Underwater Archaeology at Tel Dor, Israel

Ever a fan of Middle Eastern archaeology, I thought I would share this article about the current archaeological work happening at Israel’s Tel Dor.


“It’s cold. It’s silent. It’s murky. It’s the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and it’s the hangout of choice for students of maritime archaeology, seeking clues to the dawn of modern man. Or in the case of participants on Haifa University’s new English MA in Maritime Civilizations, signs of a harbor at the ancient site of Tel Dor.

The Tel Dor expedition, some 30 kilometers south of Haifa, is a collaboration between Dr. Assaf Yasur-Landau and Dr. Ayelet Gilboa of the University of Haifa, and Prof. Ilan Sharon of the Hebrew University. Students of the new English-language program, which started its second year this fall, take part in underwater surveys of Tel Dor mostly in shallow waters but also at depths of up to 10 meters of water.

The documented history of Tel Dor begins in the the 13th century BCE and continues through to the Crusader era. Excavators are seeking evidence of the location of a harbor or harbors at the site that are documented in written sources. During the Roman and later Crusader periods the harbor seems to have been in the town’s northern bay– but earlier, during the Iron Age, and perhaps even in the Bronze Age, it seems to have been located in Tel Dor’s south bay. Researchers still don’t know for sure why the harbor moved.

On most dives, the students found pottery, including bits of storage jars used in maritime transport, says Yasur-Landau, head of the Haifa University Department of Maritime Civilizations. But they also found large stone anchors. These, he says, are clear evidence that boats used to anchor in both bays. Some of the anchors in the south bay may date to the Iron Age. Others may be even older, dating to the Bronze Age. In the north bay, the students found pottery dating to the Persian period (ca. 560-333 BCE) alongside the anchors. Evidently the north bay was in use during that period.

The Crusader quay and the geek

Israel_Tel_Dor_01Maritime activity in the north Tel Dor bay continued to the Crusader period, says Yasur-Landau: the students found one amphora and some bowls from the Crusader period, which may attest to the location of a Crusader quay.” Maura Schonwald, 25, from Oklahoma City, one of the five Americans who took part in the pilot, recalls the thrill of finding the anchors. “You are doing these search patterns in the water and all of a sudden you find a corner of something coming out of the sand, and you brush the sand away and it’s something that’s 3,000 years old. You’ve found it, and it’s part of history,” she says.”

Read the full article here.



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