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The rise and fall of a forgotten Phoenician city (and its connection to the Israelites)

Jpost Holy Land: More than 30 years of excavations have unearthed a Phoenician city that was extremely prosperous and indeed truly cosmopolitan.
ShowImage Tel Dor and the Carmel coast.. (photo credit:SKYVIEW LTD)

JPost Holy Land is a new column that will bring you the latest archaeology news and stories from Israel in collaboration with the University of Haifa.

The Mediterranean Sea is an enclosed, relatively small and to a large extent easily-navigated basin. Many modern historians and archaeologists claim therefore that cross-Mediterranean contacts were rather constant and continuous throughout history. In fact, however, they were rather fragile, and their sustenance (or not) depended on many factors, not least of all – politics.

The first truly ‘international’ period around the Mediterranean was in the fourteenth and thirteenth century BCE, the period archaeologists call the Late Bronze Age, when the region of present-day Israel was dominated by Canaanite city-states. Extensive maritime activity is attested in this period between polities over a vast range, from Mesopotamia to the Atlantic coast of Iberia. But in a complex process that culminated around 1200 BCE nearly all the political entities that were involved in these networks collapsed – the Mycenaean centers in Greece, the Hittite Empire in Anatolia (modern Turkey), the city-states of Canaan and Syria, most famously the city of Ugarit, and even mighty Egypt was considerably weakened.

What happened next? It is usually assumed that the main beneficiaries of this collapse were the inhabitants of the great Phoenician centers in Lebanon, such as Tyre and Sidon, who eventually, around 850-800 BCE started to colonize the West Mediterranean and their activities were long remembered in Greek and Latin history and myth. However, new evidence from Tel Dor, the major port town on Israel’s Carmel coast (just east of Kibbutz Nahsholim) shows that the process was more gradual and complex.

More than 30 years of excavations have unearthed a Phoenician city that was extremely prosperous and indeed truly cosmopolitan after the 1200 BCE collapse. It boasted monumental administrative structures, among the largest known around the Mediterranean and it maintained close commercial connections with Cyprus, Egypt and other Phoenician port cities.


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