eastern Mediterranean seaport mentioned in biblical accounts in connection with the Israelite conquest of Canaan. The site is located on the Carmel coast, about 21 km (13 mi.) south of Haifa, at the site of modern-day Khirbet el-Burj.


An Egyptian inscription found in Nubia that dates to the reign of Rameses II (thirteenth century BCE) contains the earliest known reference to Dor in a list of Syro-Phoenician coastal cities. Dor is cited also in the account of the Egyptian emissary Wenamun's journey to Byblos (c. 1100 BCE), as is Dor's ruler, Beder, king of the Tjeker (Sikels), one of the marauding Sea Peoples who invaded the Levant in the twelfth century BCE.

In the Bible, the king of Dor is listed among the many defeated Canaanite rulers whose lands were distributed to the Israelites (Jos. 12:23). Material remains suggest, however, as does Joshua 17:12–13, that the site, allotted to the tribe of Manasseh, was populated by Canaanites until the reign of King David in the tenth century BCE, when Dor was finally conquered by the Israelites. Later, when King Solomon reorganized Israel into administrative districts, he made Dor the capital of the fourth administrative district, with his son-in-law Ben-Abinadab as governor (1 Kgs. 4:11).

After the entire coastal region of the northern kingdom was conquered by Tiglath-Pileser III In 732 BCE, Dor became the capital of an Assyrian province extending from the Carmel range to Jaffa. Sidon apparently ruled Dor in the Persian period (sixth–fourth centuries BCE), but in the Hellenistic period the city became a powerful fortress that two Seleucid kings were unable to take, either by land or sea. Dor and its fortified neighbor, Straton's Tower (later Caesarea), were ruled by the despot Zoilus until the two cities were conquered by Alexander Jannaeus in the late second century BCE. [See Caesarea.] The Hasmoneans then ruled Dor until 63 BCE, when the Roman general Pompey conquered the city but granted it independence. Coins minted at Dor during the Roman period indicate that the inhabitants worshiped Zeus and Astarte, but there are literary references to a Jewish community and synagogue during the reign of Agrippa I (41–44 CE). At the beginning of the third century Dor was abandoned.

In the late fourth century CE, St. Jerome described Dor as lying in ruin, but excavators have uncovered two distinct periods of Byzantine church constructions, beginning in the fourth century and ending in the seventh century CE, outside and at the front of the mound. The area lay uninhabited until the eleventh century, when the Crusader fortress of Merle was built on the mound; it was destroyed shortly thereafter.


The first excavations at Dor were conducted In 1923 and 1924 by the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem under the direction of John Garstang. J. Leibowitz, on behalf of the Israel Department of Antiquities, excavated north of the mound In 1950 and 1952. Leibowitz discovered sections of a Roman theater as well as the Byzantine church mentioned above. Located east of the mound, the church complex, comprising about 1,000 sq m, was fully excavated between 1979 and 1983 by an Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums team led by C. Dauphin.

Beginning In 1980, large-scale excavations were resumed at the site by Ephraim Stern under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Exploration Society. Findings from seven main areas of the mound indicate that Dor was first inhabited at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age IIA (c. 2000 BCE) and was occupied virtually without a gap until the third century BCE. After Herod the Great built the harbor at Caesarea in the first century BCE, Dor began to decline and eventually was abandoned.

Archaeological Remains.

A few MB IIA buildings were uncovered along the western edge of the site, which the sea has eroded to bedrock. No Late Bronze buildings were uncovered, but scarabs and pottery from the period were found.

A massive mud-brick wall running north–south along the eastern fringe of the mound is the characteristic feature of Early Iron Age Dor. This wall (about 3 m high and 2.5 m deep) was reinforced along its exterior by a sand rampart. Two rooms were partially excavated along the wall's interior and several vessels, similar to ones uncovered at other sites along the Syro-Phoenician coast, were found in situ. These rooms were destroyed by a conflagration, after which the wall went out of use. These Early Iron remains at Dor probably date from 1150 to 1050 BCE and likely are evidence of an impressive fortified Sikil settlement.


