Courtesy Ephraim Stern

Tel Dor thrusts a rocky finger into the Mediterranean about 12 miles south of Haifa in Israel (see map). Founded by the Canaanites in the 20th or 19th century B.C. and occupied by various peoples through the Roman period, Dor became an important port city that conducted extensive trade with Cyprus and the countries in the Aegean. In excavations conducted since 1980, visible in the area just above the center of the photo, a number of intentionally buried figurines have emerged. These led dig director Ephraim Stern to make a general study of such objects, which in turn led him to an original observation about the development of Israelite religious practices in the period following the return of the Jews from exile in Babylonia.