During June–August 2006, the twenty-fourth season of excavations at Dor was conducted (the fourth season of the new expedition to the site; License No. G-62/2006). The excavation was undertaken on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (HUJ) and the Zinman Institute of Archaeology of the University of Haifa (HU), in cooperation with the Weitzmann Institute of Science (WIS), the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), the University of Washington in Seattle (UW) and the University of South Africa (UNISA). The excavation season, under the auspices of the Israel Exploration Society, was funded by the Berman Institute for Biblical Archaeology, the Zinman Institute of Archaeology, the UCB, the UW, the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation, the Roswell family from Baltimore and an anonymous donor. Additional activities that are associated with the excavation were funded by the Israel Science Foundation, the Bikura program of the Israel Science Foundation and the White-Levy Program for Archaeological Publications. The excavation was directed by I. Sharon and A. Gilboa, with the assistance of J. Berg (senior field archaeologist), S.R. Martin (senior registrar), A. Stewart and A. Estes (Area D1 supervision), R. Karberg and J. Sloan (Area D1 sub-area supervision), I. Milliken, R. Boehm and D. Dipietro (Area D1 square supervision), N. Child and R. Chao (Area D1 registration), E. Bloch-Smith (Area D2 supervision), V. Boshoff, B. Lorentzen and J. Fu (Area D2 square supervision), A. Pescovitz (Area D2 registration), C. Scheepers, A. Haeim, T. Goldman and Y. Shalev (Area D5 sub-area supervision), B. Monikandem-Givon and D. Carlisle (Area D5 registration), S. Weiner and E. Boaretto (heads of the WIS group), R. Shachak-Gross (micromorphology), A. Behar (archaeochemistry and archaeometallurgy), N. Raban-Gerstel and L. Sapir-Chen (archaeozoology), U. Smilansky (archaeomath), A. Karasik (computerized imaging), S. Matskevich (architectural drafting), R. Linn (conservation), N. Marom (administration), H. Karesh (photography), R. Gross and H. Ben Bassat (finds registration and restoration), V. Damov (finds drawing), Y. Farhi (numismatics) and I. Hirshberg (director of the CONRAD [Ha-Mizgaga] Museum). Participating in the excavation were volunteers and students from UCB, UW, UNISA and HU.
The excavation was carried out in four sub-areas of Area D, at the southwestern corner of the mound (Areas D1 west, D1 east, D2, D5; Fig. 1). Except for the research aims of the season, the excavation was intended to lower the square balks and to terrace the excavation toward the sea in the south. In doing so, it will be possible to conserve and present the entire stratigraphic sequence of the site.
Area D1 (West; the Hellenistic and Roman periods)
The exposure of the building from the Hellenistic period, known as the ‘monument’, continued. The full width of this building was exposed in 2005 (12 m) and it consisted of two ashlar-built walls (W16020, W16850) whose bases were molded and shaped in stucco. Work also continued on the east–west street that was discovered last season. It became obvious at the beginning of the current season that the pavement north of the ‘monument’ is indeed a Roman street (Phase D1/2). The pavement was cut through the center, apparently to rob the drain beneath it. A wall, which extended to the west from a built corner exposed next to the northern edge of W16850, was entirely looted. It appears then that two separate buildings exist – ‘Monument’ A (6 × 10 m), the southern building with the stuccoed base – and ‘Monument’ B (5 × 10 m), the northern building (Fig. 2). The two buildings have a rectangular plan and thick walls. ‘Monument’ B is later than ‘Monument’ A, at least from the constructional point of view, yet both were built in Phase D1/3; the use of ‘Monument’ B continues in Phase D1/2 (see below). ‘Monument’ A, founded on the remains of a large building from the latter Hellenistic period, which was constructed in Phase D1/4 and erroneously named the ‘Persian Palace’ in the past (see below), had at least two construction levels in Phases D1/1–2 (Fig. 3). The northern wall of ‘Monument’ B is flush with and at the same elevation as the paved street from the Roman period. A wide built step was exposed near the southwestern corner of ‘Monument’ B (Fig. 4), indicating that the building could be accessed from the street; hence, it appears that the use of ‘Monument’ B continued in the Roman period. Two very thick foundations abutted the east side of ‘Monument’ B. These could have been part of a staircase leading up to it; however, since they are slightly off-center and off-orientation, it is more likely that they are a later addition to the structure and not a part of its original plan. The function of these ‘monuments’ is still moot. They may have been twin temples that preceded the pair of Late Roman monumental temenos temples exposed in Areas F and H.
