Tel Dor Excavation Project

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Dor 2008 Preliminary Report

Iron Age II

Two important discoveries pertaining to this period were made this season – one longawaited and one unexpected.

The long-awaited discovery was the full exposure of W10606. This wall was first found in 1989 (Stern 1991) in the NW corner of area D2, with no associated features. It was virtually undatable and little could be said about it at the time – other than that it is probably Iron Age in date. One of the objectives of opening ‘new D2’ was to find out more about the structure that W10606 is associated with. In 2008 we were finally rewarded in exposing the full 10 m stretch of this wall – to the point where it goes under the north balk of the area and under area D4. W10606 was described in the past as an ashlar header wall. In fact it is not quite. It is a massive, 1.70 m thick double-faced wall, made of roughly-squared blocks of more-or-less standard cross-section but differing lengths (about 0.5 x 0.5 x (0.5 – 1.0) m in size). As for its date – the big question remains how to interpret the interleaved kurkar surfaces to the west of it – as superimposed floor surfaces, or as constructional fills? Consequently, whether the [scarce] potsherds on-and-in-between these surfaces date the use of the wall or do they merely provide a terminus post quem to its construction? This dilemma was discussed in detail in last year’s report and this year provided no new information. Unfortunately, no more of this structure is likely to appear in the foreseeable future, and the deposits we are currently excavating on either side of it are definitely earlier as demonstrated by clear foundation trenches on the west side of the wall.

An anecdotal episode fixed the nickname of this wall for all eternity… Paraphrasing recent “discoveries” connecting various Iron Age structures to Biblical figures in the popular (and not-quite-popular) press, we jokingly referred to the above-discussed structure as “Taphath’s Palace” (Following I Kgs 4:11). Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review – who publicized several of these recent “discoveries” paid us a visit this season, and was quick to turn our joke upside down – publishing an editorial claiming that this is likely to be Taphath’s palace, but some archaeologists are “over cautious” and “…Biblical connections strike fear in an archaeologist’s heart” (Shanks 2009).

Balloon view of area D2

Figure 7: (p08A-0179) Balloon view of area D2, showing the relationship between “Taphath’s Palace” and “the Bastion”.

The somewhat surprising revelation concerns W05D1-548 area D5. This wall forms the southern edge of a large courtyard of an Iron Age II structure excavated in the past (Figure 8), and – as such – was already exposed in the 80’s. The courtyard house forms what we now call phase D5/9. The upper parts of this wall, however, were much disturbed by erosion along the southern slope of the tell and by later construction. It was not till this upper part of the wall was removed and surface debris along the slope cleaned (Area D2 2008 report) that its true nature was revealed. For one thing, its foundations are much deeper than those of the rest of the phase D5 structure – perhaps all the way down to bedrock. They clearly cut phase 11 and 12 deposits (cf. below), and a wide foundation trench is visible alongside it (Figure 9). Significantly, this wide foundation is constructed of roughly-hewn ashlars. The wall is also rather thick - over 2.50 m., and its outer face has not yet been fully revealed. Lastly, what seemed to be some missing stones in the SE corner of the area has turned out to be a constructed recess – it is an offset-inset wall. These attributes – wide offset inset wall constructed of rough ashlars – cannot but point out that it is the same Iron Age II fortification discovered in the early seasons at Dor along the eastern edge of the tell (phase C1/6, phase B/7; see Stern 1980: 211; 1985: 22). A possible problem is the date of this wall – in areas A, B and C it was ascribed to the Iron Age IIB, whereas in area D5 it was dated to the Iron Age IIA. On-going research in area B, however, indicates a strong possibility (which cannot be proven) that the offset inset fortification, together with the four-chamber gate (Stern 1983), was constructed in [a late stage of] the Iron Age IIA. Meanwhile, the date of phase D5/9 is not securely established and should be rechecked when the rest of the building is exposed in D5 east and D5 west.

Balloon view of area D5

Figure 8: (p08A-0180) Balloon view of area D5, showing the courtyard building and offset-inset wall.

D5 middle, phases 9 – 12, looking east

Figure 9: (p08D5-9025) D5 middle, phases 9 – 12, looking east. Phase 9 is represented by W10817 (across top) and W05D1-548 (left), as well as its foundation trench L08D5-629. The latter cuts phases 10, 11 and 12. No remains of phase 10 are left in the picture. The floor of phase 11 (destruction layer) can be seen in the balk in the center, just under the sandbags – and W07D5-230 (center top). Phase 12 remains are R.T L08D5-627 and L08D5-628, which cut W07D5-233 and F08D5-633 from south and north.

Iron Age I

Remains of this period were exposed this season in areas D2 and D5.

In area D2, as soon as we dug through the interleaved kurkar-and-mud-brick-material layers relating to the phase 7 W10606 we encountered another long-sought-for architectural feature – the “Bastion” wall. This massive boulder wall was first excavated in the 1970’s by Avner Raban (1995) (his W69) and he noted that it forms a retaining wall which curves around the natural kurkar ridge forming the bedrock for the western part of the mound. i.e. it may be demarcating some sort of acropolis on the western part of the mound from a ‘lower city’ which developed on the sand spit east of the rocky ridge. The exposure of this wall was extended inland by the Stern excavation through units AN/10, 11 and 12 (as W17296); where it formed the western edge of ‘old’ area D2 in phases 13 – 8 i.e. throughout the Iron Age I and into the Iron Age IIA. It went out of use with the construction of W10606, which is clearly incongruent with it (Figure 7).

The top of the “bastion” wall appeared this season in unit AO/13 (numbered W08D2-290 in the current excavation). There had been a consistent difference between the east and west parts of unit AO/13 (and AO/12) for some while before the wall actually appeared, correctly attributed to a robber-trench. Pertaining to this wall. Together with the top of the wall there appeared, immediately to the west of it, a considerable collapse of stone and burnt mud-brick. The destruction debris, as well as the [scant] pottery retrieved from it thus far, has us wondering if we have hit here the mid- Ir1 destruction found all over the site. If this is the case, than we are missing here the entire sequence of phases 8 – 12, which occupied nearly 3 m. of accumulation immediately to the east of this wall. This might mean either that the area west of the ‘bastion’ was not occupied at during the latter part of the Iron Age I, or – more likely – that these phases were removed during the leveling operations for the construction of “Taphath’s palace” – which would have required grading at least part of the ‘acropolis’ west of the ‘bastion’ and filling at least part of the ‘lower city’ east of it.

In Area D5, the abovementioned destruction event is probably evident in an extensive burnt layer in phase D5/11 (Dor 2005 report), in the deep central trench of D5 we dug underneath that layer and exposed phase 12, which consists of modest mud-brick walls and robber trenches (probably of stone walls) along the same lines as those of the succeeding phase 11 (Figure 9). Although very early in the Iron Age I sequence, the material from phase 12 is still definitely post-LB. As we are guessing we are less than a meter above bedrock in the deepest part of the trench, the prospects for exposure of Late and Middle Bronze Age remains here are not good.