Tel Dor Excavation Project

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Dor 2010 Preliminary Report

Area D5: Iron Age, Persian and Hellenistic Periods

Figure 6. Area D5, arial view, looking south (p10A-0015). 

This area forms part (and an extension of) Area D1 in Stern's excavations. Excavations here this season (Fig. 6) continued in most of the squares excavated last year, in addition to a few new units in the west. This is part of a long-term excavation and conservation policy, according to which the southern side of the tell will be dug gradually, from the crusader moat in the west to Garstang's trench (east of Area D2), thus creating an ‘amphitheatre-like’ configuration, open toward the seafront in the south. In the short term, our goal is to expose the courtyard house (Phase D5/9, probably of Ir2a date), of which currently mostly the courtyard is known. Excavations in D5 have been divided into three subunits, at different levels: The westernmost row of squares (squares AW-AX/10), producing remains of the Ir2a–Hellenistic periods; a lower middle part (square AV/10); with a few Ir1a remains, and an eastern part (squares AT-AU /9-10), where remains of the Ir2a to the Hellenistic period were excavated. Although the three sub-areas are close to each other there is so far no direct connection between the features in them and therefore they are discussed below separately. A reassessment of the local phasing of each of these sub-areas will be made after both will come down on the walls of the Iron II ‘Courtyard building’. In the meantime, however, there are new insights, according to which the stratigraphical sequence of the area has been modified vis-à-vis previous suggestions, as follows:


Excavations in the western part were held this season on an upper (AW-AX/10) and lower levels (AW/09), which were brought to the same level by the end of the season. The objective was to remove the remains of the later (mostly Hellenistic and Persian-period) features exposed in previous seasons, in order to expose more of the Iron Age boulder building of Phase D5/8 and bring the area down to the level of the courtyard building wall of Phase D5/9 (for both buildings, see below).

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?

The Iron Age

Phase D5/12: Ir1(?). Cleaning operations conducted along the lower part of the southern slope of the area revealed an east-west rubble wall (W09D5-811; Fig. 7), which is part of a long wall that is also known in more easterly units. It runs the entire length of the southern slope of Area D5 and continues further to the east—possibly some southern boundary wall of the city (it runs about 5 m from the present waterfront). As no features reaching this wall from inside have been unearthed, it is difficult do date this wall. It is certainly earlier than the ashlar city wall (Phase D5/9, Ir2a) that runs above it. Currently the most plausible attribution of this wall is indeed to Phase D5/12, the earliest Iron Age occupation in area D5 (on bedrock), but this still requires corroboration.

Figure 7. Area D5, early Iron Age rubble city or boundary wall Phase D5/12), looking east.

Phase D5/9(?): Ir2a(?) One rubble wall (WD510-918), apparently cut by the Phase D5/8 building (below), seems to belong to the Phase D5/9 courtyard building, possibly the back wall of the rooms west of the courtyard (below, Fig. 10). A badly preserved pavement (WD510-971), may have reached this wall form the west.

Figure 8. Area D5 west, corner of Ir2b boulders and ashlar structure (W09D5-750, W09D5-749) of Phase D5/8 and overlying and cutting into rubble walls of Phase D5/9 Courtyard House (W10817, W10D5-918).

Phase D5/8: Ir2b. Excavation in this area exposed more of the two creating a corner of the massive boulder building uncovered here in previous seasons (Fig. 8). The northern face of the east–west wall was found to be lined with large ashlars (W10D5-920). A newly emerging east–west wall (WD510-960) seems to be part of the same building. The building, though very massive, is preserved only at foundation level. Only bits of plaster and kurkar floors reach it, occasionally covered with patches of ash (some of the floors are cut by robbers' trenches) and thus it is difficult to date it. Last season we suggested a date for the building in the 7th century BCE, but this season's finds suggest that it is probably earlier. Especially, a pit cutting through one of its floors contained pottery plausibly dated to the 8th century BCE, indicating that by then the building has already ceased to function. Its construction date, however, is still unclear.

Phase D5/7 here (possibly to be divided into two sub-phases) consists of badly preserved walls, bit of floors, including shell floors, and two pits – signifying activities here after the demise of the Phase D5/8 massive boulder building. The earliest material in the pits cutting the Phase D5/8 floors (especially important is pit LD510-914 which yielded complete vessels) dates to the 8th century BCE, but later features may date to the 7th.

Later Remains. From the Persian and Hellenistic periods (Phases D5/6 – 4) only a few pits were uncovered, in the newly-opened units in the west.


Excavation in this lower part was very limited and was concentrated in its north (square AV/10). The main objective was to expose the last remains of the Ir1a late destruction layer that was excavated in the last seasons below the courtyard structure (Phase D5/11). It was realized, however that no significant remains of the destruction were preserved here and the area was closed down.


Similarly to last season, the main objective of the excavation here was to establish a better understanding of the Persian period remains and subsequently to expose here more parts of the courtyard house of Phase D5/9. Most of the effort in this area was concentrated in square AT/9, which is till higher than the other squares around it. Other units excavated were AU-AT/10, AU/9 (Fig. 9).

