A big excavation of a big tell naturally deserves a big article. Tel Dor, on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, especially qualifies not only because of its great height and breadth, but because of the broad span of cultures that it encompasses, now revealed by 12 years of excavation. Dor seems to be a contender for the title of “most-conquered city” in the ancient Near East. Practically everyone occupied the site at one time or another: Canaanites, Sea Peoples, Phoenicians, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. Despite such a tumultuous history, however, Dor was culturally dominated by the Phoenicians for some 800 years and now provides archaeologists with their best window onto that culture. Ephraim Stern’s discoveries at Dor have been so fruitful that we have given him three installments in which to tell the story of “The Many Masters of Dor.” In part one, “When Canaanites Became Phoenician Sailors,” he looks at the city’s earliest remains, the conquest by a Sea People tribe and the rise of the Phoenicians.
Stern is the Bernard M. Lauterman Professor of Biblical Archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he has taught in various capacities since 1965. Early in his career, Stern acted as field director at several famous excavations (Masada, Hazor, En-Gedi, Beersheba) under the direction of some of Israel’s most illustrious archaeologists (Yigael Yadin, Benjamin Mazar, Yohanan Aharoni). In addition to Tel Dor, he has directed excavations at Tel Mevorakh, Tel Kedesh and Gil’am. From 1981 to 1990, Stern edited Qedem, the bulletin of Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology. One of his books, The Material Culture of the Land of the Bible in the Persian Period (Arts and Phillips/Israel Exploration Society, 1982), won the 1984 BAS Publication Award for Best Scholarly Book on Archaeology.
It’s that time of year again. Time to make plans to revisit old friends or to make new ones—dirty friends, stone friends, ceramic friends, gold friends and, of course, human friends. Beckoning this year are 27 digs at 25 sites in Israel and Jordan that seek volunteer excavators. Whether your taste is for beach, mountain or desert; for tent camps, dormitories or luxury hotels; for Chalcolithic or Byzantine sites or anything in between, there is something for everyone in our survey of “1993 Excavation Opportunities.” To help you find the dig that suits your needs, we present descriptions of the Biblical history and excavation history of the sites and summarize vital information (dates, costs, contact addresses, etc.) in a 13-column chart. And even if you have no interest in volunteering, you can bring yourself up to date on the latest “prize finds,” extraordinary discoveries from three different sites that we have highlighted in “1993 Excavation Opportunities.”
Two articles, both by volunteers, chronicle the many rewards of participating in a dig. In the first, “Old Stones, New Friends,” Kenneth Gewertz describes the friendships he forged at the Ashkelon dig with two recent immigrants to Israel. One, an Ethiopian Jew, belongs to a people that has been suddenly swept forward 2,000 years, while the second, from the former Soviet Union, under the influence of such films as Lethal Weapon, dreams of becoming a policeman in the United States. Gewertz not only paints a portrait of his new-found companions, but places them in the context of the historic wave of immigrants that Israel is currently struggling to accommodate. In the process, he conveys the life-changing riches to be gained by working as a dig volunteer.
Gewertz has an M.A. in English literature from Princeton and is a public affairs writer at Harvard. He has written extensively on the sciences and the humanities and is currently working on a book on archaeology that he describes as an update of James Michener’s The Source, but nonfiction.
What is a day on a dig really like for volunteers? Wayne T. Butler of Marblehead, Massachusetts, shares his experiences in “Tell-ing It Like It Is.” Butler chose the Beth-Shean site because the winter dig dates coincided with the slack time for his business of boatbuilding and cabinetry in his woodworking shop. Also, he knew the area of the tell. He and his wife, Susie, had stopped at the excavated Roman theater there while on a tour of Israel.
In addition to his time at Beth-Shean, Butler has volunteered at digs in the United States. One at Saltville, Virginia, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, excavated paleo-Indian artifacts and remains of ancient animals, including mastodon and musk ox.
Are there more Dead Sea Scrolls waiting to be found? “You bet!” is the resounding answer provided by Baruch Safrai in “More Scrolls Lie Buried.” Safrai is in a particularly good position to know: He participated in the 1953 Israeli expedition to the caves at Nahal Hever, to the south of the first scroll discoveries at Qumran. In addition to recounting the many spectacular finds made in that and subsequent Israeli expeditions—caches of letters (including some to and from Bar-Kokhba, the leader of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome), biblical manuscripts and even a white-robed skeleton, which Safrai discovered himself after wedging his thin frame between boulders—Safrai explains that the earthquakes that frequent the Dead Sea area are likely to have buried many scrolls underneath collapsed rock. The time has come, Safrai writes, to utilize modern equipment to haul away the heavy boulders that now cover the floors of many caves near the Dead Sea.
Safrai is a member of Kibbutz Sa’ar, in the western Galilee. He holds a B.A. in archaeology from Haifa University and served for many years as an assistant to well-known archaeologist Yohanan Aharoni. In addition to the Dead Sea caves, Safrai has dug at several sites throughout Israel, including at his kibbutz. For more on Safrai and his varied life and pursuits, see the sidebar “Who Is Baruch Safrai?”
A big excavation of a big tell naturally deserves a big article. Tel Dor, on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, especially qualifies not only because of its great height and breadth, but because of the broad span of cultures that it encompasses, now revealed by 12 years of excavation. Dor seems to be a contender for the title of “most-conquered city” in the ancient Near East. Practically everyone occupied the site at one time or another: Canaanites, Sea Peoples, Phoenicians, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. Despite such a tumultuous history, however, Dor was culturally dominated by the Phoenicians for […]