At first, our discovery—an unadorned clay jar—seemed deceptively modest. For months we had been excavating an area overlooking the southern harbor of ancient Dor, south of Haifa on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. Digging conditions had been particularly arduous. To shield ourselves from the intense daytime heat—temperatures often reached triple digits, especially in the absence of a cool sea breeze—we put up a black gauze screen over the dig squares. Just beyond Dor’s southern harbor, a picturesque beach, frequently filled with bathers, proved tantalizing: Our volunteers were often distracted, longing for a refreshing dip as they perspired under the unforgiving Mediterranean sun.
We found the unassuming clay jar at the end of the 1995 excavation season, and though we had no idea what it contained, we decided to leave it in situ until the following year, when we could excavate it in its complete context. Before removing it, we wanted to be sure of the stratigraphy—the stratum, or layer, with which the vessel was associated.