You may wish to see an introductory page to this section with a map first.
There are few places in Palestine which possess more general interest for students of
the Bible than does the ancient Canaanite city of Megiddo. It was here that the death of
Josiah, King of Judah, and ruler, apparently, of the greater part of Palestine, closed the history
of the Jewish monarchy, being immediately followed by the defeat, at Carchemish, of the
victorious Necho, the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Chron. xxxv., xxxvi.), and the
captivity of the children of Judah. To the student of prophecy, again, it is of importance as
identical with the "place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon" (hill of Megiddo).
(Rev. xvi. 16.)
Claude Reignier Conder - The survey of western Palestine - 1883
Views of Megiddo
The ruined site of Lejtun is the Roman Legio,
a town mentioned as a military station, and an
important place in the fourth century. On the
maps it will be found marked as the ancient
Megiddo, but this is only an instance of the very
slender basis on which conclusions as to the positions of important places in Palestine have been
somehow founded. There is nothing definite in
the Bible as to the position of Megiddo.
Claude Reignier Conder - Tent Work in Palestine - 1879
The town was mentioned many times in the Bible. Kings 1 - 9:15 says that it was founded by King Solomon at the same time he built the Temple at Jerusalem. Other Bible quotations and Egyptian records indicated that the town was located at the southern end of Jezreel Valley and it controlled the access to a pass which led to the coastal strip. It was therefore situated on the main route between Egypt and Syria. Initially Megiddo was identified with some ruins near the Arab village of Lajun, but these were eventually found to be those of the permanent camp of Legio VI Ferrata, a Roman legion.
At the beginning of the XXth century a mound not far from Lajun attracted the attention of German archaeologists who came to the conclusion that they had found Megiddo. Other excavations by American archaeologists in 1925-1939 led to the identification of several layers of buildings dated from the Bronze Age to the VIIth century BC. The size and the overall appearance of the mound call to mind Ain Dara, a Hittite town in northern Syria.
The Great Plain extends northwards fourteen
miles from Jenin, to Junjar at the foot of the
Nazareth chain, whilst from Jezreel on the east,
to Legio on the west, is about nine miles. The
elevation is about 200 to 250 feet above the sea,
and a Y-shaped double range of hills bounds it
east and west, with an average elevation of 1500
feet above the plain. On the north-east are the
two detached blocks of Neby Diihy and Tabor. Conder
The mound enjoys a commanding view over the Jezreel Valley and advancing enemies would have been easily detected, so the towns which were built on the mound through the centuries had mainly a military purpose. The Egyptians used Megiddo as an outpost to prevent the invasion of their country.
The site of Armageddon
In 1872 no less than nine-tenths of the plain was
cultivated, nearly half with corn, the rest with
millet, sesame, cotton, tobacco, and the castor-oil
plant. The springs on the west are copious; from
near Legio a considerable affluent flows north to
join the Kishon, and even in August the streams
are running to waste at the foot of the hills. The
Great Plain is indeed one of the richest natural
fields of cultivation in Palestine - perhaps one
might say in the world. Conder
Because Megiddo was mentioned in the Old Testament in association with many battles, the Book of Revelation (16:16) says that the kings will gather at Armageddon (Megiddo) for the final battle. Today the plain at the foot of Megiddo does not suggest apocalyptical thoughts at all.
Late Bronze Age gate; the section above the grey line is reconstructed
Archaeologists found the foundations of buildings belonging to different periods. In some parts they stopped at a layer dated VIIIth century BC when Megiddo was the main town of an Assyrian province, in others they reached the Bronze Age level. The building which is best preserved is a Late Bronze Age gate, the remaining walls of which have a height of three feet. You may wish to see the walls and gates of Hattusa, the capital of the Hittite Empire in the XIIIth century BC.
Reconstruction of some monuments of Megiddo at the time of the Kings of Israel (Xth-VIIIth centuries BC)
Some models offer a reconstruction of the aspect of Megiddo during its heyday in order to allow visitors to better understand the significance of the ruins of the archaeological site.
Reconstruction of the stables
The most striking discovery made by the archaeologists was the identification of two large stables which together occupied a significant part of the town. Not all archaeologists believe they were stables and they suggest they were warehouses or barracks at least in part. The horses were mainly used to draw war chariots. You may wish to see some very ancient reliefs depicting war chariots at Mycenae.
The foundations of several temples were found in the eastern part of the town. They faced the rising sun, a typical orientation for ancient temples. In order to reach this layer, archaeologists dismantled a fortress-like temple built above those shown in the image.
Reconstructed dwelling and southern observation point
The excavations did not yield a lot in terms of decorative elements, even in the simple form of moulded stones and yet the town was for many centuries a possession of the Egyptians who have left statues and inscriptions at other locations of the region (e.g. Scythopolis). Maybe this is due to the military character of the town. The image used as background for this page shows one of the few decorated stones found at Megiddo, maybe a capital.
(left) Granary; (right) steps outside the city gate
Because today the mound of Megiddo is only slightly above the level of the surrounding ground it is difficult to believe it could withstand a long siege, yet Egyptian chronicles say it was besieged by Pharaoh Thutmose III for seven months before being seized. The presence of a large granary and of a very impressive "hole" to reach a spring (see image below) indicate that Megiddo was actually equipped for sustaining long sieges.
"Hole" which led to a hidden spring
Megiddo was completely abandoned in the IIIrd century BC, probably because developments in warfare techniques made it less relevant from a military viewpoint.
Ancient Synagogues: Introduction, Korazim, Capernaum and Hamat Teverya
Ancient Synagogues: Bet Alpha, Diocaesarea and Ein Gedi
Necropolis of Bet She'arim
Scythopolis (Bet She'an)