Dor




 


Topography

Country - Israel

Locality - Dor Farm/Tantura and Nachsholim Kibbutz

Hellenistic name – Dora (Δώρα)

Findspot – c.27 km south of Haifa, c.13 km north of Caesarea

Coordinates - Longitude 34º54‘40‘‘

Latitude 32º36’50’’




 


Harbour situation

The bays at Dor are called in Arabic Tantura "peak of the cape" after the small cape which divides the bay in two. In the Talmudic literature, it is called "the tooth of Dor". It is one of the few natural anchorages on the coast of Israel. Dor is one of the largest ancient Tels (mound) in Israel.

The ancient settlement was built on a rocky promontory, which is part of an aeolinite (kurkar – carbonate cemented quartz sandstone) ridge that stretches parallel to the sea and the Carmel Range. To the south of the Tel is a sandy shore with several offshore islands that form the continuation of he western kurkar ridge. These islands form a lagoon that is a natural anchorage still used nowadays. To the north of the Tel is the North Bay, partially protected by an island that provides a natural anchorage. In ancient periods this body of water was used as a harbor attested by the marine installation found to the south of the bay, at the northern edge of the Tel. The main anchorage was to the south of the Tel, today separated by a tombolo (sandbar), thus comprising the South Bay and the Tantura Lagoon. Adjacent to the Tantura Lagoon are the Nahsholim Kibbutz and the Dor Farm. The site of Dor is found to the south of Haifa (30 km) and may be reached by the coastal highway or the old road to Haifa.

The Crusaders built a castle on the small cape on the coast of Dor and named it after the family of de Merle, which received the area from the lords of Caesarea as their domain. Merle was captured by Saladin in 1187. The Crusader fortress was abandoned just before the fall of Atlit in 1291. Sketches from the 19th century show a high tpwer, which was apparently part of a Norman keep. Today, there are no remains of this tower nor of its foundations.




Sea Harbour


Research History

Dor is a significant coastal site with a long and varied maritime history. Archaeological surveys and excavations on the Tel were carried out since the early 1920’s. Underwater surveys were made during 1962-67 by the volunteer divers of the Underwater Exploration Society of Israel (UESI). They spent hundreds of hours searching the seabed of the Tantura Lagoon and around Tel Dor to trace archaeological evidence of the ancient harbors and the nautical activities. From 1973 on, faculty members and students of the Department of Graduate Studies of the History of Maritime Civilizations, at the University of Haifa, have carried out annual field seasons at Dor. From 1979 to 1984, the Center for Maritime Studies in collaboration with the Dor Excavations Project held a series of probes, limited trial excavations and the study of most of the known maritime installations in their geomorphological and archaeological stratified context. The Center made underwater surveys and onshore observations, tracing archaeologically dated evidence for the ancient sea-levels. They also plotted man-made structures and installations that may refer to the changes in land-sea relation over the centuries. Trial excavations were carried out along the shoreline of the Tel in 1981, ’82, ’83 and ’85. These excavations, far from being complete, revealed a multitude of installations dated between the Middle Bronze Age to the Byzantine period. The discoveries included harbor features such as quays, a landing stage, slipways, wave-catchers, that testify to the richness and complexity of maritime activities throughout the history of Dor. Other installations were fish-ponds, washing-channels, wave-catchers and purple-dye facilities.




 


Sources

The Hellenistic name of Dor is Dora (Δώρα). The earliest known historical reference to Dor comes from an inscription in the temple at el-Amarna (Nubia), and dated to the reign of Ramesses II, the first halt of the 13th century BCE. This inscription refers to a list of eastern Mediterranean coastal cities and among them is mentioned Dor as being found in Canaan.

Another Egyptian reference comes from a papyrus dated to the time of the Judges, around 1100 BCE. In the papyrus is told the story of Wen-Amon, an Egyptian official sent to Byblos to buy cedar wood for the construction of the sacred barge. On the way he made a stop at Dor, a town inhabited by Sikilians (Sikuli – one of the Sea Peoples).

