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Skeleton opens Dor to ancient quake.

Researchers had nearly wrapped up summer excavations at the fortress site of Dor on the Israeli coast last August when an investigator clearing shattered remains from the floor of a structure noticed the bones of a human foot poking out of the debris. Archaeologists worked quickly over the next two days and found that the foot was connected to the crushed, contorted skeleton of a woman whose remains may help clear up how the Israelites wrested control of the city from the Phoenicians around 3,000 years ago.

The Old Testament notes that Dor and two nearby fortress settlements evaded conquest by the Israelites in the time of Joshua, but around 200 years later, in 965 B.C., all three sites fell under the dominion of King Solomon. However, the Bible does not describe how the transition of power occurred. Some scholars have assumed that King David, Solomon's father and an accomplished military commander, defeated Dor and its sister cities in battle.

But the Iron Age skeleton and its surroundings suggest that Mother Nature, not David's military prowess, undid Dor. "Doreen," as investigators dubbed the unfortunate woman, apparently died violently in a sudden, catastrophic earthquake that devastated Dor and left it vulnerable to David's army, asserts archaeologist Andrew Stewart of the University of California, Berkeley.

Doreen (shown below) seems frozen in surprise and fright, Stewart says. Her body is twisted and her hands cover her face. The earthquake apparently sent a six-foot stone wall tumbling down on her and on a storage bin full of pottery. Two boulders crushed Doreen's skull, and a jagged pottery fragment pierced her head as she fell, Stewart contends. A rock struck her right hand and drove a finger into her nose. Her spinal column was pushed up into her brain case.

Chunks of Phoenician bichrome pottery lay scattered around Doreen's skeleton. These vessels were imported by the seafaring Phoenicians to the Israeli coast about 1000 B.C., "give or take 50 years," Stewart maintains. Phoenician bichrome displays distinctive red and black designs on buffed clay.

Masses of brick cover the floors of Doreen's dwelling and additional structures explored by Stewart's team. Metal tools, flint knives, coins, and other valuable items also remain, indicating that raiders did not sack the city.

"It's reasonable to suspect that an earthquake leveled Dor as well as the two nearby fortress sites," Stewart argues. Previous archaeological digs at Dor's neighboring sites have uncovered signs of massive destruction, he says.

All three locations lie within an earthquake zone that runs from Israel across the Red Sea and into north Africa, Stewart notes. Dozens of documented earthquakes occurred in the vicinity of Dor prior to A.D. 800, he says.

Successive waves of settlers controlled Dor, beginning with the Canaanites during the 13th century B.C. The Phoenicians occupied the site around 1100 B.C.

Stewart will return to Dor next summer for his eighth consecutive year of field work. (Israeli archaeologists first excavated the site in 1980.) It is unlikely that additional human skeletons will turn up, Stewart maintains. Relatives of quake victims usually dug them out of the rubble for burial.

"It looks as though nobody bothered to dig in the room where Doreen lay," Stewart remarks. "Finding her skeleton was an incredible stroke of luck."
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Title Annotation:3,000 years-old research
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 31, 1992
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