One of the two square and stone-lined installations, exposed in 2005, was further investigated. These dug and stone-lined kilns were dated to the Roman period (Phase D1/2). Only a few traces of vitrified slag and no wasters were found in their vicinity last year, insufficient to determine their function. Extensive sampling from the kiln and its vicinity was performed this season; it contained large concentrations of lead and copper. The analysis suggests that this installation was used for the casting of bronze sculptures, although metal production seems to have been a secondary usage of the installation.
A large square structure (8 × 8 m), built in the Late Roman period (Phase D1/1) upon the earlier remains, had an additional space to its west and an open courtyard to its east. The courtyard apparently separated between the square structure and an industrial building from the Roman period that had been exposed in recent seasons in Area D4. Two floors, directly below surface (Phase D1/0), were exposed in the structure and the courtyard. Initially, the floors were thought to belong to the structure, yet the finds underneath the upper floor included a marble fragment with a Greek inscription, apparently dating to the Byzantine period. Hence, it is feasible that the upper floor belonged to a later phase whose walls were not preserved. It could have been part of an entryway into the Crusader fort that stood on the southwestern side of the tell, or it may even be later than that.
Area D1 (East; the Hellenistic period)
The main building excavated in recent years (Phase D1/4) was the so-called ‘Persian Palace’. During the last season, it was confirmed that its date is the Hellenistic period, based on several coins of Ptolemy II (284–246 BCE) that were found sealed below one of the building’s walls. Already by the end of the 2000 campaign, it became obvious that this structure (13 × 24 m; in excess of 300 sq m) was only one wing at the southwestern side of a much wider structure whose southern wall was traced over a distance of c. 15 m (W17562=W26000 in Area D2).
The main objective of excavations in this area since 2004 was to locate the western wall of this building, as well as its continuation northward, to get an idea of its overall size.
Removal of the later remains revealed yet another large robber trench of the western wall, oriented north–south. The mud-brick material found in the trench contained potsherds from the Persian and Hellenistic periods.
A section of a wide wall was discovered at the bottom of the robbers' trench. It was built of small ashlar stones (c. 0.12 × 0.25 × 0.35 m), similar to other walls of the building, and its width was three ‘headers’ (Fig. 5). Unlike the southern wall of the building that was built in the ‘interlocked boxes’ technique, the western wall consisted of typical ashlar construction in the ‘compartment building’ method, in which the rectilinear ashlar-stone frames were filled with fieldstones and mud/mortar. The robbers' trench of the western wall extended northward to the end of the excavation area, whereby the extant of the building exceeded 500 sq m (in excess of 18 × 26 m). Together with the smaller building to its southwest, this appears to be one of the most extensive public buildings from the Hellenistic period in the Levant (at least 27 × 48 m).
Several walls that belonged to later phases, as well as a small section of mosaic that was part of the opulent mask and garland mosaic from the Hellenistic period, discovered here in 2000, were exposed throughout the excvation in the area.
Area D2 (Iron Age IIA)
It was ultimately clarified in this season that the two large ashlar walls (W10606, W04D2-065) and the kurkar levels next to them did not pertain to a single building or a single construction phase (Fig. 6). Wall 04D2-065 and the kurkar levels associated with it belong to Phase D2/7a, whereas W10606 belong to Phase D2/7b. It was revealed that the extension of at least one kurkar level, associated with W04D2-065 on the south, sealed the southern edge of W10606. Another kurkar level was exposed to the north of W04D2-065, above the line that continues the W10606 outline, with no hint of a robbers' trench. Although this evidence shows that the two walls belonged to two separate stratigraphic phases that entirely differed in their architecture, it is difficult to determine the exact stratigraphic division within Phase 7. It mainly concerns the association of the many kurkar levels with the various sub-phases. While as many as four kurkar levels were discovered at one spot, only one or two were exposed in others. These levels are intermittent and slope in different directions, but generally north–south and west–east. At least in one spot, the levels merged together into a thick kurkar chunk and as they separated, they were intertwined within lenses of brown brick material.