Dor is mentioned several times in the Bible:

Joshua 11:2 – Dor is identified as an ally to Yavin, king of Hazor

Joshua 12:23 – Dor is found on the list of thirty one kings defeated by Joshua

Joshua 17:27 – Dor is found among the cities designated to be in the western half of the inheritance of Menasseh

Judges 1:27 – Menasseh did not drive out the inhabitance of Dor

I Kings 4:11Dor was made one of the twelve districts of Solomon.

Stephen of Byzantium (probably the 5th century CE), wrote about Dor:

"Next to Caesarea lies Dor, a very small city inhabited by Phoenicians. They settled here on somewhat rocky nature beaches and the abundance of the purple fish. When their business prospered, they split the rock, and made a harbour with good and safety anchorage. They called the place in their native tong Dor. But, the Greeks, for the sake of its more pleasing sound, agreed to call the city Dora. And some make the statement that Doros, the son of Poseidon was its founder."




Selected Written Sources


Historical development

Sometime, during the 13th and the end of the 12th century BCE (dated by the pottery sherds), the sea level rose and the kurkar reef at the entrance of the bay was flooded, thus the bay was exposed to more wave energy. This change was observed from the character of the sediments along the quay. The rising sea forced the people at Dor to raise their quays accordingly along with other waterfront structures. On the south slop of the Tel were traced two higher quays, also built of slim kurkar headers in area A and a retaining wall or quay Q. Towards the middle of the 11th century BCE, the eustatic trend reversed from transgression to regression. The harbor facilities at the south of the Tel came out of function and the area was incorporated into the built terrestrial settlement. The growing power of the Israelites in the hinterland and that of the Tyrian and Sidonians on the high seas weakened the domain of the Sikuli (Sea Peoples). When the Israelites came to Dor in the 10th century BCE, most of the structures were in ruins and probably covered by sliding soil fill and debris from the southern side of the Tel. It seems that the maritime activities at Dor diminished through the Persian and the Hellenistic period.




 


Sources

written sources – the earliest known historical reference of Dor comes from an inscription in the temple of el-Amarna (Nubia), dated to the regn of Ramesses II (first half of the 13th century BCE)

- papyrus dated to the time of the Judges, c.1100 BCE, form the story of Wen-Amon, an Egyptian official sent to Byblos to buy cedar wood for the Sacrad Barge. Wenamon stopped at Dor, a Sikilian town (Sea Peoples)

- Dor is mentioned in the Bible: in three Books of Joshua 11:2, 12:23, 17:11; Judges 1:27; Kings 4:11




Selected Written Sources


The nautical history

The western side of Tel Dor is protected by a series of partly submerged islands. They are part of the western aeolianite sandstone (kurkar - carbonate cemented quartz sandstone) ridge that runs on the north-south axis, parallel to the narrow shore and the Carmel Range to the east. To the north of the Tel is a bay, partially protected by an island and is still used as a natural anchorage for fishing boats. To the south of the Tel was the main anchorage, today separated by a tombolo (sandbar), and now is comprised by the South Bay and the Tantutura Lagoon. In earlier periods, this bay was the northern edge of the lagoon. The series of several islands (part of the western kurkar ridge) that form the lagoon provide a protected body of water. This lagoon is a natural anchorage still used for anchoring fishing boats.

Dor may have been among the Levantine coastal cities used by Thutmose III, that served as stations for his troops moved by ships during the Syrian campaigns. The Canaanite harbors served as a line of forward bases to shelter the ships of Thutmose carrying his troops via sea, sparing time consuming march by land. The harbor installations found at Dor are the first to be attributed to one of the Sea Peoples (the Sikuli, attested in a historical records).

