Tel Yokneam
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Tel Yokneam
Tel Yokneam
Tel Yokneam (2).JPG
Tel Yokneam seen from the Mount Carmel with the modern city of Yokneam Illit on the right and the modern town of Yokneam Moshava on the left.
Tel Yokneam is located in Israel
Tel Yokneam
Shown within Israel
Location Israel
RegionJezreel Valley
Coordinates32°39?51?N 35°06?6.3?E / 32.66417°N 35.101750°E / 32.66417; 35.101750Coordinates: 32°39?51?N 35°06?6.3?E / 32.66417°N 35.101750°E / 32.66417; 35.101750
Area40 dunams
PeriodsBronze Age, Iron Age, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Early Muslim, Crusader, Mamluk, Ottoman

Tel Yokneam, also spelled Yoqne'am, (Hebrew: ? ‎) is an archaeological site located between the modern city of Yokneam Illit and the town of Yokneam. In Arabic, and for the most part of recent history the place was known as a variation of the name Tell Qamun (Arabic: ‎), which is believed to be a corruption of the Hebrew name.[1] The site is an elevated mound spanning around 40 dunams, rising steeply to a height of 60 meters.[2] With a few short breaks, Yokneam was settled for 4,000 years, from the Early Bronze Age, to the times of the Ottoman Empire.[3]

The ancient city in Tel Yokneam is first mentioned in Egyptian sources as a city conquered by Pharaoh Thutmose III and later in the Hebrew Bible as a city defeated by Israelite leader Joshua and settled by the Tribe of Levi. It is mentioned twice in Roman scripts and the remains of a church from the Byzantine era is found there. During the Crusader period the settlement was called Caymont and was for a while, the center of a lordship, the smallest of all in the history of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. In the 13th century, the settlement was captured by the Muslim Mamluks. It is possible that during the Ottoman period, a fort was built in the site, but this is not fully confirmed.[4]

Tel Yokneam was excavated as part of a regional project. The two other sites studied in that project are Tel Qashish and Tel Qiri.


The origin of the name Yokneam (Hebrew: ) is Hebrew, from the Hebrew Bible. During Canaanite periods it was probably called something like 'En-qn'mu, as it appears in the lists of 119 cities conquered by Pharaoh Thutmose III.[5] A possible explanation to this name is that it refers to the nearby springs ("en" means spring). It might be a corruption of the name "'En Yoqneam" ("Spring of Yoqneam").[2]

The site is mentioned in the Onomasticon of Eusebius as a village called Kammona. After the Muslim conquest, the site was called Qaymun. After the First Crusade, Fetellus described the place in circa 1130 as Cain Mons (Kaym Mons or Kaim Monte, literally meaning "Cain's Mountain") and recalled a legend that Cain was slain by his descendant Lamech that according to him took place in this site. The origin of the name "Cain Mons" is probably a corruption of the Arabic name "Qaymun", or "Caimum" as it appeared in the first Latin sources. The name was later transformed into Caymont.[2][6][7][8]


Tel Yokneam is a mound, rising to a height of 60 meters above the plain surrounding it. The mound spans around 10 acres or 40 dunams, making it a relatively large site. The mound is situated on the ridge of Mount Carmel, overlooking the Jezreel Valley to the east. The site dominate the eastern exit of Wadi Milh into the Jezreel Valley. Wadi Milh connects the valley with the Mediterranean Sea. Along the Carmel mountain ridge runs a branch of the Via Maris, an ancient international trade highway, stretching from Egypt to Damascus in Syria and to Mesopotamia and Anatolia. From here this route leads north to the city of Acre and from there to Phoenicia. Going south, Tel Megiddo and Tel Taanach form the two other large sites across the ridge. This location, on a major junction, is the main reason why Yokneam was settled continuously for about four millennia. Approximately two kilometers south and north respectively are Tel Qiri and Tel Qashish, which are other village sites, believed to have been dependencies of Yokneam. The top of the mound slopes steeply from south to north. This has led Ancient Yokneam's builders to create terraces on which the structures were built upon.[2]

History and archeology

Bronze Age

Map of ancient roads in the southern Levant.

