A Bit of Israel – Tel Dor

Tel Dor is an archaeological site located on the Israeli coastal plain of the Mediterranean Sea next to the modern moshav of Dor. (A moshav is a cooperative community of farmers.) Tel Dor is located about 19 miles south of Haifa, and 1.6 miles west of Hadera. It lies on a small headland at the north side of a protected inlet. In Hebrew, Tel means “Mound” while Dor “Generation”.

Dor is mentioned in ancient Egyptian, Hebrew (Biblical), Greek and Roman sources.

The documented history of the site begins in the Late Bronze Age (though the town of Dor itself was founded in the Middle Bronze Age, c. 2000 BCE), and ends in the Crusader period. The port dominated the fortunes of the town throughout its 3,000-year history. Its primary role was that of a commercial port and a gateway between East and West. The modern Israeli kibbutz and resort of Nahsholim lies within a mile south of the archaeological site.

Dor was successively ruled by Canaanites, Sea Peoples, Israelites, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. The city was known as Dor even before the Greeks arrived or had contact with the peoples in the Land of Israel.

Scholars who reconcile Bronze and Iron Age history in the region with biblical traditions write the following: Dor was an ancient royal city of the Canaanites, (Joshua 12:23) whose ruler was an ally of Jabin king of Hazor against Joshua, (Joshua 11:1,2). It appears to have been within the territory of the tribe of Asher, though allotted to Manasseh, (Joshua 17:11; Judges 1:27). It was one of Solomon's commissariat districts (Judges 1:27; 1 Kings 4:11).

According to archaeologists, the importance of Dor is that it is the only natural harbor on the Levant coast south of the Ladder of Tyre, and thus was occupied continuously from Phoenician times until the late 18th century. According to Josephus, however, its harbor was inferior to that of Caesarea.

Dor is mentioned in a 3rd-century Mosaic as being a place exempt from tithes, seeing that it was not settled by Jews returning from the Babylonian exile in the 4th century BCE. Around 460 BCE, the Athenians formed an alliance with the Egyptians against the Persians. In order to reach the Nile delta and support the Egyptians, the Athenian fleet had to sail south. Athens had secured landing sites for their triremes as far south as Cyprus, but they needed a way station between Cyprus and Egypt. They needed a naval base on the coast of Lebanon or Israel, but the Phoenician cities of Sidon and Tyre held much of the mainland coast and those cities were loyal to Persia. Fifty miles south of those cities, however, the Athenians found Dor. The Athenians seized Dor from Sidon. It had an unfailing freshwater spring near the edge of the sea and to its south a lagoon and sandy beach enclosed by a chain of islets. This was precisely what the Athenian fleet needed for landing their ships and resting their crews. Dor itself was strategically situated atop a rocky promontory and was protected on its landward side by a marsh that formed a natural moat. The town had Persian-built fortifications. In addition to this, the town had straight streets and Phoenician dye pits for the purpling of cloth. For these reasons, Dor became the most remote outpost of the Athenian navy.

Tel Dor was first archaeologically investigated in the 1920s. The lower town around the tel was excavated in the 1950s. The harbor installations and other constructions, mainly south and west of the mound, were excavated in 1979 - 1984. Underwater surveys around the site were carried out by Kurt Raveh and others between 1980 and 2000. With 100–200 staff, students and volunteers per season, Dor was one of the largest and longest-sustained excavation projects in Israel. The eleven excavation areas opened have revealed a wealth of information about the Iron Age, Persian, Hellenistic and Early Roman periods.

Current excavations are being conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Haifa in co-operation with the University of Washington, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the University of South Africa, and other institutions.

Excavations at the site have yielded an apparatus for the production of a purple dye solution, dating to the Persian and Hellenistic periods, when there was still a thick layer of quicklime which served, according to scholars, in helping to separate the dye from mollusks (snails) after they had been broken and removed from their shells. These mollusks were primarily imported into the region from other places along the Mediterranean coast. The purple dye is known as royal purple, the color of the kings. It was used in the clothing of the Israelite High Priest, the tapestries in the Tabernacle, and the tzitzit (fringes) affixed to the corners of one’s four-cornered garment, such as the tallit (garment worn by Jews during prayer).

The historic Glasshouse museum building is located in kibbutz Nahsholim, about a quarter of a mile south of Tel Dor. It houses the Center for Nautical and Regional Archaeology at Dor (CONRAD) and consists of workrooms and a museum displaying the finds from Tel Dor and the surrounding area. It also documents the city's importance in the ancient world as a manufacturer of the prestigious azure and crimson colors from sea snails. The old glass-making factory was built in the 19th century by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild to make bottles for his wineries in Palestine.

Dor and Kibbutz Nahsholim offer some of the most beautiful beaches along the Mediterranean.

Tel Dor and CONRAD

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