Tel Dor Excavation Project

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2004 - End of Season Report: Area D2 Squares AO 12-14

"In the Dumps"

I. Preliminary Information:

Staff: Elizabeth Bloch-Smith (EBS) with recorder Neels Kruger

Loci numbers: L04D2-001 to -062 (some 001-035 for AM 14 or AN 14)

Basket numbers: L04D2-0001 - 05331

Image numbers: p04D2-0001- 48; -0079 for varia and drawings

II. Overview

Excavation in D2 continued in squares last excavated in 2000 under the direction of Heidi Koenig (AO 12-14, AM 14, AN 14). These squares, in conjunction with the newly opened squares of D1 and previously excavated areas will provide extensive exposure of the bayside occupation from the Bronze Age through the Hellenistic period.

Based on the findings of previous seasons, the D2 squares to be excavated contained segments of Hellenistic walls, Hellenistic robbers' trenches penetrating IA levels, Persian and late IA pits, and the Ir IIC "Big Pit". This season's main objectives were twofold. First, we sought to further clarify the nature of the bayside occupation from the period of Assyrian domination in the 8th c. through the Assyrian and Babylonian conquest and into the Persian period. Second, though anticipating pit-riddled remains, we hoped to provide ceramic assemblages demonstrating the 8-6th c. typological developments at a representative large, cosmopolitan, northern coastal site.

This season's contribution to better understanding the Phase 5 Persian period may lie in the realm of pottery rather than architecture. Only one locus excavated this season definitely dated to the Persian period: the continuation of pit "Gorgonzola" (L04D2-061 = L30049). Three layers, L04D2-014, L04D2-006 and L04D2-038, yielded classic Persian period commercial storejar rims and basket handle jar handles under and among loci with IA pottery suggesting these distinctive Persian forms and fabric began in the late 7th/6th c.

Little evidence of Iron IIC activity survived in the area. A large basin associated with grain (at least in its final stage) and a pottery-filled cylindrical pit constituted the sole IrIIC features excavated this year. Subsequent to the basin's use, the localized area lay abandoned and open to the elements.

Iron IIB deposits thus far excavated derive from jumbled deposits above emerging monumental architecture (IrIIA?). After a season in the dumps, a wall built of ashlars which measure .5m in width, a stone pavement extending over 5m in length, and a kurkar surface over 3.5m long (and continuing under the baulk into AN/14) provide a preview of coming attractions.

III. Narrative Account

Loci of AO 12-14, in an approximately 0.5m deep deposit, span early Iron II through the Hellenistic period. In some places, robbers' trenches obliterated the stratigraphic connections between excavation units. In other places, preliminary pottery readings suggest gaps in occupation (Persian surface atop an IrIIA+B deposit), time warps (IA pit cutting a Persian surface), or scant evidence of entire periods expected to be better represented (IrIIC and B). Therefore, a combination and convergence of stratigraphic relationships and preliminary pottery readings determine the proposed phasing.

Phase 4: Hellenistic Period
Key loci: none

Two Hellenistic east-west robbers' trenches dug in 2000 were completed this season, L04D2-017 (=L30069) and L04D2-015 (=L30056) (p04D2-0039, p04D2-0041, p04D2-0046). While not the case in L04D2-017, three parallel trenches to the south, L04D2-015 (p04D2-0016) and two trenches preserved in the western baulk (L30076, no #, p04D2-0037, p04D2-0038), all have 0.10-0.20 m accumulation of wind-blown sand and water-caked mud in their bottoms (Phase 4 or 5). This accumulation indicates that the trenches sat open to the elements following the robbing activity. While building occurred elsewhere, this localized area remained open (and abandoned).

Phase 5: Persian Period
Key loci:

Only one locus excavated this season may be definitively attributed to the Persian period, the continuation of pit "Gorgonzola" (L04D2-061). The sherd-rich sloping layer (L04D2-014) and the foundation(?) trench L04D2-045/L04D2-046 may also date from this period, but, read on. Fill L04D2-006 on surface F04D2-006, initially identified as a Persian surface cut by an Iron Age pit (L04D2-011), prompted closer scrutiny (p04D2-0015).