Archeologists uncovered remains of the Bronze Age at the northwestern slopes, overlooking the junction of two ancient international trade routes. The earliest finds are dated to the late phases of the Early Bronze Age period (3300 BCE-2100 BCE). These include an Egyptian vessel made of Diorite, which is found mostly near Aswan. It is dated to the late stages of the First Dynasty of Egypt or the early stages of the Second Dynasty, some time in the first half of the third millennium BCE.[9] The extent of Early Bronze Age Yokneam, if actually there was one cannot be determined. Fills containing Early Bronze Age pottery were found on the site's bedrock. A gap of at least a century exists between the Early Bronze Age remains and the later remains. The deepest settlement layer is dated to the Middle Bronze Age II (2000-1550 BCE) and contains the earliest clear signs of human settlement.[10]

The earliest architectural element is a cave system, cut into soft limestone, as well as a few building materials dated to the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1900 BCE).[11] The cave includes a few rooms, with skeletons of two females laying on niches, with offerings in the shape of various kinds of pottery. One of the females, aged between 20 and 25, has an elevated "pillow".[12] The complete skeleton of a sheep was found lying next to one of the niches, which is believed to be another form of offering.[13] This method of burial is extremely rare for the Middle Bronze Age. Examples of burial niches during the Middle Bronze Age were discovered only in Tel 'Amr, Tel Te'enim, Tirat HaCarmel and Yokneam, all of them are located in a limited geographical region on the northern coastal region and southwestern margins of the Jezreel Valley. This method shows a special treatment for the dead, in which one room has more than one body, but placing the bodies their own personal niche provides personal care.[12]

From around 1900-1650 BCE, Yokneam was a fortified city. Three fortification systems were built throughout this period. Yokneam's first two fortification systems were massive, made of mudbricks on a stone base with a glacis attached to their outer face. The third fortification system, dated between 1750-1650 BCE, however, was less significant. A new era in the history of the site, during which the city was unfortified started in the very late years of the Middle Bronze Age and lasted well into the Iron Age.[10] In the first of unfortified settlement phases, dated 1650-1550 BC, the residents buried the dead, especially the children, under the house floor in jars.[14] or in tombs, with offerings besides the bodies. One interesting offering is an artistic vessel in the shape of what appears to be a donkey, made that liquid could be poured through its mouth.[15] A 1m deep layer of dirt fill separates the Middle Bronze Age and the Late Bronze Age. The new settlement atop the dirt layer has a completely new urban plan than the previous settlements.[10]

Late Bronze Age Yokneam lasted between the 15th to 13th centuries BCE. The city's houses were found well preserved and within them an abundance of pottery, including a collection of Chocolate-on-white ware. Some of it is from either from foreign lands, such as Cyprus and Mycenae. Two Egyptian tools were found, but it was not clear if these are originals or locally made copies. Silver earrings, typical of the Mitanni culture was found as well. A beetle stamp was found on a bowl with the name of Pharaoh Amenemhat III, who reigned in the years 1860-1814 BCE.[14][16]

One of the Amarna letters similar to the ones sent by Bal'u-mehir, the supposed king of Yokneam around the middle of the 13th century BCE

The city is mentioned as "En-qn'mu" in the list of cities that Pharaoh Thutmose III conquered during his campaign in the 15th-century BCE.[5] Indeed, archeological finds show that during the early Late Bronze Age (1550-1400 BCE) a massive destruction ended the city, which rebuilt following an occupational gap.[10] Also, a figurine of the Egyptian goddess Hathor from that period was found.[17] The Late Bronze Age city may be associated with one of the city-states mentioned in the Amarna letters (13th century BCE). A Petrographic study of the letters suggests Yokeanm was a city-state and one of its kings was called Ba'lu-mehir ("Mehir" is a West Semitic word for "warrior"). Ba'lu-mehir sent four letters, written on clay tablets. The claim is based on the components of the tablets which indicate the material was mined in one in two specific places on Mount Carmel, one of which is located only two kilometers from Tel Yokneam. In one of the letters, the name of the city is G-ma-te, whose relation to 'En-qn'mu or Yokneam is unclear.[5] Ba'lu-mehir was summoned to Megiddo along with King Labaya of the city of Shechem who was accused by Egypt for aggressive actions against other kingdoms, and Ba'lu-mehir was probably an ally of his.[18] Archaeological findings suggest the city was destroyed in a large fire somewhere between the second half of the 13th century BCE to the beginning of the 12th century BCE, shortly after the supposed reign of Ba'lu-mehir.[19]

