.
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Tel Moza: The Site
Tel Moẓa is located approximately 7 km northwest of ancient Jerusalem (the City of David) situated towards the bottom of a slope on a saddle encompassed by springs and expansive agricultural lands, and dominating the gateway to Jerusalem along the ancient road leading from the lowlands (Coastal Plain and Shephelah) into the central hill country. The Soreq and Moẓa/Arza valleys converge at the base of the slope and form a wide basin known for its fertile soil and seasonal water flow. Indeed, settlement accompanied by cultivation of crops has prevailed in this region since the Neolithic Period (9000 years ago)!
Previous Research and Identification of the Site with Biblical Moẓah
Many surveys and excavations had been conducted in the area previously, with large scale salvage excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority in preparation for the construction of a section of the new road to Jerusalem in 1993, 2002, 2003 (directed by Zvi Greenhut and Alon De Groot and assisted by Hamudi Khalaily and Anna Eirikh) and in 2012–2013 (directed by Anna Eirikh, Hamudi Khalaily, Shua Kisilevitz and Zvi Greenhut). The site was identified as an archaeological tell that had been occupied intermittently from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (8th-7th millennia BCE) to the 20th century. The abundance of remains and finds dating to the Iron Age II (10th to 6th centuries BCE) found during these excavations, confirmed the identification of the site with biblical Moẓah, mentioned for the first time in the Book of Joshua as a city in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin:
25 Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, 26 Mizpah, Kephirah, Mozah, 27 Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, 28 Zelah, Haeleph, the Jebusite city (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah and Kiriath—fourteen towns and their villages. (Joshua 18)
The finds indicate that Moẓa was settled continuously during the Iron Age II (10th to 6th centuries BCE) and the site was labaled "a royal granary specializing in grain storage, which supplied its products first and foremost to Jerusalem" (Greenhut and De Groot 2009: 223) due to the dozens of silos and two storage buildings found in it.
A large complex consisting of a large building and a courtyard laid out in an east to west orientation. The complex was built into the slope, and its massive northern wall, measuring 2 m in width, acts as a retaining wall against the slope. The building was exposed to a length of 20 m and a width of 13 m. The construction of the complex is dated to the Iron IIA (late 10th early 9th centuries BCE), and it exhibits the typical North-Syrian architectural plan employed in monumental temples as early as the third millennium BCE and comparable to the North Syrian Iron Age temples at Tel Tayinat and Ain Dara and to the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem as it is described in the biblical texts (1 Kings:1, 6–7; 2 Chronicles 3).
The temple courtyard contained ample cultic remains that attest to its function as the focal point of public cultic activity in the complex, including an altar, an offering table, a pit filled with bones and ash, and an assemblage of cult vessels and artifacts comprising four figurines (two anthropomorphic and two zoomorphic), a large stand with plastic decoration, and a small pomegranate-shaped pendant. The unique figurines and cult stand employ morphology, typology and religious imagery typical throughout the ancient Near East since the second (and perhaps third) millennium BCE.
At least four phases, spanning the Iron II (late 10th/early 9th to late 7th/early 6th centuries BCE) were discerned in the temple courtyard, and the study of these phases is a key factor in the Moẓa Excavations Project.
Meet the Team
Archaeologist in the Jerusalem Region of the Israel Antiquities Authority, currently working on her Ph.D. in Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University under the supervision of Prof. Oded Lipschits and Prof. Israel Finkelstein.
The topic of her dissertation is: Cult in Judah in the Iron Age IIA: The Temple at Moẓa as a Case Study. Teaching Fellow at Tel Aviv University.
Tel Aviv University & IAA
Professor in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near East Studies at Tel Aviv University, the Director of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology and head of the Ancient Israel Studies MA program.
Key specialization includes the study of Administration and Economy in Judah Under Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Rule, and Judah and the Judeans in the Persian and Early Hellenistic Periods (5th – 2nd Centuries BCE).
Currently head of the Lautenschläger Excavations at Azekah and the Ellah Valley Regional Project.
Tel Aviv University
Prof. Oded Lipschits
Originally from Australia, currently a student of the International Archaeology MA program at Tel Aviv University, writing her thesis on a unique and understudied group of Middle Bronze ceramics. Maddi is also an assistant supervisor for the Tel Moza Expedition
Tel Aviv University
Zooarchaeologist, currently working on her Ph.D. in Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University under the supervision of Israel Finkelstein, Oded Lipschits, and Lidar Sapir-Hen. The focus of her dissertation is on the use of animals in Jerusalem and its hinterland to understand the religious and socio-economic realities of the cultic city during is rise, fall, and reestablishment.
Tel Aviv University
Organic Residue Analysis specialist, currently working on her Ph.D. in Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University under the supervision of Oded Lipschits, Yuval Gadot, and Ronny Neumann (Weizmann Institute of Science). The Topic of her dissertation is: Organic Residue Analysis of Small Ceramic Vessels During the Middle Bronze and Late Bronze Ages.
Tel Aviv University
David Rafael Moulis
Professional photographer and researcher teaching biblical archaeology at the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University Prague, Czech Republic. His Ph.D. was on The Tel Arad Sanctuary in the Light of New Archaeological Evidence. The Latest Cultic Findings form the Kingdom of Judah supervised by Assoc. Prof. Filip Čapek of Charles University Prague. Currently focused on transformations of cult in border areas of Late Canaanite cultures during the Iron Age.
Excavation Partner Institutions
It is our great pleasure and honor to work with partner universities. Our Partner Institutions include:
Germany, Osnabrück University: Prof. Dr. Anselm C. Hagedorn
Czech Republic, Charles University in Prague: Filip Čapek, Th.D and Prof. ThDr. Martin Prudký