A unique structure found at Dor is the rock-cut slipways to the north of the Tel and on the southern edge of the North Bay. In the South Bay there is a sandstone (kurkar) slabs platform built in the "headers" technique, that became the trademark of the Phoenician harbor installations. This structure is assumed to be a paved quay or a landing stage for the ships on loading or unloading the merchants close to the shore.

 

Parallels

Some of the maritime installations at Dor may be compared to site in the Mediterranean and also to a closeness to their date of construction. The only Bronze Age harbor that has stone quays is found at Mallia, Crete, being dated to the Minoan period. There, the quays are accessible via a rock-cut navigational channel leading from the open sea to an inner lagoon. A quay platform paved with stone slabs, similar to the one found at Dor and also contemporary with it is found at Kition, Cyprus. Both sites (Dor and Kition) were settled by maritime people during the late 13th century BCE. Excavations made at Maa-Palaeokastro, on the west coast of Cyprus and Ras Ibn-Hanni, in Syria, revealed some ashlar "headers" structures were related to the new comers from the sea with a material culture similar to that of the Sea Peoples.




 


Harbour Installations







The Slipways

The rock-cut slipways found at Dor make quite a unique marine installation. They were quarried into the northern part of the kurkar bedrock, in an area which have been leveled previously to a height of 2.5-3 m above the sea level. Three hollows are sloping towards the sea into the North Bay. The partition walls are at present, worn away close to the sea. The lower part of the slips, at the water line, are partly covered by more recent beachrock . Only the southeastern part of the original complex has been fully preserved . The original length of the cut rectangles was probably 30 m. The width of each slip varies from the east to the west: the eastern slip (nr. 1) is 3.8 m, the middle (nr. 2) is 4.1 m, and the western (nr. 3) is 4.5 m. The partition walls are between 0.6 to 0.8 m high and 1.5 m wide. There are small rounded holes on top of the walls, at intervals of 1.8 to 2.4 m, probably for the insertion of wooden poles supporting some kind of roof.

The overall plan of the structure seems to be fitted to the description given by Vitruvius (V.xii.7), on the construction of shipyards:

"Subsequently the shipyards are to be built facing the north… And for their size, no definite limits need to be set, but they must be built to suit the largest type of ship, so that if even larger ships are hauled up, they may find plenty of room there."

Along the eastern face of the eastern slip (nr. 1) is a bench of 13 m long and 0.80 m wide. Further to the north, adjacent to the eastern edge of slip (nr. 1), there is a rock-cut pool: 2.4 m wide, 4.1 m long and 2.7 m deep. To the north-west side of the complex, next to the slip nr. 3, there were two larger pools, now too badly eroded and difficult to get their exact original size and shape. These pools were most probably used for soaking the wooden timbers and frames, thus they could be bent to the desired curvature without breaking. The south part of the eastern slip (nr. 1) was blocked by a cross wall running east-west. Behind this wall was built a room measuring 4 x 4 m, partly cut into the rock and partly built of kurkar blocks. It is possible that in this space was found a capstan or a similar pulling device to hauled the ship cradles up on the slope.




Slipway


The Shipwharf

There is plenty of comparative data and documentation concerning the size of ships and their length/breadth ration, to assume that the slipways at Dor were not shipsheds but rather a shipwharf. Considering the width/length of the slipways at Dor, one may reconstruct the size of the vessels that could be hauled up on them:

  • the eastern slip (nr.1) – vessels of 4x24 m
  • the middle slip (nr. 2) – vessels of 4.5x26 m
  • the western slip (nr. 3) – vessels of 5x20 m.

The ration of 1:4 is characteristic for merchant ships while the others of 1:6 and 1:5.7 would be appropriate to oared naval vessels.