The Late Bronze Age city was destroyed in a large fire, just like many other Ancient Near East cities, during a period called the Late Bronze Age collapse, which marks the transition between the Bronze and Iron Ages. Ceramic evidence does not give a precise image to when exactly was the city razed which occurred between 1350 and 1200 BCE.[16]

Iron Age

After the destruction at the end of the Late Bronze Age, the city was rebuilt somewhere between the 12th century BCE to the early 11th century BCE. It seems the reconstruction of the city took place a few decades after the destruction as the new structures followed the alignment of the old buildings.[20] The Iron Age city has three distinct periods.[21] In the first one, locally made Canaanite tools and pottery, characteristic of the Late Bronze Age were the majority of the findings, but some of Phoenician and Philistine origin were also found.[22] One notable structure from that period is nicknamed the "House of Oil", as the tools and olive seeds found in it indicate it was an oil mill. The house is connected to a cave, in which the residents buried their dead.[21]

The destruction of Yokneam in the Late Bronze Age and its establishment during the Iron Age I period can be attributed to the conquests of the Israelites under Joshua.[20] Yokneam is mentioned three times in the Hebrew Bible, all in the Book of Joshua. It first appears in a list of thirty-one city-states defeated by Joshua and the Israelites,[23] which may be the reason for the destruction of the Late Bronze Age city. Later, it is mentioned as a city in the territory of the Tribe of Zebulun, settled by members of the Merarites family of the Tribe of Levi.[24] Desiote the biblical account, archeologists theorized, based on the Phoenician and Philistine pottery found there, that the city was rebuilt by the Canaanites with the help of the Phoenicians and Philistines in order to prevent the Israelites access to the Via Maris trade route.[20]

This city was razed in a large fire, which may be attributed to the conquests of Israelite king David. For a few decades, the city was in a very poor state until it was rebuilt in the 10th century BCE. In this century a 5-meter-wide fortification system was built from stones imported from the nearby Mount Carmel. A drainage system was installed to protect the fortifications from the rain.[22] The wall reached a height of at least 4 m (13 ft). Yokneam was razed and resettled again in the 9th-century BCE.[25] The most probable reason for the destruction is the invasion of Aram-Damascus under King Hazael who reigned between 842-796 BCE. The city was rebuilt during the occupation.[26] The new city had a new double-wall system. Because of the city's location on the border between the Kingdom of Israel and Phoenicia, its fortifications during the Iron Age are much stronger than the ones in nearby Megiddo. The end of this period in the city's history came with the Assyrian invasion under king Tiglath-Pileser III in 732 BCE.[25] After the occupation, only a small settlement remained, and the fortifications were no longer in use. The identity of the residents is unknown, but they lived there between the end of the 8th century BCE and the 7th-century BCE.[25]

Persian and Hellenistic periods

The Assyrian Empire fell to the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which also fell in 539 BCE the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great. The Levant, along with Yokneam came under Persian rule. Although Yokneam doesn't appear in any sources from the Persian period, it was a dense city at that time. A few Phoenician-style buildings, which probably served as warehouses were discovered. The rooms were filled with lots of pottery, which indicates the city was razed suddenly.[25] Personal names found written on pottery there include names of Hebrew, Persian and Phoenician origin, indicating Yokneam was a cosmopolitan city during the Persian period.[27] The city was settled throughout the entire Persian period, from the late 6th century BCE to the 4th century BCE.[28]

