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Dor from the AirFrom the days of King Solomon to the reign of the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus (222-235 CE), the harbor and port town of Dor attracted a multitude of merchants, immigrants, and conquerors to the Carmel coast. Dor today is one of the country’s largest and most complex archaeological sites, and as such plays a pivotal role in our understanding of both the history of coastal occupation in north central Israel and the processes of acculturation and assimilation whereby native populations interact with those around them.

Dor, one of the few natural harbors on Israel’s coast, is situated in an especially attractive area of the country. We are bordered to the north by a large wildlife preserve, and are just a short drive from the Carmel Range, the famed Carmel caves (the site of settlements dating back to the Paleolithic Era), the artists’ community of Eid Hod, and the town of Zichron Ya’akov, one of the first Jewish settlements in Israel, founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild—who is also the builder of our site museum—and named in memory of his father.

Dor is situated about 35 kilometers (about 22 miles) south of Haifa and 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) north of Tel Aviv. Caesarea—the impressive port city built by Herod the Great and the site of the only epigraphical evidence of Pontius Pilate—is a short drive south, and makes an excellent weekend day-trip; Megiddo, the mythological venue of “Armageddon,” is a quick trip inland; the modern Arab town of Akko, which takes its name from ancient crusader fort of Acre, is about an hour’s drive north.


A Brief History of Dor

Area D4Founded as a Canaanite city, Dor was subsequently ruled by a group of the Sea Peoples and, ca. 1100 BCE, settled by Phoenicians. In the middle of the tenth century BCE, Dor became one of King Solomon’s 12 district capitals and his main port city. Just over two hundred years later, in 732, Dor was conquered by the Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III, under whose rule it became the capital of the Assyrian coastal province Duru. In the sixth and, especially, fifth centuries, Dor prospered under the rule of the Achaemenid Persians—fifth century Dor was especially multicultural, as Greeks, Phoenicians, and native Dorians all lived and worked within the walled circuit of the city.

In the mid-fifth century BCE, Dor joined Athens' maritime confederacy for a short period of time; it was in this period otherwise under Persian rule, from which Alexander the Great freed it in 332. In the Hellenistic period (ca. 332 to 32 BCE) Dor—Dora, to the Greeks—became an important regional fortress; this fortress later, under Roman rule, continued to be of sufficient size and importance to strike and circulate its own coinage.

In the mid-first century CE, a Jewish community (about which little is yet known) inhabited Dor. The town as a whole experienced economic decline later in the century, perhaps as it struggled for ascendancy with Caesarea; all building at Dor seems to have ceased by the time of Alexander Severus, in the early third century CE.

Although Dor’s population, power, and influence began to decline after the third century, it remained the seat of a Byzantine bishopric from the fifth through seventh centuries CE, and in the thirteenth century a modest Crusader castle was built on our promontory.


History of Excavation at Dor

For a site of such complex and far-reaching archaeological and historical import, Dor has received surprisingly little scholarly attention. The British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem ran a small-scale excavation at Dor in 1923-1924; apart from this, Dor was excavated next only in 1980, when the Hebrew University of Jerusalem launched the “Dor Project.”

The University of California, Berkeley, was the first major U.S. research university to join the project, in 1985, under the direction of Professor Andrew Stewart, a world-renowned art historian and extraordinarily gifted teacher. The UC Berkeley team, led by Stewart, excavated at Dor—concentrating especially on the Roman and Hellenistic strata—until 2006. At the end of the 2006 season, the UC Berkeley team withdrew from the project.

Professor Sarah Culpepper Stroup, who earned her PhD in Classics at UC Berkeley and who, in the course of her degree, studied ancient art history and archaeology with Professor Stewart (who also became a dear friend), came to Dor first as a newly minted PhD—and new University of Washington hire—in 2000. In that year, Stroup—who had excavated previously at the UC Berkeley site of Archaia Nemea in Greece—participated in the excavation as a volunteer; halfway through the season, she was promoted to junior staff, and oversaw the excavation of a small room in Area D's “Persian Palace” (which has since been renamed, rather less romantically, the “Hellenistic Warehouse”).

Following the 2000 season, the Dor Project took a two-year hiatus to regroup and reorganize—and, most importantly, to shift the Israeli administrative, directorial, and research responsibilities from Ephraim Stern (the Hebrew University professor of archaeology who had directed the site since 1980) to Ilan Sharon (also a HU professor of archaeology) and Ayelet Gilboa (Haifa University professor of archaeology), the site directors and research supervisors.


The Tel

Dor MapThe excavated areas of the Tel have been labeled alphabetically, from A to H.

Past excavation seasons have proven Dor to be an exceptionally rich archaeological site:

Excavation of Area A revealed large city walls dating from the earliest periods of occupation (Iron Age); in later periods (Persian through Roman), this area is defined by a complex of residential buildings.

Area B revealed a large Hellenistic city gate on the eastern face of the Tel; a large concentration of catapult stones of various diameters was found in the area of the city gate.

Area C, which lies to the north of Areas A and B, contained mudbrick walls dating from the Iron Age; most of the construction in this Area, however, consisted of large residential buildings dating from the Persian through to the Roman periods.

Area D, which is situated along the southern margin of the Tel and which remains the focus of our ongoing excavations (click on The 2009 Season above for further details), has proven to be exceptionally archaeologically complex and architecturally rich. At its earliest phases, this Area contains several large Iron Age building complexes and bastion walls of impressive proportions. In the Persian period, earliest strata contain a large installation for the production of purple dye (murex dye; the source of techelet) and small domestic structures and animal burials. In the Hellenistic period, this Area contains a series of large industrial buildings built in the typical “pseudo a-telaio” manner of the region. In 2000, an amazing opus vermiculatum mosaic—arguably the finest piece of Hellenistic art ever found in the country—was found in a Roman period pit; in the same year, a small Hellenistic Nike statue, likely an acroterion of a Hellenistic temple, was found rebuilt into a Roman-period wall.

MosaicIn the Roman period, Area D likely consisted of residential insulae (apartment buildings), although little has remained above foundation level. A system of plaster basins and other drains has suggested water-related industrial activity in the area, and a series of tabuns (local round ovens or kilns) at these strata further suggest large-scale industrial activity.

Area E contains mainly, at presently excavated levels, a Roman bathhouse and an extensive shipyard.

Excavation of Area F, at the western margin of the Tel, revealed Roman period streets and a monumental three-sided podium (of more typically eastern structure; the purpose of this building is as yet unknown) with a perambulatory passage at the lower levels.

Area G contained an extensive stone pavement dating to the Roman period, which marks the intersection of the cardo and the decumanus. Although nothing has remained of the superstructure of the building surrounding this pavement, massive cement foundations indicate the existence of the large structures (possibly colonnades?) that would have surrounded it.

Area H consists of several phases dating from both the Hellenistic and Roman periods and, from the Roman period, contains the foundation levels of a massive temple (“Temple H”) podium built out well into the sea. Buried under the entry ramp to the temple podium were the remains of earlier Roman insulae, apparently consisting of shops at the street level and domestic residences above (we might think of modern urban models for such).