Milestones: Ilan Sharon

Leading field archaeologist at Tel Dor in Israel

Ilan Sharon. Photo courtesy S. Matskevich.

Ilan Sharon, the former Nahman Avigad Chair of Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, passed away at his home in Mevaseret Zion, Israel, on February 24, 2023, at the age of 69. In 2022, he was honored by a festschrift: Material, Method and Meaning: Papers in Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology in Honor of Ilan Sharon (Zaphon, 2022).

In 1980, Professor Ephraim Stern invited Ilan to join him in his excavations at Tel Dor on the Carmel coast of Israel. Ilan agreed and never looked back. He took some pride that Dor was the most thoroughly excavated and published Phoenician site in the world.

While Ilan published on traditional topics involving the archaeology of the southern Levant (e.g., stratigraphy, architecture, and ceramics), many of his publications dwelt at the interface of archaeology and science, especially radiocarbon dating. These studies provided crucial data for the ongoing debate over Iron Age chronology. It gave him great satisfaction when the editors of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (as it was known then) named his article (with co-author Ayelet Giloba), “An Archaeological Contribution to the Early Iron Age Chronological Debate: Alternative Chronologies for Phoenicia and Their Effects on the Levant, Cyprus, and Greece” (BASOR 332 [2003]) as the journal’s second-most influential article of its first century of publication.

Ilan devoted great attention to developing the excavation, recording, and publishing methodologies at Tel Dor, bringing to them an exacting rigor. He was especially proud that the “Dor Method,” as reflected in the site’s field manual, influenced work at other excavations, not just in Israel but around the world.

In addition, Ilan was the driving force behind the continuing efforts to publish the great amount of data accumulated over the many seasons of work at Tel Dor. He inaugurated a series of semiannual study seasons that took place in various locales around the world, such as Boston and Jerusalem. These led to the publication of the Late Bronze and Iron Age material from Area G in 2018 and the near completion of the Persian through Roman periods report as well.

Besides his many academic accomplishments, Ilan was as a wonderful family man, colleague, friend, lover of good wine and large dogs, an excellent cook, and a teller of long and amusing stories. Ilan was unpretentious and took himself with a good deal of humor and humility.

Jeffrey R. Zorn is Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. He has worked extensively at Tel Dor on the coast of Israel and is currently working on the final publication of the Area G excavations.

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