In 333 BCE, the Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great defeated Persia and conquered the region. Very little findings from the Hellenistic period were found in Yokneam. A Hellenistic square shaped watch-tower was found in the northern part of the tell. The tower has deep foundations and it overlooked the junction of two international routes in the foot of the tell. This site is dated to the 2nd century BCE. Most of the pottery was found in a sewage pit. Among the potsherds were parts of wine jars from the island of Rhodes. The abundance of pottery indicate there was a settlement in that period, but it was not found in the excavations.[28] Yokneam seems to have been sparsely populated during the Hellenistic period. Archeologists suggested the main settlement between the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods was apparently on the hill south of the mound on which the first the modern-day town of Yokneam Illit is built. This claim is based on the relics of these periods that are often encountered during construction activity in this area.[29]

Roman, Byzantine and Early Arab periods

Yokneam came under Roman rule along with the Hasmonean dynasty in 63 BCE. Only potsherds were found from the Roman period.[28]Eusebius of Caesarea included biblical Yokneam in his Onomasticon in the 3rd century CE and wrote that at his time it was a village called "Cammona" "situated in the great plain, six Roman miles north of Legio, on the way to Ptolemais".[30][1] The Roman settlement was not found, but pottery from that period suggests there was a settlement there in the 4th century CE.[28] The survey did find a Byzantine church, built between the 4th century and the 7th-century CE.[31] Beneath a later Ottoman fortress were two pits, sealed off by a door, full of many potsherds from the early Byzantine period.[32]

In 634-636 CE the Islamic Rashidun Caliphate took over the region from the Byzantines. Although not mentioned in sources, Yokneam at that time was a well-planned city, with a street system and symmetrical buildings built on terraces. The buildings from that period were found in the northwestern side of the tell and are dated to the second half of the 9th century CE and the first half of the 10th century CE.[28] Ceramics from this period are some of the most luxurious of their time, and they indicate the city was established around the 9th century, probably during the rule of Ahmad ibn Tulun, who united Egypt, Syria and the Levant under his rule in 878 CE. Ceramics from the Umayyad period (661-750 CE) were discovered but a settlement from that period wasn't found. There are no signs of destruction, and it was suggested the city was abandoned in the 9th century CE for an unknown reason.[33]

Crusader, Ayyubid and Mamluk periods

After the First Crusade, Yokneam was included in the newly established Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem. It appears in Latin sources for the first time in a decree issued by Pope Paschal II. The decree states that Yokneam, under the name Caimum, belongs to the monastery of Mount Tabor. It is possible it was still at Muslim hands by the time, as most of the places listed there. It is likely that King Baldwin I of Jerusalem was the one to take over Yokneam from Muslim hands, during his campaign against Acre in 1104. It is unclear whether the monastery of Mount Tabor had actually possessed the land.[34] Yokneam is mentioned again as "Caymont" in a charter issued by King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem when on 24 February 1182, he granted a fief consisting of a few shops in Acre and 480 acres of land in the territory of Caymont ("territorio de Caimont") to Joscelin III. By that time Caymont was probably a lordship. The territory didn't exceed more than 50 square km and no other settlements in its territory are known today.[6]

The Crusader acropolis and the fortress in the upper part (2011).

After Saladin defeated the armies of the Crusaders in the battle of Battle of Hattin (1187), the Frankish city of Caymont fell to the hands of the Islamic Ayyubids. It was notable enough to be mentioned in both of the detailed accounts of the battles. One of which stated the site, along with other sites in the region, was plundered by the conquerors. Imad ad-Din Zengi, Saladin's secretary, wrote that upon the fall of La Fève, Caymont surrendered like other Frankish localities.[6] In January 1188, in the question of the future of Acre, some of Saladin's men proposed to destroy the Crusaders' main coastal stronghold to prevent them from reconquering and re-establishing it. In the place of Acre, Caymont, known by the Muslims as "Qaymun", would be preserved made the main Muslim stronghold in the region. Qaymun was considered a good choice because it was close enough to the sea but also far enough to thwart naval attacks. Eventually, Saladin has decided to fortify Acre instead.[35]

