During December 2006, a salvage excavation was conducted west of Shikunim Gimel and Daleth in Bet She’an (Permit No. A-4971; map ref. NIG 24618/71265; OIG 19618/21265), in the wake of damage to antiquities during the installation of a sewer line. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Bet She’an Economic Company, was directed by W. Atrash, with the assistance of Y. Lavan (administration), T. Meltsen (surveying), A. Shapiro (GPS) and D. Syon (photography).
An almost complete rectangular mausoleum was exposed in the excavation (100 sq m); its eastern part remained buried beneath a modern path. Three building phases were identified in the structure (Figs. 1, 2). The mausoleum was erected as a single rectangular burial chamber in Phase I, which dated to the Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE); it was reinforced with a new wall casing in Phase II (second half of the fourth century CE) and a burial chamber was added to its western side in Phase III (fifth–sixth centuries CE). By the end of the Byzantine or the beginning of the Early Islamic periods, the building was destroyed and no longer used.
Phase I. The mausoleum was constructed in the third century CE as a rectangular hall that was oriented east–west (exposed length c. 7 m, outer width 5.7 m, inner width 3.5 m). The walls, preserved to floor level height, were built of basalt fieldstones and founded on a clean layer of travertine deposits. The entrance, probably set in the eastern wall that was not exposed, faced the old city of Bet She’an.
Six rectangular burial cells were exposed below the floor level in the western part of the hall (E, F, G, K, L, M; 0.8 × 1.9 m, depth 1.4 m; Fig. 3). The cells, built of fieldstones and mud bricks, were paved with small flat stones set in place upon a clean layer of travertine deposits. Although the cells were found plundered and filled with stones and gray soil, several of them had heaps of bones mixed with a few potsherds from the Late Roman period on their floors. The burial cells were covered with bitumen slabs, a fragment of which was preserved in situ (Cell E). The slabs rested on the outer foundation walls of the mausoleum and on the partition walls of the cells, serving as a floor for the hall. It can be assumed that sarcophagi, which did not survive, sat on the floor of the hall; the sarcophagus fragments found near the structure may have possibly come from the mausoleum.
Phase II. Minor changes to the plan of the mausoleum occurred in the middle of the fourth century CE, probably after the earthquake of 363 CE. A wall casing of basalt fieldstones (W109, W124; width 0.9 m) was added to the structure, rendering the building c. 7.3 m wide (Fig. 4).
Phase III. A rectangular burial chamber was joined to the western side of the mausoleum (outer dimensions 3.5 × 6.0 m) in the fifth or sixth centuries CE. Its outside walls consisted of basalt fieldstones and were preserved to floor level. Four rectangular burial cells (A–D; 0.7 × 2.2 m) whose walls were built of mud bricks (width 0.25 m; Fig. 5) were installed below the floor level of the room. The cells were found robbed and filled with stones and gray soil.
The mausoleum, located c. 500 m west of the old city walls and alongside the ancient road that led from Bet She’an to Samaria, was probably part of a large cemetery that extended along both sides of Nahal Harod and west of Bet She’an.