New Dating and Contextual Evidence for the Fragmentary Timber Remains Located in the Dor D Site, Israel
The laboratory report for a wood-sample taken from one of the ship-timbers discovered at the Dor D site for C14 analysis is completed. This dating result indicates a potential revision for the group of timbers in this deposit and, consequently, new chronological contexts for their construction characteristics. Subsequent excavation and survey in the lagoon has resulted in a revised interpretation for the components of the Dor D deposit. Taken together, this new dating and contextual evidence helps to clarify what these timbers can and cannot contribute to the understanding of trends in ship construction.
During the authors’ excavation and recording of the timber remains from the Dor D area of Tantura Lagoon in 1999, a sample was taken from a timber for C14 dating analysis. This is the second sample from the group of timbers, the first one taken during the initial survey (Kingsley and Raveh, 1996: 65). The date from this more recent sample is divergent from previously-reported dates. Additionally, subsequent excavation and survey work in the lagoon through 2004 has shed new light on the interpretation of the Dor D site’s formation processes and the inter-relationship of its individual components (although Dor D itself was not re-excavated). This new dating and contextual evidence for the timbers necessitates a new contextualization of the construction features and the contribution this evidence makes to archaeological research.
Modern Tantura Lagoon is a small bay partially protected by four small offshore islands, and bordered to the north by a promontory where the site of Tel Dor lies (Fig. 1). Evidence suggests that it has served as a natural harbour for vessels of numerous cultures for more than 3000 years. Despite the partial land barriers, this bay is subject to open-sea storms that alternately remove, deposit, and redistribute sand. There is also a north-south current that maintains a cut through the bay, providing a navigable passage for small fishing vessels. Hence the sea-floor is in a perpetual state of flux and almost certainly has been for millennia. Within this environment, submerged cultural remains are periodically exposed and sometimes moved before being re-covered. The area designated as the Dor D site is located near numerous other previously-investigated sites within the bay, and lay beneath 2 m of water at the time of excavation. The timbers that comprise Dor D consisted of 14 fragmentary hull-planks situated within a matrix of sand, shells, ceramic fragments, and stones; no other ship-timbers such as a keel, frames, or posts were found in the immediate area. A generous estimate of the total area of planking-timber represented is approximately 4 m2 , with only two timber fragments over 3 m long; eight of the 14 timbers were 2 m or less in length. Ceramic fragments and stones were located throughout the site both atop and beneath the timbers.
Since the excavation of the Dor D site, much has been learned about site-formation in the Tantura Lagoon. Subsequent work includes the excavation of five wreck-sites (Dor C, DW2, Dor 2001/1, Dor 2002/2, and Tantura F), the digging of numerous test-trenches, and probe-surveys, which were carried out between 2000 and 2004. Using a water-jet probe; entries were made every 1 m on grids situated generally northwest of Dor D. Based on this more recent research in the lagoon, the site-formation processes for each of the artefact groups is much clearer.
As stated in a previous article (Kahanov and Royal, 2001: 257–8), the 14 planking-timbers were in varying degrees of degradation and had shell impressions on their upper surfaces, all of which suggest episodes of intermittent burial and exposure. These planks varied in their orientation, for example, planks 13–14 lay perpendicular and c. 100–150 mm deeper than planks 1–5. Given the disjointed position of many planking fragments and the variation in their depths, it cannot be concluded that they all originated from the same vessel. However, the similarity in construction and fastening characteristics exhibited by all of these planking-timbers, discussed below, and their proximity to one another, supports their having originated from a single vessel (Kahanov and Royal, 2001). Therefore, this will be the premise for further discussion.
A mixture of amphora and other sherds, their dates spanning a millennium, as well as modern roofing tiles, was found throughout the Dor D site. The pottery was mainly Late Byzantine, often mixed with sherds dating to the 5th century BC. Ceramic fragments were found above, between, and beneath the timbers. Excavation and survey results subsequent to the 1999 season indicate that the ceramic deposit continues roughly in a north-north-westerly direction for at least another 150 m, and probably further. Indeed, similar ceramic deposits were noted in every area of the lagoon thus far explored from 1994 to 2004. This sherd-scatter was found across each of the excavations and surveys conducted through 2004, including the Tantura A and B sites and trenches IV, VII, and IX, all of which were excavated prior to 1999, as well as Trench 9, Dor 2001/1, and Tantura F excavated later (Carmi and Segal, 1995; Sibella, 1995; Kahanov and Royal, 1996; Kahanov, 1997; Royal and Kahanov, 2000; Mor, 2002). Although unpublished, a similar mixture of sherds was discovered during the excavation of the 5th-century BC Ma’agan Mikhael wreck-site located approximately 9 km south of Tantura lagoon. It is not yet determined how far the ceramic deposit extends from the Dor D site in other directions. With the primary current moving in a southward direction, it seems unlikely that the Dor D site represents the southern limit of this ceramic deposit. However, during particularly high seas, waves enter from the southwest contra the current inside the lagoon. These ceramic clusters apparently exist also in the northern bay of Tantura lagoon, just to the south of Tel Dor, now disconnected by a tombolo.
No grids or reference points for spatial or depth controls were employed during the collection of sherds at the Dor D site. The only reference points were utilized in the process of timber recording. Furthermore, numerous ceramic sherds remained under and around the site throughout the excavation period, and had not been recovered by the time of post-excavation reburial. The limited conclusions that can be drawn thus far from ceramic finds in Tantura Lagoon are that a significant amount of Byzantine activity, shipping and material probably passed through this anchorage. Due to the relatively ubiquitous nature of the ceramic deposits, and the continual movement to which they are subject, these cannot provide evidence for the dating or provenience of the Dor D timbers.