During the Third Crusade Qaymun was mentioned again when Saladin sent his property to Qaymun and Nazareth during the Siege of Acre. As soon as the Crusaders began their march towards Jaffa on 22 August 1191, Saladin began marching in a parallel inland course, camping in Qaymun for one day on 24 August 1191. The fact he camped there in tents suggests the Frankish castle was already in ruins. Concluding the Third Crusade, the Treaty of Jaffa, signed on 2 September 1192 gave Qaymun and its land to Balian of Ibelin, a prominent Frankish leader. Nothing is known about Balian's doings in Caymont, but since he was a prominent leader, it is plausible he made a significant contribution to the site. After the initial Crusader victory at Damietta, the Franks of Acre decided to try to attack the Muslims but were defeated by the forces of Damascus' sultan Al-Mu'azzam Isa near Caymont.[35]

In a treaty signed during the Seventh Crusade, Caymont is listed among the castles that remained in Frankish hands. A lord of Caymont called "Aymarri" is mentioned in 1253 and is the last lord of Caymont known. In 1256 Pope Alexander IV gave the destroyed monastery of Tabor to the Kings of the Hospitaller order, including Caymont. The Hospitaller and Templar orders had a dispute over the ownership of the territory. The dispute was solved in May 1262, with the Templars winning over the territory.[35] Caymont was likely attacked by Islamic Mamluk sultan Baibars somewhere between 1263 and 1266. It was confirmed in 1283 that the territory is under the Muslim hands of Al-Mansur Qalawun the Mamluk sultan of Egypt and Syria.[36][37]

Archeological findings

Crusader Yokneam was a fortified city. It was probably the largest settlement since the Iron Age. The city had large public structures in the south, including the city gate, a fort and a church. The fort occupies 15% of the entire available space of the mound.[38] The fort had a few stories and watchtowers on its corners.[33] The castle is attributed to King Baldwin I of Jerusalem who reigned between 1100-1118. The church was built atop the earlier Byzantine church.[37]

The remains of a Mamluk settlement were found in the area of the church and beneath the Ottoman fortress. A crusader tower, whose foundations reach the hill's bedrock and remains still reach a height of 3 meters. The tower has a basement and a courtyard, which was used as a stable in the Mamluk period.[32][39]

Ottoman period

During the Ottoman-Mamluk War (1516-17), Yokneam along with the rest of the Levant fell to Ottoman hands. Historical records from the 18th century say that Zahir al-Umar, who ruled over the Galilee in that century, built a fortress in Yokneam. Some Ottoman smoking pipes were found near the Crusader church[4] and Ottoman pottery was also found in different areas of the tell which were probably drifted there in the rain.[40] But these finds are quite meager and Amnon Ben-Tor criticises this claim.[41] Miriam Avissar, however, claims the fortress is indeed an Ottoman fortress built by Zahir al-Umar.[32]

Yokneam was named "Chateau d'El Kireh" (Castle of Qira), which probably comes from the nearby village called Qira which existed nearby.[42] in a map made by Pierre Jacotin in 1799 during French campaign in Egypt and Syria. Tel Yokneam appears under variations of the name "Tell Qamun" in several sources during the 19th century. Charles William Meredith van de Velde described the place in 1854. He noted the presence of ruins there, including the foundations of a Christian church, and several large vaulted caves. He described the area as a "deserted region. Here are no more armies, no more townspeople or villages; a single herd of goats watched by a few wild Arabs, was all we met."[43]Claude Reignier Conder described the place in 1878 as a "huge tell" with the remains of a "chapel" and a "small fort" built by Zahir al-Umar. He tells about two legends about this place, a Samaritan legend about Joshua according to which Joshua camped here during the fight against the Canaanites, and a Christian legend, according to which, Lemech, the great-grandchild of Cain, murdered his own great grandfather here with an arrow. Conder refers to the name "Cain Mons" as a corruption of the name "Keimûn" (i.e. Caymont).[44][45]