Parallels

There are no good parallels for Dor’s slipways to be found in other sites in the Levant coast. Such installations come only from the Greek world. Similar structures were found in the Port of Pireus, Greece and in North Africa. The installations at Pireus were part of the dockyard/arsenal belonging the Athenian maritime power. The length of these slips was 38-40 m, the width almost 6 m and the angle of inclination is about 6º. At the base of the slips was a raised area, and along its center a shallow channel was cut to fit the keel of the vessels. Almost identical to the Pireus complex is found in the sunken remains of the Hellenistic harbor of Apollonia, in North Africa (Libya). Due to their being underwater at present, it is difficult to establish the exact length of the slips. An estimated range for their length is between 28 to 40 m. The width is about 6 m and the angle of inclination is 4º. The base of the slips is identical to those found at Pireus complex.

The sites described above helped to conclude that the slipways at Dor were used for repairs and maintaining ships that anchored in the in the North Bay and in the Tantura Lagoon. The date of the Pireus and Apollonia (Libya) installations is not defined but cannot be earlier than 3rd - 2nd century BCE. During this period the standard vessels were the trireme which measured 38 m in length and 5.5 - 6 m in width. The dimensions of the docks at Dor indicate that they were not adequately fitted for triremes. It should be noted that the moderate inclination of 5º and the flat bottom of the slips are more suited for merchantmen rather than military vessels. The Dor docks could be dated to the 6th-5th century BCE, deduced from the Athenian sherds found on the eastern side of the installation complex.




Wharf


The Quay

At the foot of the Tel, in the South Bay is found a kurkar paved platform, made of three or four rows of long rectangular slabs, with their narrow side facing the sea. The platform, now tilts slightly towards the sea and its southern part is submerged, perhaps the effect of centuries long process of under-trenching waves erosion. The quay is about 35 long on the east-west axis and 11-12 m wide. The eastern and western edges of the quay were flanked by great rectangular structures. From all the probes made along the southern side of the quay it became clear that under-trenching and flooding from the sea water had disturbed the original stratigraphy. Slabs from the 3rd and 4th rows were removed along a 2 m wide trench, on the north-south axis. It was found that the slabs were laid directly on fine sand with only few shells. Some sherds collected at this level were LB II type, including Cypriot white slip II "milk bowls", a Canaanite crater decorated with incised herring bone pattern and two fragments of large pithoi of Tyrian type.




Quay


Landing Stage

The architectural feature that had been studied during the probes indicate that the southern structure close to the water line is a quay or a landing stage. The interpretation does not rely on the reason for its presence near the water line but rather of the architectural characteristic and the natural deposits in its context. The excavations indicated that when this landing stage was built, the body of water next to it was separated from the open sea and it was not exerted to wave energy. The archeological investigations in the South Bay also revealed that during the 14th-13th century BCE the sea level was similar to the present one.




Quay


Bibliography

Baly D., 1957: The Geography of the Bible: A Study in Historical Geography; Harper & Brothers Publication, New York

Benvenisti M., 1970: The Crusaders in the Holy Land; Israel University Press, Jerusalem

Raban A., 1985: The Ancient Harbours of Israel in Biblical Times; in Raban A. (ed.): Harbour Archaeology- Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Ancient Mediterranean Harbours. Caesarea Maritima, 24-28.6.83; BAR International Series 257: 11 - 44

----------- 1987: The Harbour of the Sea Peoples at Dor; Biblical Archaeologists: 118 - 26

----------- 1995: Dor-Yam; Maritime and Coastal Installations at Dor in their Geomorphological and Stratigraphic Context; in: Stern E. (ed.): Excavations at Dor, final Report, Volume I A; Areas A and C: Introduction and Stratigraphy; Qedem Reports; the Israel Exploration Society

Raveh K. and Kingsley S., 1991: The Status of Dor in Late Antiquaty: A Maritime Perspective; Biblical Archaeologist 54.4: 198-207

Wachsmann S, and Raveh K., 1984: A Concise Nautical History of Dor/Tantura; International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 13: 223 – 41

Wente E. F., 1973: The Report of Wenamon; in Simpson W. K. (ed.): The Literature of Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Stories, Instructions and Poetry; Yale University Press: 142-55




Bibliography


Author

Zaraza Friedman





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