During August–October 1998 underwater salvage surveys were conducted on the southern side of the southern anchorage at Dor (License No. G-29/1998; map ref. NIG 19143/72365; OIG 14143/22365). The surveys, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, were directed by E. Galili and J. Sharvit of the IAA Marine Archaeology Unit, with the assistance of D. Syon (numismatics), M. Sharon (Arabic script), K. Raveh, D. Moscowitz and H. Sal‘i (diving), S. Ben-Yehuda, T. Sagiv and C. Amit (photography), E. Altmark, L. Kupershmidt, M. Levine and R. Vinitzki (metallurgical laboratory).
Remains of a sailing vessel and cargos, scattered across an area of c. 2 dunams (Fig. 1), were discovered. Among the remains pulled out of the sea was an assemblage of objects, which originally was aboard a shipwreck from the seventh century CE, as well as other objects dating to several periods. The finds were noted during a surface survey of the seabed and several were uncovered with the aid of an underwater metal detector.
The artifacts, located at a distance of c. 30–60 m from the shoreline and scattered across an area of 40 × 50 m, at a depth of 2–4 m below sea level, were lying on the clay seabed that was exposed during storms when the sand covering it was swept aside. Two clusters of rectangular ashlar stones (25 × 25 × 60 cm), some of which have a rectangular slot, were uncovered c. 5–15 m west and east of the concentration of finds. Several heaps of unworked ballast stones (length 0.20–0.35 m) were found c. 15 m north of the shipwreck’s assemblage and c. 20 m to the west and southwest.
The boat’s hull was survived by several dozen iron nails (length 13–21 cm), several of which were covered with remains of plant fibers that apparently were used for sealing. Dozens of wooden pulleys (diam. 4 cm), probably used in the rigging of the sailing vessel or as floats for a fishing net, were found within a marine conglomerate. The numismatic finds included bronze coins dated to the first half of the seventh century CE and a corroded clump of coins (weight 433 grams) that contained 53 coins dating from the time of Anastasius I until Constans II (Fig. 2). The latest coin dated to the years 659–663 CE. A very thick ceramic jar with two small loop handles (Fig. 3) contained the remains of grapes that included pits and soft tissue-like substance (raisins?). The bronze objects consisted of a cooking pot with two loop handles that was probably used by the boat’s crew (Fig. 4) and a lead-filled weight with a ring that could be hung from the arm of a steelyard. The weight (weighing 7.41 kg) has the shape of a human bust, probably that of a woman, whose head is coiffed with curls. The woman is wearing a garment with folds and a necklace (Fig. 5). Her right hand, bent close to her chest, holds a circular object and is partly hidden beneath the garment. Her left hand is also bent close to her chest and holds a rectangular object (goblet?). Attached to the bottom of the weight is a thin bronze plate riveted to the lead fill by six iron nails. The iron objects included tool kit of a boat’s carpenter, which comprised an axe with a socket, a carpenter’s hammer with a claw for removing nails (Fig. 6), a hand drill with a wooden handle (Fig. 7) and a long pointed iron rod (length c. 90 cm) perforated at the sharp end. A set of fishing gear included a basket for kindling made of flat iron strips with a socket for a wooden handle (Fig. 8). This object, used for night fishing, would have a fire set in it to attract the fish and aid in trapping them by tossing a casting net or using a harpoon. Other artifacts included the iron head of a harpoon, composed of five pointed bars (Fig. 9), which was used in fishing, dozens of rectangular lead weights for a fish casting net and a lead plumb that was used in measuring the depth of the water and sampling the seabed. A depression at the bottom of the plumb revealed the remains of fat that belonged to a large herbivorous animal. The animal fat in the depression helped the sediment samples on the seabed to stick to it. Such a lead plumb is still used by coastal fishermen in modern times, providing crucial information with regard to the seabed and the depth of the water. Next to the assemblage of objects was a thin bronze plaque (7 × 7 cm) that bore horizontal and vertical engraving, forming sixteen squares. Arabic letters that symbolize numbers are engraved in each square. The script is indicative of the Ottoman period and therefore, the plaque cannot be ascribed to the seventh-century CE assemblage. A concentration of seven iron ingots (each weight c. 16 kg; Fig. 10) was found c. 30 m southwest of the assemblage. Nearby were several unworked tree trunks, apparently oak, with their bark still intact (diam. 0.15–0.30 m, length 0.5–1.5 m; Fig. 11). The wood was not dated due to factors stemming from the condition of the sea and the covering of the finds with sand; therefore, it could not be determined whether the tree trunks and the iron ingots belonged to the seventh-century CE assemblage.
Based on the coins, the size of the iron nails that were used to connect the hull planks to the boat’s ribs, and the outline of the scattered objects on the seabed, it is reasonable to assume that a medium-sized wooden boat, dating to the seventh century CE, sank here probably while at anchor, during a winter storm or as a result of some hostile action. The fishing tackle shows that the sailing vessel was engaged in various fishing activities, whereas the basket for kindling is the first viable archaeological evidence for night fishing in antiquity.