See also


  1. ^ a b Robinson, 1856, p. 115.
  2. ^ a b c d Yoqne'am I, pp. 1-2
  3. ^ Ben-Tor, 1978, p. 2
  4. ^ a b Ben-Tor, 1978, p. 12
  5. ^ a b c Yuval Goren, Israel Finkelstein, and Nadav Na'aman. "Petrographic Investigation of the Amarna Tablets." Near Eastern Archaeology 65, no. 3 (2002): 202-203.
  6. ^ a b c Kedar, Yoqne'am I, 1996, p. 4
  7. ^ Fetellus, 1896, p. 131 49
  8. ^ Conder, 1878
  9. ^ Amnon Ben-Tor"An Egyptian Stone Vessel from Tel Yoqneam / ? ". 'Atiqot: Hebrew Series. Israel Antiquities Authority: 78. 1970.
  10. ^ a b c d Yoqne'am III pp. 3-7
  11. ^ Yoqne'am III p. 45
  12. ^ a b Yoqne'am III, pp. 11-16
  13. ^ Yoqne'am III, p. 396
  14. ^ a b Ben-Tor, 1978, p. 4
  15. ^ Yoqne'am III, pp. 37-38
  16. ^ a b Yoqne'am Regional Project - 1984-1987, p.19
  17. ^ Yoqne'am III, p.164
  18. ^ Gershon Galil, ?, ; Galil, Gershon (1997). "The Canaanite City-States in the Fourteenth Century BCE / ? "? " ". Cathedra: For the History of Eretz Israel and its Yishuv / ?. 84 (84): 7-52. JSTOR 23404017.
  19. ^ Ben-Tor, 1978, p.5
  20. ^ a b c Elizabeth Bloch-Smith and Beth Alpert Nakhai, "A Landscape Comes to Life: The Iron Age I", Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 62, No. 2, The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The American Schools of Oriental Research, p. 83-85
  21. ^ a b Ben-Tor, 1978, p. 6
  22. ^ a b Ben-Tor, 1978, p. 7
  23. ^ Book of Joshua, 12:22
  24. ^ Book of Joshua, 19:11, 21:34
  25. ^ a b c d Ben-Tor, 1978, p. 8
  26. ^ Ghantous, Hadi (2014). The Elisha-Hazael Paradigm and the Kingdom of Israel: The Politics of God in Ancient Syria-Palestine. Routledge. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-84465-739-1.
  27. ^ Prof. Rappoport, Uriel; Dr. Yaron, Shlomit (2004). From Cyrus to Alexander: The Jews Under Persian Rule (in Hebrew). Open University of Israel. p. 188. ISBN 978-965-06-0764-7.
  28. ^ a b c d e Ben-Tor, 1978, p. 9
  29. ^ Yoqne'am I, p. 13
  30. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Onomasticon, Translated by C. Umhau Wolf (1971), Section K, Josua
  31. ^ J.Boas, Adrian (2017). Crusader Archaeology: The Material Culture of the Latin East. Routledge. p. 114. ISBN 978-1-138-90025-7.
  32. ^ a b c Miriam Avissar, "Tel Yoqne'am, The Crusader Acropolis / , ? ". Hadashot Arkheologiyot. Israel Antiquities Authority: 36-37. 1995.
  33. ^ a b Ben-Tor, 1978, p. 10
  34. ^ Kedar, Yoqne'am I, 1996, p. 3
  35. ^ a b c Kedar, Yoqne'am I, 1996, p. 5
  36. ^ Runciman, 1987, p. 86
  37. ^ a b Pringle, Denys (1998). The churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem : a corpus. Vol.2, L-Z. Cambridge University. pp. 159-160. ISBN 978-0-521-39037-8.
  38. ^ Portugali, Yoqne'am I, 1996
  39. ^ Ben-Tor, 1978, p.11
  40. ^ Covello-Paran, Karen (1996). "Tel Yoqne'am / ". Hadashot Arkheologiyot. 106: 52.
  41. ^ Uzi Baram, "The Development of Historical Archaeology in Israel: An Overview and Prospects", Historical Archaeology, Vol. 36, No. 4 (2002), Society for Historical Archaeology, pp.21-20
  42. ^ Yehuda Karmon, Karmon, Y. (1960). "An Analysis of Jacotin's Map of Palestine". Israel Exploration Journal. Israel Exploration Society. 10 (3): 163. JSTOR 27924824.
  43. ^ Van de Velde, 1854, vol. 1, p. 331
  44. ^ Condor, pp. 130-131
  45. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWPII, pp. 69-70


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