The misterious, unknown Tell Assawir lies in the center of Israel, not far (14 km) from the Mediterranean Coast and near the entrance into the historical ‘Ara pass. The tell is large in area (some 15 acres) and almost round in form. It rises above the flood plain of the Northern Sharon and near the hills, where the hill-country begins. Nearby, to its east, there are very rich and famous springs: the springs of Assawir, a well known camping place for traders and armies. Many years ago W. F. Albright wrote about it:
"Just outside the entrance to the Wadi Ara is the interesting mound called tell el - Assawir, ‘Mound of the Bracelets’, perhaps so called from its perfectly round form, which is very noticeable when seen from the hills above. A prolonged search for pottery on the tell produced only shards of the Bronze Age, showing clearly that the site was abandoned at the end of this age, or very early in the next”. Prof Alt has made it certain that Tell el-Assawir was the site of ancient Yehem, mentioned frequently in the texts of Thutmosis III, who stopped there before entering the Wadi Ara on his way to attack Meggido. Our shards furnish additional support for this view, though the topographical indications of the Egyptian annals are in this case so exact as to render corroboration rather superfluous.
The fact that Yehem was destroyed at the beginning of the Iron Age, or shortly before, suggests that it may have fallen into the hands of the marauding hordes of the Sea Peoples, when they invaded the coastal plain. We may suppose that it was captured by the Sicilu (one of the sea-peoples tribes), who did not feel themselves strong enough to rebuild a town so far from their base at Dor, and subject to constant Hebrew raids from the hills”.
What really have happened in this highly interesting site? in the last summer of Excavations (2003), the previous three season of excavations took part on the tell, which have already unveiled few of its secrets. First, it seems that Alt, the famous German scholar, was wrong in his Yehem identification. Yehem should be situated south of Assawir, because of the conversation of the generals of Thumosis. These soldiers speak of three roads to the valley of Jezreel; so Yehem should have been where these three begin, namely at Kh. Yemma (which also preserved the ancient name). The next suggestion came from Benjamin Mazar, another great scholar, who identified it with Arubboth, the capital of the third district of king Solomon (I Kings 4, 10). Mazar was also impressed by the tell, and wrote “the large tell, one of the most important sites of the northern Sharon plain and the most important junction of the region. Several main roads meets here and creates the ‘Via Maris’ (Latin: ‘the way of the sea’.
But now again, Arubboth was identified elsewhere. It leaves us with an important task: what was the name of the ancient city? It could have been Djefty, a city mentioned again by Thutmosis generals, or some other important place.
During the excavations, we learned that the tell was built in the Middle Bronze Age II (ca. 2000-1550 BCE), when the Hyksos tribes governed in the Levant. It is built in the typical Hyksos fortification, with an impressive earthen rampart and a glacis; then, life continued in the Late Bronze Age, during the Egyptian rule (1550-1200 BE) and even in the beginning of the Iron Age (Early Israelite) period (1200-1000 BE). During the time of the kingdom of Israel (1000-722 BCE) it was abandoned, for reasons we have to find out. But during the Persian period (535-332 BCE) life renewed, in a much smaller scale.
So Tell Assawir is a real school of archaeology, a site with many secrets everyone shall like to reveal. The expedition lives in one of the surroundings Kibbutzim, which enables the participants to learn a lot about the life in this special Israeli creation. In addition, the dig is an opportunity to know personally a mosaic of people, from all over the world: Israelis and foreigners, Jews and Arabs etc.
We need of course lay people, but we also need trained archaeologists and different kinds of specialists. Together with the dig, many regional researches and explorations are being advanced – geological, hydrological, botanical etc. Whoever is a specialist in one of these fields should inform us.