Figure 9. Area D5 east, general view looking south, with Iron Age and Persian-period walls. p10A-0023).

Phase D5/9: Ir2a(?). The only features apparently belong to these phases are two stone walls (W5562, W5563), a partial pavement and a floor, all in AU/9. These were already excavated during the 90's, but their date and nature not well understood then. By their orientation, level and construction method, it is quite obvious that they belong to the Phase D5/9 courtyard house, comprising the eastern wall of the courtyard (W5562) and a wall of one of the surrounding rooms (W5563). The partial floor must belong to the courtyard and the pavement to one of the rooms surrounding the courtyard. In conjunction with walls of this house excavated in the past in D5 middle and this season in D5 West, these walls provide a first clear outline of the courtyard house (Fig. 10). Scant pottery on the floors indicate a date in the Ir1/2–Ir2a range. Cleaning along the slope at AU/8 also exposed parts the Iron Age ashlar city wall (here named W5603), which, according to the excavation at AV8 (W05D1-548c there), seems to have functioned as the southern wall of the courtyard building. However, here it seems as if the fortification wall also functioned as the foundation for the courtyard structure's southern wall. The relation between the fortification and the courtyard building here still require a better definition. This wall and W5562 will be verified next season; it seems that the courtyard house is later than the fortification, constructed together with W05D1-548b-a.

Figure 10. Area D5, looking south. Extant walls of the Phase D5/9 Iron Age (Ir2a?) courtyard house are marked in orange and the contemporaneous ashlar city wall in red (p10D5-9258).

Phase D5/8 – 7: Ir2b. Currently the only substantial feature of assigned in the east to Phase D5/8 is a bit of a massive wall in square AU/9, first excavated during the 1990's. It is constructed of large ashlars with a core of rubble, built above the afore-mentioned courtyard building (W5554; see Fig. 10). Currently it is impossible to know to which building it belongs and assess its exact date within Iron Age II. Very plausibly, however, it is contemporaneous with the massive boulders-and-ashlars building in the eastern part of the area. To a later phase within Iron Age II (D5/7) belong some flimsy rubble walls (some of them "Phoenician" ashlar pier and rubble walls) and a floor in Square AU/10, and thick (3.5–10.0 cm) phytoliths accumulations in square AT/10 (Fig. 11). The phyloliths, however, may in fact belong to Phase D5/8—a question which we hope to verify in the future. Generally, these features belong the 8th–7th centuries BCE, but their exact date, and the correlation of these features to the Phases D5/8–7 sequence in the eastern part of the area is not well established yet.

Figure 11. Area D5 east, phytolith accumulation, probably of Phase D5/7, marking period of abandonment, looking west (p10D5-9232).

Phase D5/6–5: The Persian Period. The stratigraphical scheme presented here introduces some modifications vs. that proposed in previous seasons. Part of an apparently domestic structure has been excavated here, its walls exemplifying different Phoenician construction styles: rubble sections alternating with large ashlar blocks; regular ashlar-pier and rubble; and one wall in the 'interlocking ashlars' method (the latter possibly a re-used Iron Age wall). Phases D5/6b-6c marks the first Persian-period construction here, most plausibly after a substantial period of abandonment. Pits of these sub-phase produced complete and near-complete vessels, mainly store vessels (Phoenician commercial jars, basket-handle jars and East-Greek amphorae, from Chios and Thasos), and, for example a zoomorphic vessel in the shape of a duck's head and a fragment of an Attic Red Figure vessels, possibly attributable to the Meidias painter of the late 5th century. To the subsequent phases only a few pits are attributable, so…. In sub-phases 5b-5a a new house was built here.

Phase D5/4: Hellenistic. Excavation in D5 East was conducted mostly under Hellenistic remains, with the main excavated feature being a bottom of a pit in Square AT/10. In the eastern baulk of the area a wall belonging to the Hellenistic insula was further exposed (W16205). Its method of construction is unusual at Dor (Fig. 12). Though generally constructed in the ashlar pier and fieldstone method common in Phoenicia, the rubble parts and the foundations are constructed of slanting, diagonally-set stones, and in each course the stones are set at the opposite direction than in the underlying course, thus creating a herringbone effect. As well, the remains of the two pits comprising the purple-dye installation excavated here in the 1990's were cleaned and their lime-lined bottoms reached. It seems that the southern pit was used as a dump for the used shells (mostly uncovered in the 1990's), while the northern pit functioned as a sump for the disposal of the lime-water and other surplus liquids. It was still stained in places with vivid purple dye (Fig. 13).

Figure 12. D5 east, Phase 4: W16205 (Hellenistic), looking east . The 'empty' space in the wall indicates the place of the (now robbed) ashlar pier (p10D5-9253).

Figure 13. Area D5 east, Phase D5/4, plaster with purple stains in northern pit of purple dye installation (p10D5-9237).