Tel Dor Excavation Project

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Dor 2007 Preliminary Report

The Persian Period

Exposure of this period was small-scale this season, and is confined to D5 – east and west of the deep central section. Significant finds were made in D5(east) where we continued to excavate the ‘bone feature’ (L07D5-114). This ‘feature’ first appeared in 2006 as a curved line of stones next to the east balk of unit AT/10-11. Underneath these stones, however, appeared a line of bones, apparently intentionally cut and carefully arranged in a circle-segment. This season showed that the ‘feature’ has five layers: the two upper ones contain only animal-bones in a radial arrangement, two lower layers also have potsherds – mainly basket-handles of amphorae – in the same arrangement, and the lowermost layer is made of potsherds only. The animal-species represented include horse, cattle, pig and sheep/goat. Further investigation of this enigmatic feature will have to wait till unit AS/10-11 is excavated.

Next to the ‘bone feature’ were three dog burials. These are an addition to several other dog burials found in that same unit in previous seasons.

The Hellenistic Period

Even less was exposed this year of the early and mid-Hellenistic. In Area D5 this period is represented in local phases 3 – 5. These were excavated in area D5(west) as part of the extension of D5 towards the slope, but – other than exposing another section of the façade of the alley which runs between the D5 insula and the D1 insula – the area is quite disturbed by the proximity of the slope and by pitting and dumping operations of the late-Hellenistic and Roman phases.

TUnderneath the Roman phases in area D4 a Hellenistic phase is beginning to emerge. So far there is little architecture that can be ascribed specifically to this phase. It is not clear if this is because the Roman structure above it (see below) is essentially a reuse of a Hellenistic One (i.e. that the walls now standing in the area are initially Hellenistic ones), or if that Roman building erased most of the superstructure of earlier buildings beneath it. The fills, however, are rather rich in pottery (some of it possibly restorable) of the late Hellenistic period (probably end-of-second and first century BC). This is good news, as the late Hellenistic period (and the very early Roman) are under-represented thus far at Dor. In the published areas (A – C) this period (historically most probably from the conquest of Alexander Janneus to the inclusion of Dor in Herod’s kingdom, or even later – including the ‘re-foundation’ of the town by Pompeius) is represented by some poor walls but almost no ‘clean’ deposits.

The Roman Period

Area D4 was opened in 2004 north of D2. It was excavated in a limited way in 2005, and not at all in 2006. We returned to it this season. The upper strata here consist of a very large structure – part of which was already excavated in area D2 many years ago (Stern at al 2000) – and part of which extends into area D1. One remarkable thing about it is the abundant re-use of earlier architectural elements – notably column drums – which led to an assumption that there might be Hellenistic public buildings beneath it.

As is the case in every area at Dor, it is clear that there are at least two different Roman strata in D4. Unlike most other areas, there is no distinct change in the layout of the building. Most of the walls from the earlier phase continue in use to the later. As already mentioned, it is possible that the plan of the building was substantially retained all the way from the Hellenistic period. This leads to some difficulty in assigning some of the features to phase D4/1 and / or D4/2, and several slightly-different schemes have been proposed.

Another problem is the function of the building. Initially the hypothesis was that it is a bathhouse (see report 2004, 2005). This was based on the fact that many installations obviously connected to the processing of liquids were found (hydraulic cement and/or [white] mosaic floors, plastered basins, channels and drains etc.); that quite a few fired (‘hypocaust’) tiles were found, and that a ceramic pipe leading water into the structure was found under one of the floors. This is the only building we know of at Dor that had in-door plumbing.

By 2005 it became clear that the structure is industrial – or at least that its use was altered to industry at some point. A round cutting in one of the cement floors is best explained as a base for a ‘donkey mill’ (or some other animal-driven machinery), and several large pyrotechnic installations (ovens or kilns) were found – some with tuyère openings.

The cement floors of the D4 structure

Figure 8 (p05D4-9010): The cement floors of the D4 structure with industrial installations cutting it. Note mill-base at back, oven / kiln at left with tuyère opening in the center, and terra-cotta pipe at right.

This season we dismantled the upper set of (largely concrete) floors over most of this building to continue digging underneath. As most of the above-mentioned installations are dug under floor levels, however, much of the digging of them took place this season (and some remains for future seasons). The installations are of various types – some are round and lined with clay, some are built of stones and / or tiles. Some have working-pits in front of them (i.e. a separate pit is dug beneath floor-level in front of the installation, to allow loading / unloading and stoking it, through an opening in the installation wall facing the pit) and some do not. Some are double-chambered (i.e. have a separate firing-chamber) and some are apparently single-chambered. Some (namely the round clay-lined ones) show no evidence of very high temperatures, and some do.

Two kilns(?)

Figure 9: Two kilns(?) – a clay-lined one at left and a built one (constructed of stone and hypocaust tiles) at right.

We do not yet have any clue as to the purpose of these installations. They are rather big (and too numerous) to be bread-ovens, and at least some of them show evidence (structural or chemical) for high-temperature activities. Yet they are pretty small for pottery kilns, and there is no evidence for wastes, miss-fired, or un-fired pottery. No significant amount of slag of any kind was found. Nor do we know if all these different types of installations were for a single production-process or if different kinds of industries are all concentrated in one structure.

In as much as we saw that hypocaust tiles are used in industrial installations, the ‘bathhouse’ theory can be laid to rest. The structure shows none of the ornate attributes of Roman bathhouses. Whether or not all the industrial installations belong in phase 1 (i.e. the structure was built for some other purpose and only later was converted to industrial use) or do some belong already to phase 2, depends on the precise stratigraphic scheme one adopts. This is something that will be further investigated next season.