Jezreel Valley Regional Project Archaeology and History of a Regional Landscape

Defining the Jezreel Valley

The Jezreel (Yizre’el) Valley lies between the Central Highlands to the south and the hilly Galilee to the north. The valley itself is roughly triangular, surrounded by: (1) the foot of the Nazareth Ridge in the northeast; (2) the low Shefar’am Hills in the northwest; (3) the Carmel Ridge and the Menashe Region to the west; (4) the Irron Hills of Samaria to the south; and (5) the edge of the Gilboa to the east. On its north-western end, the Jezreel Valley is connected to the Northern Coastal Plain by the Zebulon Valley, and its south-eastern end is connected to the Beth Shean Valley and the greater Jordan Valley by the Harod Valley. The elevation in the center of the valley is about 100 m above sea level, grading to sea level in the west and dropping to 200 m below sea level to the east as it approaches the Jordan Valley via the Harod Valley. The flat alluvial plain within the Jezreel Valley has often been referred to as the Esdraelon Plain.

Throughout periods of human occupation in the area, the Jezreel Valley has served as an important transportation route, since it connects the Northern Coastal Plain to the Jordan Valley by bisecting the hills that dominate the topography of the region. In addition to connecting a number of sub regions, the valley also formed a crucial segment of the ancient highway (Via Maris, connecting Egypt with the Levant, Mesopotamia and Anatolia) that ran along the eastern Mediterranean coast, but was forced inland via the Jezreel Valley due to the Carmel.

In very general terms, it may be possible to refer to the 'Extended Jezreel Valley' as the system of valleys connecting the Haifa Bay on the Mediterranean coast to the eastern extension of the Jordan Valley, beyond the Jordan River.  This extended valley includes (from west to east) the Zebulon, Jezreel, Harod and Beth Shean valleys.

 

 

Figure shows the Jezreel Valley in red and the Beth Shean Valley in blue (adapted from Orni and Efrat 1964, Figs. 20, 27 and 41).

 

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