Tel Gama Scenic Lookout (Mitzpor Tel Gama)
Location: Northern Besor Road.
Description: The remains and findings discovered at Tel Gama testify to almost continuous settlement from the Chalcolithic period (3,300–4,500 BCE) until the Hellenistic period (100 BCE). The site is identified with the Canaanite city of Yarza or Araza. In the Madaba map from the Byzantine period the place is mentioned as Orda. In the middle Canaanite period (16th–18th centuries BCE) the immense walls were built that gave Tel Gama its shape until today. Later the Egyptians ruled here, and afterwards Philistines settled here. The Assyrians turned Tel Gama into an important base, from which they set out on a journey of conquest in Egypt (7th century BCE). Large quantities of camel bones were found in Tel Gama, evidence that it was an important station on the trade route that crossed Nahal Besor towards Gaza port.
The excavation of Tel Gama took place in 1926, led by the British archeologist Flinders Petrie (1853–1942). For six months he employed a hundred workers, mostly children and youth. By the way, children were paid a wage according to their height, with bonuses for them and all of the excavating team if they discovered an important find.
Petrie exposed a dozen large grain stores and a series of public buildings. An interesting find is a silver coin bearing the Aramaic inscription “Yeheskiyu Pasha,” i.e., a coin of a governor – pasha named Yeheskiyahu. Large quantities of bones of adult camels were found in the excavation, perhaps because the settlement was a first station for convoys setting out from Gaza to the desert, and this was the place to slaughter sick camels that would clearly not survive the difficulties of the journey.
Tel Gama was the government center, the acropolis, of a large city the remains of which spread over 150 dunams below the hill.
Directions: Immediately at the entrance to the Besor Road we meet a junction. Drive 700 meters left and reach the bank of Nahal Besor, exactly opposite Tel Gama. Over the years the floods of Nahal Besor have eroded parts of the northern side of Tel Gama, which now rises straight above the wadi.
Photograph: Yaakov Shkolnik, KKL-JNF Photo Archive