DOR. View of excavated areas from the east. (Courtesy E. Stern)

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Several new settlement phases dating from the second half of the eleventh century BCE were uncovered in various areas of the mound. Among the important material finds from these Iron Age strata were Early Cypriot vessels, some Phoenician bichrome ware and black-on-red vessels, and local pottery. Dor was destroyed at the end of the tenth century BCE, probably at the hands of the Egyptian pharoah Sheshonq (biblical Shishak). The town was refortified during the ninth century BCE with the addition of a solid offset-inset wall and a four-chambered gate. Not long after the destruction of this fortification by Tiglath-Pileser III, at the end of the eighth century BCE, the Assyrians rebuilt the wall and added a two-chambered gate; this fortification system lasted until the mid-fourth century BCE, when it was probably destroyed in the Sidonian revolt against the Persians (348 BCE).

Dor's cosmopolitan character during the Persian period is indicated both by abundant and varied material remains and by evidence of imported city planning. The eastern part of the mound was a residential district laid out according to the orthogonal Hippodamian plan, in which living units were divided into long, narrow blocks (about 15 m wide) separated by streets intersecting at right angles. Lengthwise streets ran parallel to the city wall. Unusually large quantities of local and imported pottery, especially Attic ware, were uncovered in two Persian period strata; some types were rare—such as large wine amphoras, the first found in coastal Israel. Many figurines, statuettes, and seals also were uncovered, as were several ostraca—among them the first Greek inscriptions from the Persian period discovered in Israel—and many Phoenician cult objects, primarily pottery figurines, stone statuettes, and faience amulets, some recovered in situ.

The orthogonal layout remained virtually unchanged during the Hellenistic period, when urban planning was evident in the southern as well as eastern areas of the mound. Houses at least two stories high were built on the same narrow blocks as in the Persian period, but with different partitions between them, and in the same Phoenician style, with outer walls of alternating ashlar piers and a rubble fill. Some residences had cellars.

The remains of some of the largest temples yet uncovered in Israel were exposed on the western slope of the mound. These temples—all located near the seashore—probably were built in the Hellenistic period but continued in use into the Roman period. A virtual ceramic typology of Hellenistic Palestine was uncovered in these strata. By this period Dor had become a thoroughly Greek city, as indicated by such pagan finds as a marble head of Hermes, the head of a pottery figurine (probably of Aphrodite), and a “temple-boy” pottery figurine.

Late Roman remains were uncovered in two main strata. In the earlier stratum a spacious piazza was discovered at the intersection of the city's main street, which extended out from the eastern gate, and a long north–south street. A well had been dug in the center of the piazza, which was paved with large, dressed stones. A drainage system, with its main drain running east–west and auxiliary channels joining it from the north and south, was uncovered under the pavement of the street and the piazza. Public buildings surrounded the piazza in this period. One of them—a storehouse, khan, or barrack—had an internal courtyard surrounded by rows of rooms. One row abutted and ran parallel to the long north–south street; each of its rooms opened onto the courtyard, but only the entrance hall also opened onto the street. Other building remains from the earlier Roman stratum included a spacious and well-planned residential quarter with intersecting streets and a large ashlar structure; the latter was uncovered at the foot of the mound, indicating that construction in this period extended beyond the boundaries of the mound.

Four large square piers were exposed outside and east of the city gate. These piers mark the western terminus of the Roman aqueduct through which water was brought to Dor from springs in the Carmel range. A paved path ran between the piers, at least one of which apparently had an arch. A sacred enclosure on the western slope of the mound seems to relate to a massive retaining wall whose orientation follows that of an earlier north–south street just east of it that was the main access road to the Hellenistic temples (see above). In the later Roman period the street was blocked by the retaining wall. Sherds were uncovered along the wall of the enclosure that seem to belong to the foundation trench of the retaining wall—further evidence that these remains belong to the later Roman stratum. Also part of that stratum was a large piazza at the center of the mound. Two massive foundations north of the piazza extend east and west of it and may have carried a portico that surrounded the city's forum. Two more structures dating to the later stratum were uncovered on the mound's western slope. One was a bath, in which two rooms, perhaps the caldarium and tepidarium, were excavated. The other structure, which had a barrelvault roof, was only partially excavated.


  • Dahl, George. “The Materials for the History of Dor.” Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences 20 (1915): 1–131. General study of all written sources related to the city of Dor.
  • Stern, Ephraim. Dor, the Ruler of the Seas: Ten Years of Excavations in the Israeli-Phoenician Harbor Town on the Carmel Coast. Jerusalem, 1994. Summary of the recent excavations at Tel Dor.

Ephraim Stern