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Archaeology in Israel: Tel Dor

Throughout Biblical times, from the days of Solomon to the reign of Herod the Great, the harbor at Dor acted as a magnet, drawing commerce and conquerors to the Carmel coast. One of the few natural harbors on Israel's Mediterranean coast, Dor today is one of the country's largest archaeological sites and an important key to understanding the sequence of occupation during Biblical and later times.

The coastal district of north central Israel, where Dor is located, is an attractive area. To the north of Pardes Hanna lie the Carmel range and the famed Carmel caves (where the excavation of settlements dating back to the Paleolithic Era has been in progress for over half a century). To the south stand the dramatic ruins of Caesarea, the formidable seaport constructed by Herod the Great. Numerous other sites of interest, such as Megiddo, also lie nearby, and Tel Aviv is only 50 kilometers away.

Originally a Canaanite city, later ruled by a group of the Sea Peoples, Dor was conquered by David and became one of the 12 district capitals of Solomon, and his main port on the Mediterranean. In 732 B.C., Dor fell to the Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III, but was at once made the capital of the Assyrian coastal province of Duru. The town also prospered under the Achaemenid Persians, at a time when both Greeks and Phoenicians also lived within the walled circuit of the city. In Hellenistic times Dora, as it was then called, became an important fortress, which later (under Roman rule), was still of sufficient size and importance to issue its own coinage. A Jewish community is known to have existed at Dor in the mid-first century A.D. and, despite the town's undoubted decline in the Byzantine period, it was still the seat of a bishopric from the fifth to the seventh centuries A.D. In the thirteenth century A.D. a Crusader castle was built on the site.

For a site of unusual historical and archaeological appeal, Dor has received surprisingly little attention from archaeologists. Apart from limited excavations conducted by the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem some sixty-five years ago, Dor only began to be examined in earnest in 1980 when the Hebrew University of Jerusalem launched the program of excavations which the U.C. team joined during the 1985 field season.

The team's work at Dor focuses on the ancient citadel and its approaches (Area D1) and the Roman temples (Areas F and H). Previous work at Tel Dor has already revealed the huge stone gate of Solomon's city, cylinder seals from Assyrian times, numerous terracotta figurines from the Persian occupation, well preserved stone-walled houses from the Hellenistic period, and mosaic floors dating to Roman times.

While in the short term the excavations at Tel Dor are designed to reveal past patterns of social and economic life at Dor itself, the long range goal is to contribute to a regional study of adjacent parts of the Sharon Plain, and in particular, of the Carmel coast.

Sources: Israel Antiquities Authority; Tel Dor Archaeological Expedition