Tel Dor Excavation Project

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Dor 2007 Preliminary Report

Iron Age I

The earliest remains were excavated this season in area D5. An Iron I destruction-level (phase D5/11) was first encountered here in 2005. In 2006 (see report) and 2007 we completed the excavation of this phase in over the two units (AV/9-10) comprising the deep trench in the center of the area. Although the walls were almost entirely robbed, we traced the robber-trenches to reveal a complex of several rooms (Figure 3) The in situ assemblage is mostly storage containers, of three types: In the southwestern room of the complex were pieces of at least two Cypriot-style ‘wavy band’ pithoi, one of which was [almost] completely restored (Figure 4). Under the fragment of this pithos was a pile of burnt lentils, probably representing its contents. This tiny room had also some sort of bin or installation in its NE corner (Figure 3, 4). That, plus the two pithoi would have completely filled up the room. In the room to the north of that were found fragments of two ‘collared-rim’ pithoi. One, again, huge – with a maximal diameter of more than 60 cm. The contents of one of these was also charred and preserved – once again legumes (probably chickpeas). A decorated bowl was found in the same room – probably the only serving-vessel in the [excavated portion of the] structure. The northernmost room of the complex had mainly small straight-shouldered storage jars of ‘Canaanite’ tradition. What had in the past been considered ‘cultural markers’ of three different ‘ethnoi’ were thus found in three different rooms of the same house. The same pattern – a prevalence of storage vessels, all three different types of storage jars being represented, with each type in a different room – appeared also in the only other house of [probably] the same destruction-event as well (in area G, phase G/9). The significance of this distribution, however, (if it is not serendipitous) eludes us. The simple explanation – that different foodstuffs were stored in different-type containers in different rooms – seems to be disproved by the contents of the vessels. So is the view that the huge pithoi so typical of Iron Age I were used to store water.

Figure 2: Areas excavated in 2007

Figure 3: A reconstruction of the burnt house.

Iron Age II

The main area in which remains of this period were found this season is area D2. The main problem facing us in this area is elucidating the nature of phase D2/7.

Phase 7 was defined in Stern’s excavation in area D2 in the mid-90’s (Stern at al. 1997). Two features were attributed to it: A wide ashlar wall in the north-west corner of the area (as then excavated) – W10606; and several disparate patches of thick crushed-kurkar floor which were found in the area between that wall and the so-called ‘monumental structure’ which occupies the south-east portion of D2. These elements were placed together merely by a process of elimination – they were all built above the phase 8 building (a.k.a. ‘Benni’s house’) and were cut by phase 6 pits. None of the kurkar floors actually reached the ashlar wall. The assumption was that in-between the obviously public structure represented by the ashlar wall and the ‘monumental structure’ was a wide open space. Similarly, since the latest floors of the phase 8 building were dated to the Iron Age IIA, and [at least some of] the phase 6 pits had Assyrian material in them, we assigned phase 7 to the Iron Age IIB, with the plausible assumption that it met its demise in the Assyrian onslaught. One of the major goals for the new campaign of excavations was to excavated what we hoped to be the inside of this monumental Iron Age II structure in the extension of the area to the north and west.

This goal proved somewhat frustrating. First, the area was completely ridden by phase 6 pits – some of which we continued to excavate throughout the 2007 season and they are still going down. The deposits in-between the fills had not one, but many, superimposed crushed-kurkar layers (as many as eight in some spots). Some of these were rather small in area and thick – i.e. more crushed-kurkar ‘chunks’ than ‘floors’. In-between layers of kurkar were most often lenses of mud-brick-material, but sometimes of cobbles or rubble. It is not easy to group these into phases or sub-phases (whether these are chronological or constructional) as there were different numbers of them in different units, and they tend to bunch-up and converge into thick ‘chunks’ in high places and then separate and diverge into separate layers with intervening mud-brick fills between them. The finds from these layers are not much help either. None of the ‘floors’ had any restorable pottery on them, and most of the potsherds (typically small and worn) were of mixed Ir1|2, Ir2a (for the ‘horizon’ terminology used for relative dating of Iron Age phases at Dor see Gilboa & Sharon 2003).

