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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Levantine States


Dor / Dora (Canaan)

In the mid-third millennium BC, city states began to appear in Syria as people benefited from interaction with Sumer and from improvements in irrigation. Within five hundred years, around 2000 BC, the same process was happening farther south and west, in the Levant, along the Mediterranean coast. Semitic-speaking Canaanite tribes occupied much of the area, creating a patchwork of city states of their own. The Phoenicians (more Canaanites) also occupied parts of this region, eventually founding their own mighty seaborne trading empire.

A minor Canaanite city state during the thirteenth century BC, Dor was located on the coast, about thirty kilometres to the south of modern Haifa in Israel. Now an archaeological mound known as Tell Dor (or el-Burj, ancient Egypt's D-jer), the site is the focus of an ongoing excavation project. Occupation began around 2000 BC, but the city's documented history only begins in the Near East's Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BC).

The Tjekker were one of the Sea Peoples who ravaged much of the Mediterranean coastline in the Bronze Age collapse of the late thirteenth century BC. Groups of them could later be found inhabiting some cities in northern Canaan which included Dor, which they had seized and subsequently ruled as a city state, turning it into a large and well-fortified city. They then came under attack by the emerging Israelites in the twelfth century BC. The city was largely subdued, becoming the capital of the Sharon province.

Phoenicians shifting cedarwood from shore to land

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger (1957), from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald Redford (Princeton University Press, 1992), from Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations, A H Sayce, from The Amarna Letters, William L Moran, 1992, from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica.)

c.1200 - 1150 BC

The entire Near East is hit by drought and the loss of surviving crops. Food supplies dwindle and the number of raids by habiru and other groups of peoples who have banded together greatly increases until, by about 1200 BC, this flood has turned into a tidal wave.

Habu relief at Medinet
Attacks by the Sea Peoples gathered momentum during the last decade of the thirteenth century BC, quickly reaching a peak which lasted about forty years

Already decaying, the Hittite empire is now looted and destroyed by various surrounding peoples, including the Kaskans and the Sea Peoples (and perhaps even selectively by its own populace). Cities such as Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre survive, while Arvad is sacked. Groups of Tjekker invade northern Canaan and settle there, with one of their groups seizing the city state of Dor.

c.1160s BC


Tjekker ruler? Defeated by the Israelites.

c.1050 BC


Prince of Dor. Mentioned in Egypt's the 'Wenamen' papyrus.

c.1050? - 990s BC

In the mid-eleventh century the city is destroyed by fire, with a huge layer of ash and debris being left behind. It seems likely that the city comes into contact with the Phoenicians to the north while they are expanding their own territory, and Dor suffers as a result.

Even so, the city is reoccupied to a minor extent, twice, before being occupied permanently by Phoenicians. It is probably the Phoenicians who are responsible for rebuilding it.

Kirbet Qeiyafa
Kirbet Qeiyafa has lain virtually undisturbed for three millennia and provides evidence of a fortress city in Davidian Israel

c.990s BC

The Old Testament records the fall of Dor to David of Israel. The Tjekker are not mentioned again in history, but this is probably due to them having been fully integrated into the native population, just like their Sea Peoples colleagues, the Philistines.

734 BC

The city becomes a vassal of Assyria. Evidence for the city's destruction by its conquerors is limited and seems to be localised to the area of the city gate. A new, Assyrian-styled gate is built, the fortifications are renovated, and commerce and industry recommence on a larger scale than ever.

Dor probably now forms the capital of the Assyrian province of Du'ru. The city is predominantly governed by Phoenicians, especially during the Achaemenid period when Sidon dominates here. The Greeks know it as Dora. It also survives into the Crusader period, before fading from history and leaving the present archaeological site of Tell Dor in today's Israel.

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