5 things you didn’t know about Megiddo

February 2nd 2014

Megiddo National ParkThe ultimate battle at the End of Days is prophesied to take place at a spot called Armageddon, believed by many to be the oft-contested small hill in Israel’s southern Galilee known as “Har Megiddo,” Mount Megiddo. As a result, experts planning tours of the Holy Land consider the archeological ruins of Megiddo National Park to be must-see. Located about 18 miles south and east of Haifa in the Lower Galilee, Megiddo National Park has historical, strategic and theological importance for many visitors.

But there’s much more to Megiddo than just Biblical-era homes and evidence of battles from days of yore – not to mention the hints of epic battles to come. Read on to be surprised by just now compelling this amazing site actually is.

1. The Megiddo ruins go down a full 26 layers deep

At the heart of Megiddo National Park is a tel, an ancient mound where multiple civilizations built settlements on top of the ruins of their predecessors. Three waves of archeologists have uncovered no fewer than 26 layers of ruins here since digging began in 1903, and today the digging continues.

From around 7000 BC until the Babylonians brought an end to the First Commonwealth of Judea, Megiddo was populated continuously.

More than 2300 years ago, Megiddo was a city surrounded by huge walls of fortification. It was captured by King David and flourished under the reign of King David’s son, King Solomon. The strategically located city of Megiddo was taken and overtaken, settled and resettled, countless times over the millennia. Each conquering civilization left its archeological mark on the land.

Among the more remarkable findings to have been unearthed at the tel are decorative ivory carvings from the Late Bronze Age, a set of jewelry from approximately 1100 BC, two complexes of Judean-era horse stables that could have accommodated up to around 480 animals, and what may be the oldest church remains to have ever been discovered in the Holy Land – complete with Greek-style mosaics.

A good way to get oriented to the site is to view the audiovisual presentation at the Megiddo Museum before hiking in the park itself. The museum also features models of what you’ll see when you start walking around outside.

2. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 2005, UNESCO determined that Megiddo National Park is of interest to the international community and worthy of preservation. Along with Hazor and Beer Sheva, UNESCO they declared Megiddo to be one of their 900+ UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Several civilizations that once inhabited Megiddo have since disappeared from earth, the evidence of urban public works engineering here is of major significance, and many living traditions (including Islam and Bahai) hold the site to be sacred – all of which are listed among UNESCO’s criteria for inclusion.

3. There’s plumbing from the time of King Solomon here

When exploring the park, you won’t want to miss the impressive water tunnel system here, presumed to have served as a reservoir in the time of King Solomon.

Approximately 100 years later, during the reign of Israel’s most wicked king, King Ahab, the water system was improved upon, so that residents of Megiddo could draw water from the spring outside the fortified walls without having to leave the city limits.

4. The site offers amazing views towards the north as well as the south

Scientists and historians believe that Megiddo became a spot of so much significance mostly thanks to its location along the ancient trade route known as the Via Maris, which connected the merchants of Egypt to Syria and greater Mesopotamia. Here, the coastal contours of the Carmel Ridge meet the planes of the Jezreel Valley, so the strategic location correlates with some vistas worth appreciating.

Today, among the main highlights of Tel Megiddo include the fortified palace, the scenic northern lookout and the southern lookout with its shaded area that is sometimes used by visitors for contemplative prayer. These lookouts are perfect for taking in the beauty of the lower Galilee while remembering the strategic significance of the site.

5. The entire park is accessible to people with all levels of hiking ability

Megiddo is accessible for those using wheelchairs and walkers and is considered a relatively easy park for hiking. If you’re traveling with someone in a wheelchair, arrangements for use of the wheelchair lift to the water system can be made in advance.

Guided tours of the site are also available by reservation. It’s recommended to budget one to two hours to fully explore Megiddo National Park.