Current excavations offer an answer to the Persian pot conundrum of previous seasons. Forms of a commercial storejar and basket-handle jar and a characteristic ware are considered the hallmarks of Tel Dor's Persian period pottery. Rims of these storejars and a basket-handled jar handle lay on F04D2-006 and in L04D2-014 and L04D2-038 under, and among, IA pottery suggesting these allegedly Persian forms and ware began in the Iron Age or the late 7th/6th c. Attributing an early form (and ware) of these vessels to the 7th/6th c. solves, at least in these cases, the riddle of clean IA features and fills cutting and overlying Persian loci.

Loci L04D2-045, L04D2-046, L04D2-052, p04D2-0017 thru p04D2-0022), parallel to and under a Hellenistic robber trench (L04D2-040, L04D2-041) may constitute an earlier foundation or robber trench into which a narrow Persian wall (W04D2-047) was subsequently built and robbed in the Hellenistic period. The latest of the little pottery from this trench dated from the Persian period suggesting the initial wall was built in the IA or Persian period (Phase 6 or 5) and robbed in the Persian period. Orientation conforms to the Persian rather than the IA plan. The eastern boundary of the stone pavement L04D2-066 and the western edge of the floor fragment F04D2-068 may define the continued extent of this trench through squares AO 12 and 13. If so, "Gorgonzola," cuts into the projected trench line providing a terminus ante quem. Such a wide trench is unparalleled among late IA/early Persian walls in the immediate area. The Big Family walls (Big Mother, Big Daddy and Big Baby), while comparable in overall size, are later based on ceramic evidence and stratigraphy.

In Square AO/13, neither the cleaning locus L04D2-008 nor the underlying cobble surface, L04D2-021, provided dateable pottery. Therefore, the attribution of these loci to Phase 5 is based on stratigraphic considerations (the underlying feature dates to Phase 6) and a comparable Phase 5 cobble floor in AN/14 (L04D2-513). Based on 2000 sketches, the preserved extent visible in 2000 photos, and cobbles preserved in the baulk, the cobbles perhaps paved a room delimited by Phase 5b walls W19430 and W17658.

Phase 6: IrIIC
Key loci:

Little evidence of Iron IIC activity survived in the area. A large basin associated with grain, at least in its final stage, L04D2-054 (2.4 x 1.6m, continues under the western baulk of the area), and pit L04D2-011 constituted the sole IrIIC features excavated this year. Floor F04D2-023 and its overlying deposits were quite the opposite of what they appeared to be.

A concentration of two types of carbonized (blackened) grain seeds (tentative field identification) in an approximately .10m thick layer above the latest resurfacing(?) of L04D2-054 provides the only evidence of its function (p04D2-0029 through -0032). From its northern end (preserved in the baulk and along the southern edge of AO/14), a platform gently slopes down towards the south before dropping into a basin with sharply sloping sides all around (Photos: p04D2-0024 to 0032, *-0029). Weizmann analysis (WIS #74) showed the basin rim to be composed of phytoliths, perhaps burnt, with little clay and a small amount of calcite. This was not a plastered surface but a phytolith deposit, perhaps burnt, similar in mineralogical composition to F04D2-023 and F04D2-006 to the south.

Elsewhere at the site, comparable phytolith-rich layers are considered the residue of dung deposits (assuming multiple plant species rather than a single species). If phytolith analysis demonstrates a limited number of plant types rather than multiple species (preferably the species represented by the carbonized grains), then rather than a dung-smeared surface this accumulation may have formed either from layers of grain stored or processed in the basin or basketry containing the grains. The adjacent L04D2-020 and L04D2-063 (stratigraphic relationship cut by a later trench) remain islands of occupation dated to IrIIC. Separated from the basin and its adjacent deposit by yet another robber trench, L04D2-009 above L04D2-014, L04D2-043 and L04D2-056 accumulated above the kurkar surface F04D2-056. The surface and overlying deposit remain undated, but the subsequent deposits occurred during IrIIC.

