Sea us on Excavation

By Sara Lantos, a student of MA program in Maritime Civilizations, the cohort of 2015-2016.

University of Haifa’s study site at the South Bay of Dor (photo by Sára Lantos)

The Maritime Civilizations Department offered a variety of interesting courses throughout the one-year program and after the work in the classroom, we had the opportunity to apply the methodologies that we’d studied in class in the field. As classes finished in June, we were looking forward to our field school at the beautiful site of Tel Dor.

Working in the shallow water (photo by Sára Lantos)

During the semester, we had an entire course about the history of Tel Dor, the history of the excavation, and different excavation methods. Finally, we got to the point when we could go to the field and work! July 3rd 2016 was the first day of the Dor Excavation. In the morning, at 5 o’clock, everyone was very sleepy, but by the time we got to HaBonim to load our gear we all got excited and wanted to jump in the water. We were in the field for two full weeks, with the excavation taking place in multiple areas: three sites in the water and two on the beach; while on the Tel another field school excavated two additional areas.

The aim of the excavation, led by Prof. Assaf Yasur-Landau was to study the Iron Age “quay” in the south bay of Dor. The quay consists of big, square stones flooded by water, and named a “quay” by the late Prof. Avner Raban.  During our excavation it appeared that this “quay” could be some other part of the Iron Age harbor but further research is needed to find out what purpose it served. We explored the quay stones from an underwater perspective in an attempt to connect the underwater squares with the beach excavation. We were working in shifts of multiple pairs of divers (because you never dive without a buddy!), and one supervisor who would supervise both safety and the archaeological work. Quasi-underwater (i.e. 60cm of water) excavation is not easy, especially when wearing full dive equipment. Since your hands are busy holding the dredger (a giant underwater pump attached to a motor on a boat), there’s nothing preventing you from hitting your dive buddy, the rocks, the archaeology, etc. because of the huge waves and currents in the water! This didn’t stop us from enjoying every day of it, and the archaeological finds were massively satisfying.


The maritime team on the last day (picture by Ehud Arkin Shalev)

On the beach, we excavated according to the established rules of terrestrial archaeology and geoarchaeology; we took sediment samples and subsequently analyzed them in the lab. The analysis consisted mainly of  FTIR analysis of the samples; a fluorescence method used to identify organic and inorganic materials and observe chemical properties.

These two weeks of field school gave us the opportunity to participate in a unique excavation which took place on land and in the water and tried to connect the stratigraphy between the two. This excavation was the first in Israel which aimed to connect stratigraphy on land and underwater. It was a great pleasure to participate in it. We also participated in the pottery reading where we learned more about the finds. Every day after the delicious lunch at Bet Oren, a nearby town, we had a meeting where we summarized the day and talked about the archaeological theoretical problems and questions. We had an amazing two weeks, learning a lot and gaining valuable experience while working with a great group of people.


“Sea US” is a series of posts featuring students from around the world who are taking part in International Maritime Civilization master’s program. To read the previous “Sea us” post click here


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