Ancient records and archaeological evidence suggest that Tel Ta’anek played a significant role in the region across many historical eras. The city, strategically positioned along the Via Maris, interacted regularly with a number of international bodies that used the ancient trade route. Due to this prime location, Tel Ta’anek served as a major regional center as early as the first part of the Bronze Age. Surrounded by a wall that was over four meters thick and just as high, the city recognized that its centrality also meant that it could easily be caught up in conflicts between surrounding powers.
In the fifteenth century BCE, the Canaanite city found itself fighting Egyptian forces in the Battle of Megiddo; Pharaoh Thutmose III’s account of the battle names Tel Ta’anek as a place in which his troops mustered for their eventual victory. This victory led to the city’s decline over the next years as Egyptian control over the Jezreel Valley grew. Although Ta’anek and neighboring cities maintained their Canaanite identity, they answered to Egyptian governance and began to shrink significantly.
After the Egyptian conquest, the biblical books of Judges and Joshua name Ta’anek as one of the cities Joshua and his men invaded and began to inhabit. Some years later, during the reign of King Solomon, Ta’anek is mentioned as one of the king’s chief administrative centers for the region.
Excavations of the site began in 1902 and were among the very first archaeological excavations in the region. Discoveries included a number of Canaanite cult stands and a ceramic box containing 12 cuneiform tablets. Among the only cuneiform archives ever discovered in the region, these records provided historians with new insight into the identities of the Canaanite city’s inhabitants, their ethnicities, use of language, and interregional relations.
Visitors will find themselves free to explore the ruins atop the hill undisturbed. The site is quiet and peaceful, covered in long grasses, leafy trees, and thick carpets of wildflowers in the springtime. These stretches of inviting vegetation are dotted with clusters of ancient ruins: the foundations of old buildings, stone courtyards, water cisterns, and even dugout burial caves. After clambering over, under, and through the remains of the ancient city, one can easily begin to imagine what it may have looked over its thousands of years as a major city.
Sites in the Jenin Region:
While walking through the agriculturally and historically rich fields of the Dothan Valley, take a short detour to explore the archaeological findings of the nearby Tel Dothan excavations. As you go, peer into the depths of a few gaping stone wells that hark back to the story of Joseph – a narrative that unfolded in the very fields in which you are standing.