The nature of these kurkar levels and the finds within them, usually small potsherds in secondary depositions, indicate that these were constructional fills. It is possible that the upper levels served as a base for the construction of the building, one of whose walls was W04D2-065. However, it should be noted that the kurkar levels were interspersed with phytolith layers, wind-blown sand, as well as pockets of erosion and alluvium. These attest to periods of exposure during the accumulation process, which lasted a very long time. The potsherds from the upper kurkar levels dated mostly to Iron IIA. The lower levels contained potsherds that mostly dated to the transitional Iron I to Iron II (Ir1/2 horizon) period.
Area D5 (Iron I to the Roman period; formerly Lower Area D1)
The excavation of the deep section in the center of the area continued throughout this season. New excavation squares were opened on the area’s western side, continuing squares that were excavated in the 1990s, and on the eastern side.
The earliest stratum in the section was a fiery destruction layer (Phase D5/11), which so far is not associated with significant architectural remains. Overlaying the floor of the destruction layer were many pottery vessels, in-situ, complete or broken, mostly jars, among them two pithoi with Cypriot-style wavy-band decoration (Fig. 7), whose exposure had begun in the last season, as well as an accumulation of weights. Below one of the pithoi was a heap of lentils—probably the contents of the jar. While this destruction layer should definitely be dated to Iron I, it is not yet clear if it should be dated to the Ir1a late horizon, similar to destruction layers in other areas of Dor, or somewhat later. If the earlier date is valid, the stratification of the phytolith surfaces above the destruction layer was a long process, and remains from the Iron 1b horizon are absent, at least in the excavated portion.
Further excavation of the phytolith surfaces (Phase D5/10) revealed that the ‘installations’, which contained the phytolith surfaces, were initially excavated as trenches with vertical sides. As they gradually filled up with organic materials, their surface became sloping and shallow. To retain whatever function these ‘installations’ served, a rim was constructed around them, using mud bricks and brick. Eventually, the rim was covered with the surfaces and it had to be rebuilt and raised several times (Fig. 8). The function of these ‘installations’ is not yet clear and it is presumed that at first, they were robbers' trenches of walls from Phase D5/11 and later they served in a different capacity. The date of the phytolith surfaces is Iron IIA or the transition from Iron I to Iron II (the Ir1/2 horizon, which seems more plausible).
During this season, it eventually became clear that the ‘courtyard building’ with its massive stone walls was built in Phase D5/9, postdating other layers in the area. A clear foundation trench was observed along its north–south wall (W10817), cutting both phytolith surfaces and the destruction layer below them (see Fig. 8, left side, to the right of the stone wall). A single kurkar floor, which abutted the walls of the ‘courtyard building’ and was overlain with pottery vessels that dated to Iron IIA, was exposed in the southern part of the area.
The thick kurkar floors that belonged to Phase D5/8 and apparently sealed the ‘courtyard building’ were clearly visible in the high balks that surrounded the center of Area D5. When last excavated, these were thought to be Persian period floors, perhaps on account of the many pits that riddled them and had not been identified in the past. It turned out that the fills above these floors date to the end of the Iron Age in the higher western part of the area.
Several walls and floors from Phase D5/5, which formed a complex of four rooms (Fig. 9), were exposed in the high eastern part of the area. The finds above and in the floors dated them to the Hellenistic period. One of the floors contained a large quantity of mainly murex shells. This floor wad located below the installation for the production of purple dye that had previously been discovered (ESI 6:49–53) and it attests to the long time-span of purple-dye manufacture in the area.
A curvilinear row of stones, assumed to be part of a shallow installation that related to the walls of the above-mentioned structure, but whuch now appears to be earlier, was exposed in the narrow space left between a north–south wall (W16846) and the eastern balk of the square. Upon removal of the stones, it appeared that they covered a line of bones, placed within the outline of the stones (Fig. 10). The insertion and truncation of these bones indicated intentional placement. At least four different species—horse, pig, cattle and goat/sheep were identified. At this point in time, the nature of this 'bones installatio' is unclear.
Meager few remains from the late Hellenistic and Roman periods (Phase D5/3–1) were exposed in the southeastern part of the area. These remains included two sets of walls, built one on top of the other, a few installations, robbers' trenches and an intricate system of pits, which internal stratigraphy. Some of these pits that had cut the lower system of walls contained finds dating mostly to the Hellenistic period.