The Northern Coast
This week, Ariel University hosted a field trip to Tel Dor and Haifa for the Israel Heritage department, of which archaeology is a part. Almost all of the archaeology professors and students came.
Our first stop was at Tel Dor. This is a northern site, lying on the coast of Israel. A natural bay makes it a logical place for a port, although the number of shipwrecks that underwater archaeologists have found at the site suggest that it was not a very good port.
Occupation in the area began quite early, but the sea level has risen since then, so part of the site is now underwater. It appears to have been founded in the Late Bronze Age, although there are older remains nearby. It was occupied throughout the Iron Age and the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods. It was abandoned early in the Byzantine period. Later, in the Middle Ages, a small fort stood there, and in the 19th century AD, Baron de Rothschild built a glass factory near the site to create bottles for wine from vineyards that he had also founded. The factory is now a museum.
Dor is a biblical site, although it is likely that there were multiple cities called Dor, which makes it harder to determine which biblical references are talking about Tel Dor. However, the king of Dor is listed as part of a coalition formed against Joshua and the Israelites (Joshua 11:1–2, 12:24). Later in biblical history, the governor of Dor married one of the daughters of Solomon (1 Kings 4:11).
Tel Dor also appears in Egyptian records. They report that an Egyptian priest named Wenamun was traveling to Byblos. He stopped at the port of Dor and was robbed there.
Later, with the Assyrian conquest, Dor became one of three Assyrian provinces in the region.
Haifa is a coastal city in the far north of Israel. We visited the Heicht Museum there. I had never been to the Heicht Museum, and I was very impressed. It is a large museum with a lot of artifacts from every time period.
One of their most impressive artifacts is a ship from the Persian period. Underwater archaeologists found it and very carefully removed it from the sea. They had to carefully treat the wood and saturate it with wax so that it wouldn’t crumble as soon as it dried out. It is now on display and is quite impressive.
I had to make a trip to Jerusalem this week to run some errands, and I discovered at the last minute that Jodi Magness, a well-respected archaeologist, was giving a lecture at the Albright Institute. Of course, I stayed to hear her speak. Her topic was Aelia Capitalina, which was the name of Jerusalem in the Late Roman period.
Her lecture had two main points. First, she discussed the founding date of Aelia Capitalina. There is some debate about whether the Romans founded it before or after the Bar Kokhba revolt. She argued that construction began before the revolt.
Second, she discussed the northern gate of the city. There is a gate from that period under the current Damascus Gate, and the general consensus has been that it was the northern gate of the city. However, Jodi thinks that the city gate was farther north, on the wall line of the “third wall,” which happens to run right under the Albright Institute where we were sitting. In fact, she had come to the conclusion that there had probably been a tower somewhere on the property of the Albright Institute. When she mentioned this, the assistant director spoke up, sounding rather shocked, and said that he had recently done some ground-penetrating radar on the property. He had found evidence of a tower, just as she described. So, that was a nice coincidence!
By the end of the lecture, Jodi was pretty excited about the wall and the tower, so she offered to take us on a field trip. First, we went out in the yard, and the assistant director showed Jodi where he had found the tower. Jodi threatened to come dig up the yard, and the assistant director cheerfully offered to help her.
Next, Jodi led us down the street and showed us every place where wall stones were visible. She showed us exactly where she thought the gate was, and after her success at figuring out the correct location for the tower, nobody seemed inclined to disagree. It was a great lecture and field trip. I’m glad I found out about it and decided to attend!
After all the excitement of the week, I thought that today (Friday) would be a quiet day in my dorm, giving me time to catch up on all the chores that I had let slip during the week.
However, a friend called this morning. She does photography, and she said that she needed to drive around the hills of Samaria and take some photos of certain things. She invited me to come along.
I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that, so I agreed. The hills are beautiful at any time, but particularly so right now. The grass is tall and lush and all kinds of wildflowers are blooming everywhere. She has a Jeep, so she drove the back roads and dirt trails with spectacular views of the terrain. We also stopped to check out some ancient cisterns, which I thought was a lot of fun. It was a great adventure, and I think that I know the hills and valleys of Samaria a little bit better than I did before.