Excavations carried out at the site by F. Vitto in 1974–1980 (Permit Nos. A-450, A-581, A-624) exposed a Byzantine-period basilical synagogue with an elaborate mosaic floor exhibiting a long halakhic (Jewish legal) description of ‘the Borders of the Land of Israel’ (Baraitha di-Tehumin
), many plaster fragments with floral designs and Aramaic inscriptions that adorned the stone walls, and many other artifacts. The synagogue, exhibiting three phases, is dated from the fourth to the seventh centuries CE, when it may have been destroyed in an earthquake, and it was subsequently abandoned (Vitto 1993
In the past, a Byzantine-period pottery workshop with three kilns was excavated (Zori 1957
), and in the Bet She’an Valley survey, sherds from the Middle and Late Chalcolithic periods, Iron Age I–II, and the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods were collected in the immediate vicinity of the site (Zori 1962
In the present excavation (27 sq m), no walls were exposed, but only two superimposed, packed-earth and pebble floors, both dating to the Byzantine period. A narrow strip (9.5 × 3.0 m with an intervening balk) was excavated along the previously mechanically-dug bicycle trail. A packed-earth living surface (L102, L103), containing several clusters of small pebbles, was exposed throughout the excavated area at a depth of 0.5 m below the ground surface (Figs. 2, 3). No walls were associated with this surface, but only a few sporadic medium-sized stones. A large quantity of Byzantine pottery sherds, as well as some glass fragments and a few animal bones overlying and pressed in the surface were a clear indication that the surface functioned as a floor in the Byzantine period. Two small probes (L104, L105), dug to a depth of 0.2 m below the floor, revealed an underlying surface composed of concentrations of smallish stones, some seemingly forming single stone rows (Fig. 4). The lower surface and the overlying accumulation layer also produced several mostly smaller Byzantine pottery sherds and glass fragments; this surface may have been an earlier floor, or possibly the make-up of the upper floor. The absence of walls in association with the two consecutive living surfaces may be due to the small, narrow area excavated, or to these surfaces being courtyard areas.
Pottery Vessels (Fig. 5). The pottery, predominantly from the upper floor, comprised imported Late Roman Red Ware bowls (Fig. 5:1–4); two plain, possibly local bowls (Fig. 5:5, 6); horizontal-handled casseroles and lids (Fig. 5:7, 8); globular cooking pots (Fig. 5:9–13); gray baggy storage jars (Fig. 5:14, 15); two amphorae (Fig. 5:16, 17); the cup-rim of a jug or flask (Fig. 5:18); a small, buff-ware lid (Fig. 5:19); and a lamp (Fig. 5:20), characteristic of the late Byzantine period (sixth–seventh centuries CE), for example from Area L at Tel Bet She’an (Johnson 2006:541–550, Figs. 5.8–5.12). The fewer and smaller sherds from the lower floors (L104, L105) were similar to the sherds from the upper floors (L102, L103).
Glass Vessels (not illustrated). About 60 identifiable and datable glass fragments were retrieved in the excavation, all attributable to the Late Byzantine–Early Umayyad periods (late sixth and seventh centuries CE). The artifacts included wine glasses with hollow ring-bases, wine glasses with rounded rims, bowl-shaped oil lamps with three suspended handles, bowl-shaped oil lamps with solid beaded stems, and bottles and jugs with rounded or in-folded rims. A single bottle was decorated with a horizontal turquoise trail below the rim. The glass vessels are similar to contemporary glass vessel repertoires uncovered at Bet She’an, and three-handled glass oil lamps were found in the Rehov synagogue itself. It is probable that they were manufactured in a local glass-production workshop, such as that uncovered next to the northern city gate of Bet She’an.
Coins. Three coins were retrieved, two in the accumulation layer on the upper floor (L100, L102) dated to the Late Roman and the Byzantine periods (half follis of Anastasius I, 507–512 CE, IAA 155617; 341–346 CE, IAA 155618), and one, a Roman provincial coin, in the accumulation layer on the lower floor (L104) dated to the Middle Roman period (third century CE, IAA 155619).
This small excavation exposed two superimposed living surfaces dated, on the basis of the associated pottery, glass and coins, to the Late Byzantine period, and possibly, into the Early Umayyad period (sixth–seventh centuries CE). The surfaces were probably consecutive floors of a courtyard, or of a room whose walls lay beyond the excavation limits. The living units were probably part of the village of Rehov, and were occupied contemporaneously to the synagogue.