Megiddo’s Masonry Marks

Credit:, Samaria and the Center, Israel

In Exodus 1, the Egyptian enslaved the Israelites and “made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.” In Exodus 5, after Moses told Pharaoh that God said the Israelites should have a festival in the desert, Pharaoh penalized the Israelites through bricks. “Then the slave drivers and the overseers went out and said to the people, This is what Pharaoh says: I will not give you any more straw. Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all. So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw. And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?”

In 1 Kings 9, King Solomon is said to have engaged in a construction program. “Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his own palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.”

The contents of the walls in Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer have become part of a debate as to the status of King David and King Solomon.

In 1 Kings, after King Solomon’s reign, his son Rehoboam increased the tax burden on the tribes within his monarchy. In response, Jeroboam ben Nebat led the other tribes to secede and establish a new kingdom. King David and King Solomon’s descendants led the Kingdom of Judah in the south, while King Jeroboam established the Kingdom of Israel. The Kingdom of Israel struggled with palace intrigue, with a quick succession of kings being overthrown, until King Omri took hold of the throne and built his palace at Samaria.

Similarities between the gate systems and walls at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer led to the hypothesis that these were all rebuild by King Solomon, per 1 Kings. One of those similarities was the ashlar masonry, the cut stone blocks used in the walls. These were believed to be similar to the stones used in Solomon’s construction projects in Jerusalem in 1 Kings 7. “All these structures, from the outside to the great courtyard and from foundation to eaves, were made of blocks of high-grade stone cut to size and smoothed on their inner and outer faces.”

However, archaeologists noticed that the stones at Megiddo bore distinct mason’s marks, designs carved into various stones. A similar pattern was discovered in the remains of the palace at Samaria. The palace at Samaria is assigned to the 9th century BCE. In the Bible, this palace was built by the Israelite King Omri, a half-century or more after King Solomon’s reign.

This led proponents of the Low Chronology, who maintain that King David lived in the 9th century BCE, to proclaim that this proved that the gates at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer were all constructed in the 9th century BCE, and were associated with the northern Kingdom of Israel, and not with King Solomon.

Others who maintain the High Chronology, and argue that King David and King Solomon were active in the 10th century BCE, maintain that either these mason’s marks were not particular to a specific mason, or that the stones at Megiddo could have been transported from an earlier construction at Megiddo and repurposed into the palace at Samaria.

The image above is of ashlar stones within a stone wall at Megiddo. An example of a mason’s mark at Megiddo can be seen via the following link: