Tel Dor Excavation Project

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Dor 2009 Preliminary Report


As in previous seasons, area D5 was dug in three sections – called “D5 East”, “D5 Center” (based on the step-trench dug in the 1980’s as “lower D1”) and “D5 West”. Since each of these dealt with different problems, and different periods, we shall describe them here separately. In addition – in “D5 Center”, which was dug down to bedrock this year, work was divided between two different tasks – working the inside of the trench, and cleaning the outer (southern) face of the sequence of fortification walls found here.

D5 Center (1): The Earliest Remains

As noted, our suspicion of last season – that area D5 is close to bottoming out, with no real Bronze Age – was confirmed this year. Phase 12, an Ir1 architectural phase earlier than the destruction level of phase 11 – the latter being, in all probability, the site-wide catastrophe of mid-Iron Age I (Ir1a late) – was constructed on bedrock. Although its walls were robbed to a great extent, some floors remained. These comprise, in the northern part of the deep trench, of a twin installation built of mud-brick and plastered – on both floors and sides – with thick mud-plaster. On the floors were remains of several thin phytolith layers. Microscopic examination revealed that these phytoliths were of a single species – wheat (Dan Cabanes, personal communication).

This raises some curious questions as to the function of these installations. Would they be silos? The question might be how many phytoliths would one expect to find in a silo, and what kind? The ones in the installation appear to include both stem parts and inflorescence. Is it possible that grain was stored un-winnowed? Or is the installation better explained as a hayloft?

D5 Center (2): The Fortification System

The task of cleaning the outer face of the fortifications began as a purely logistical operation. Over the last several seasons we had established that the southernmost wall in area D5 – to which at least the structures of phase 9 (Ir2 [a?]) are abutted – is actually a thick fortification wall, at least partly built of large ashlars, in (probably) offset-inset fashion (cf. Figure 7, W05D1-548 is the ashlar inset, while W09D5-810 is a field-stone offset). The outer face of this wall, however, being only a few meters away from the waterfront, has quite eroded by wave-action. A line of ashlars which has always been visible above-ground outside the excavation area, just besides the walking-path along the cape, was hypothesized, however, to be the southern face of W05D1-548. It was hoped that scraping the topsoil above this line would reveal if this is the case or not.

This ‘cleaning operation’ revealed, however, not one, but two wall-lines (Figure 7, see also figs. 38 – 40 in the detailed report for area D5). The line of ashlars did indeed prove to be the southern face of W05D1-548, built in the same manner with rough ashlar headers and stretchers. This renders W05D1-548 2.5 m. in width. Further south, however, another line was traced - W09D5-811 – built of small fieldstones. The problem is determining the temporal sequence between these lines – is W09D5-811 some late revetment built against the face of W05D1-548? Or does W05D1-548 cut the earlier W09D5-811? A small section through W09D5-811 revealed that the ashlar face of W05D1-548 goes down almost to bedrock, but it rests on a single course of fieldstones, rather like those of W09D5-811. Whether this is an independent foundation course for W05D1-548, or in fact part of W09D5-811 itself we were not able to determine with certainty. Provisionally, we proceed with the interpretation that W09D5-811 is earlier than W05D1-548, but this will have to be rechecked with further excavation.

fortification lines to the south of area D5

Figure 7 Aerial photo showing the fortification lines to the south of area D5, looking south.

The question of the sequence and dating of fortification walls in area D5 bears on the general question of the fortification sequence at Dor – a question thought to have been settled long ago – but upon which doubts are now cast as some of the old areas are finally being published.

Two lines of Iron Age city walls were found in the sections cut below areas A and C on the east side of the mound. The upper of these is an offset-inset wall partly built of ashlars (and partly of mud-brick on field-stone foundation) – rather similar to W05D1-548. This wall was dated to the Iron Age IIB (Ir2b in the terminology we currently employ for Dor) in areas A-C. Below and outside it was another wall, built of mudbrick, which was dated there to the Iron Age IIA (Stern, et al., 1995: 29; Ir2a).

The same two fortification-lines were located in area B, further south along the eastern side of the tell, where the upper line (offset-inset) is associated with both four-chambered, and two chambered gate houses (no gate structure was found to correspond to the earlier wall). Recent work on the publication of area B, however, raised the possibilities that the later fortification line had already been constructed during the [latter part of] the Ir2a, and that the lower mud-brick wall should be re-dated to [the latter part of] the Ir1 or the Ir1|2 transition. In the early Ir2a the town may have been unfortified. In addition, a third – yet earlier – line of massive fortifications, constructed of boulders, was located in area B, some 5m. further inside the mound, and dated to the early part of the Iron Age I (Stern, et al., 1989).

The picture becomes yet more complicated in area D2. Here two shallow-foundation walls were assigned to the Iron Age IIC. Under it were found the ‘Monumental Building’, the ‘Bastion” and the ‘Sea Wall’ connecting the two. These were constructed in the [latter part of] the Iron Age I (Ir1b), and assumed to function as part of the fortification circuit of the town throughout Ir2a and possibly Ir2b. Under the ‘Sea Wall’ and further inside the mound was another field-stone wall (phases D2/13 – 12, see above) built on bedrock and dated to the late Ir1a to Ir1a|b respectively.

Coming back to area D5, the question is now how the two ostensible fortification lines here fit in to this picture? In particular – assuming the offset-inset wall in D5 is the same as the offset-inset wall in areas A-B-C, what happens between area D5 and area D2 (where no offset-inset fortification was found)?

D5 West: An Assyrian Period(?) Public Building?

In D5 West work was concentrated this season in working through and isolating the complex of late (Hellenistic and Persian) pits, to reach Iron Age over the entire area. The main discovery was two massive walls 1.5–2 m. thick, constructed of boulders. These are clearly later than the phase 9 ‘Courtyard building’ (which is associated with the offset-inset city wall – see above), and are provisionally placed in Phase 8. They seem to be the foundation of a large (public?) structure, most of which probably lies to the north of the presently excavated area.

Thus far, phase D5/8 was characterized by thick kurkar floors, with no evidence of architecture at all. In the 1980’s – when they were excavated in what is now ‘D5-Center’ – they were judged to seal the phase 9 ‘Courtyard Building’. Fragments of such floors, dating to Ir2b-c were indeed found adjacent to the boulder walls, though their exact relations still need to be investigated.

The ‘Assyrian(?)’ boulder walls

Figure 8 The ‘Assyrian(?)’ boulder walls above the phase 9 ‘Courtyard building’.

If indeed these walls represent some large-scale architecture of Iron Age 2c date, this is welcome news indeed. In 27 years of excavation we have established that Dor was indeed an important Assyrian center. Much Assyrianizing and some Assyrian pottery was found (usually in pits), as well as several officials’ seals. We have also established that the post-Assyrian-conquest town continued to use the old offset-inset city wall, but a new – two chambered – city gate was built, manifesting Assyrian architectural traditions. However, not a single building dating to this period was this far found. In most areas the picture was similar to the one hitherto existing in area D5 – the densely populated early Ir2a town undergoes a transformation in late Ir2a or Ir2b, and by the Ir2c it is characterized by large open spaces dotted by pits and other evidence of open-air industrial activity. One option is that under Assyrian control Dor was an administrative center without a residential town, i.e. it had a few large public structures but the bulk of the population lived off the tell. The corner uncovered in area D5 this year may be the first indication of such a structure.

Above the kurkar floors of phase 8 was another set of Iron Age floors (phase 7). In these was found evidence for purple-dye industry, in the form of crushed murex shells (in secondary deposition, reused as floor-bedding) as well as a fragment of a large vat with dye-stains on it.

D5 East: Persian and Hellenistic domestic(?) structures

The purpose of the somewhat limited work in D5 East this season was to level the entire area to the top of Iron Age remains. Of the four-odd units in this area, one (AU/9) was already excavated to Iron Age in the 1980’s. This square was cleaned but not excavated this season, pending the leveling of the rest of the area. The adjacent AT/9, though, was opened at topsoil only in 2007, and remains the highest unit in the area. Most of the work this season was concentrated there. Hellenistic (phase D4/4 – 5) remains were dismantled, and in most of this unit phase 6 (Persian) is now exposed. In the rest of the area (units AT-AU/10) most of the work consisted of excavating Persian and Hellenistic pits which still dot the (mainly phase 7 – Iron Age IIC) exposure.

Phases 4 – 6 in D5 east consist of parts of an insula built of standard-width (40 cm.) walls. Due to the proximity to the slope of the unit excavated this year, the walls are rather eroded and there is little that can be said about the deposits.