Hopes were up in 2004, when we exposed W04D2-065 – an ashlar header wall perpendicular to W10606. At last we were getting some substantive architecture in phase 7. By 2006, however, it became clear that W04D2-065 is only a single line of ashlars. Moreover, it does not abut W10606 but stops about 1m. short of it – the base of W04D2-065 being just higher than the top-of-preservation of W10606 (Figure 5). This was already suspected last season and finally proved in this one, when W04D2-065 was removed. The relations between this wall and the kurkar surfaces are also complex – the uppermost surface lapped-on to the very top of W04D2-065 – i.e. it may have reached the wall or it may have covered it. The ones below that did not reach the face of the wall at all – and there was a line of small stones crammed between the crushed-kurkar surface and the kurkar ashlars, for all appearances a narrow foundation trench. Finally, the lowermost surfaces appear to go under W04D2-065. What is even more disconcerting is that some of the latter appear to go over W10606 – or at least its western face (Figure 5).

Figure 5

Figure 5: (p07D2-9006) Cobbled surface F07D2-008 running under the easternmost ashlar of W04D2-065 in the top left of the photo and over/on the ashlars of W10606 in the center of the photo.

Thus, at the end of the 2007 season we formed two very different alternative working-hypotheses regarding phase D2/7.

The first is that under this heading fall several (perhaps as many as three) architecturally different strata: 7a comprising of W04D2 065, and surfaces reaching it (possibly only the uppermost one); 7b – surfaces under (or cut-by) W04D2-065 and overlying W10606; 7c – W10606. The difficulties with this view are first that none of these ‘phases’ are architecturally coherent. Second – as the number of surfaces vary from unit to unit, it would be difficult to assign individual deposits to each of the above – and the generally scant finds from each would preclude meaningful assemblages. Finally, all of these different constructions need to fit in a narrow chronological straightjacket. Elements preceding W10606 were already dated to Iron Age IIA, and meanwhile it was established (see 2006 report) that at least some of the pits of phase 6 date fairly early within the Iron Age IIB.

The opposite hypothesis is that all of these represent a single construction. W10606 is a podium wall (facing east) with all of the ‘deposits’ and ‘surfaces’ west of it being fills inside the podium and W04D2-065 some sort of sleeper wall within these fills. The obvious fly in this ointment is that there are surfaces which appear to cover W10606. One can try to explain-away these anomalies, for instance argue that what looks like a cobble surface in Figure 5 is actually a surface west of W10606 and a leveling-course of small stones inside 10606. An even more extreme argument might be that W10606 was built as a retaining wall at the edge of the podium together with the fills inside it. i.e. a course of stones was layed, the area west of it filled with alternating layers of crushed kurkar, mud brick material, and rubble until it covered the [east face] of the wall – and then another course was built to the facing.

Towards the end of the season, a line of rubble – presumed to be the northwards continuation of W10606 – appeared in unit AN/14 (Figure 6). The mission for the 2008 season will be to ascertain that this is the case. If so, it will be possible to test both these hypotheses in a new unit.

In phase 7 we have, then, a major podium structure developing in the northwest of area D2, doubtless continuing under D1 and D4. It dates to late Iron Age IIA and / or early Iron Age IIB. Now I Kings 4:7-19 tells us: “And Solomon had twelve governors over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household; each one made provision for one month of the year. These are there names: …. Ben Abinadab, in all the regions of Dor; he had Taphath, the daughter of Solomon, as wife.” We suggest, with all due circumspection, that it is not impossible that we have located Taphath’s harem. We submit that there is no less evidence for this than there is for some recent attributions of other royal residences.

Figure 2: Areas excavated in 2007

Figure 6: W10606 and its [putative] robber trench

In area D5 we are, by-and-large, below Iron Age II levels, however, one discovery made during a logistical operation casts new light on the nature of the Iron Age II ‘courtyard structure’ excavated there in previous seasons (2005, 2006) (phase 9). At the beginning of the season we dismantled the upper phases of the southern wall of the house (W05D1-548). This revealed the foundation of the original wall, which is made of large ashlars in Phoenician style (Figure 1). If one assumes the outer (southern) face of the wall eroded into the bay than the alternating groups of headers and stretchers enable the restoration of the construction-pattern as ‘headers against a stretcher’ (with stretchers on alternating sides) or ‘interlocking squares’.

Figure 7: The phase 9 ‘courtyard house’

Figure 7: The phase 9 ‘courtyard house’ with W05D1-548 and a possible reconstruction.

The massive construction of this wall and its position right above the kurkar ledge which falls into the bay raise the possibility that it is part of the circuit of fortifications of the Iron Age II on the seaward side of the town.