Subsequent to the basin's use, the area lay abandoned and open to the elements. In Square AO/12 to the south, fallen field stones and ashlars (Phase 6?/7?) jutted up through the surface(04D2-048, p04D2-0016) while rivelets of water with wind-blown sand washed through the underlying IrIIB matrix of AO/13. In the eastern half of AO 12, a nearly 0.4m continuous build-up of surfaces and whitish to grayish lenses with interspersed charcoal patches rose against the western side of the tumbled ashlars and large field stones (L04D2-023 and L04D2-024 atop F04D2-023 (#12.50-12.43) p04D2-0015, p04D2-0016). [Most of this build-up, excavated in 2000, was attributed to Phase 5b. Retrieved pottery this season was of indeterminate date. However, it has been phased with F04D2-006 on the basis of elevation and comparable context.] Formerly, we labeled such deposits "plaster" or "ash" surfaces but mineralogical analysis by E. Boaretto of the Weizmann Institute (samples #74, 75, 169, 170) determined that the surfaces did not contain calcite and so were not plaster. The phytolith-rich build-up consisted primarily of siliceous aggregates likely dung derived. Perhaps the jutting stones afforded privacy for humans or an abandoned area for animals to relieve themselves or "take a dump." The interpretation of an excrement-rich layer fits this abandoned outdoor context F04D2-023 and F04D2-006, however, it seems less probable that a grain installation (L04D2-054) would have been intentionally surfaced with excrement-laden sediments.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the jutting stones, a cylindric pit with straight sides (L04D2-011) served as a dump for large sherds of 7th c. Phoenician commercial jars, "Assyrianizing" bowls and Samaria Ware bowls, an 11/10th c. cooking pot rim, and one MB carinated bowl rim, as well as numerous large tabun fragments (p04D2-0015, p04D2-0033). A sandy fill (L04D2-006 = L30074???) covered this pit and the surface from which it was likely cut (F04D2-006, #12.52). Sherds in the L04D2-006 fill, primarily from open forms, included "Persian" storejar rims (see above), Samaria Ware, plus Black-on-Red sherds and sherds with red slip and burnish surface treatment. Weizmann analysis demonstrated that the surface F04D2-006 (samples #72, 73), though easily distinguished by eye from F04D2-023 to the east, was of similar mineralogical composition - siliceous aggregates with little calcite.

In AO 13 to the north, sand blew in and water trickled and washed through the earlier Iron IIA and B deposits. A semi-circle of stones (L04D2-028) and the sandy matrix within it (L04D2-022) yielded 8th and 7th c. pottery in conjunction with small pieces of earlier IA and LBA pottery. Too little remains to speculate as to whether this was an intentional construction or not, and if so, its original form and function. The gullied and washed deposits (primarily IrIIB with some IIA and little IIC), characterized by their sandy make-up and washed look, were removed as L04D2-037.

Phase6?/ 7?: IrIIC?/B?
Key loci:

Iron IIB deposits thus far excavated derive from jumbled deposits above a seemingly (hopefully) coherent monumental architectural phase. While preliminary pottery readings date material directly above the emerging architectural features to Iron II A and B, the pottery assemblages are small and many of the relevant loci are exposed but not yet excavated.

Across the western side of squares AO12 and 13, a jumble of cobbles and large sherds in a dark brown, clayey matrix (L04D2-039 in AO 12 = L04D2-044 and L04D2-057 in AO 13) lay above F04D2-039. Pottery in L04D2-039 included typical Iron IIB forms including Samaria ware and Black-on-Red pottery, plus 10/9th c. cooking pots. In AO 12 east of the stone pavement, a stone-riddle meter wide swatch (L04D2-048, p04D2-0016) (on surface F04D2-048 - likely in a trench) separated the pavement from the stratified accumulation L04D2-058. Both of these deposits overlay L04D2-069, which preliminary indications suggest is an emerging kurkar floor. Further north, in Square AO/13, we uncovered but did not excavate ashlars of W04D2-065 and the adjacent drain(?)L04D2-067, which meets the top of the wall stones at an oblique angle (p04D2-0047).

Baulk photos #:

Final photos of AO/12-14: p04D2-0046, p04D2-0047, p04D2-0048 (looking south).