In December 2016 – January 2017, a salvage excavation was conducted at Bet She‘arim (Permit No. A-7870; map ref. 212785–821/734251–2; Fig. 1) following damage to antiquities while the area was being prepared for private construction work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by Ya‘akov Eshkol, was directed by A. Massarwa, with the assistance of Y. Amrani and E. Bachar (administration), R. Liran (surveying and drafting), A. Dagot and C. Ben-Ari (GPS), P. Gendelman (scientific consultation), A. Peretz (photography), K. Said and M. Hater (IAA Haifa District).
The site of Bet She‘arim is located in a small valley surrounded by chalk hills that overlook the Jezreel Valley to the south and the Carmel Ridge—with the Muhraqa Monastery on its summit—to the west. The site was first inhabited in the Iron Age, but the main occupation phase was during the Roman period; it included an extensive cemetery in the Mishnaic period.
The excavation was conducted on the eastern slope of the hill to the east of the ancient settlement. Four excavation squares were opened along a northeast–southwest alignment (Fig. 2), yielding a quarry and the remains of a building.
Quarry (Fig. 3). A quarry for building stones (5.0 × 9.5 m) was unearthed at the north end of the excavation area. Quarrying negatives of various-sized building stones were visible in the rock. The rock was quarried both from north to south and from east to west, and the quarrymen apparently endeavored to exploit the thin layer of nari most suited for building blocks. The hard nari ensures the production of high-quality building stones, but it is sufficiently soft to enable quick and efficient quarrying. Once the quarrymen had removed the nari layer, they did not continue quarrying into the soft chalk. The quarry is impossible to date due to the absence of finds.
Building (Fig. 4). Part of a massive building founded on bedrock was unearthed to the southwest of the quarry; the structure was severely damaged by mechanical equipment. Part of one of its walls was unearthed (W105; length 7.5 m); it was built of ashlars (0.2 × 0.5 × 1.0 m), and only a single course was preserved. The wall was abutted on the north by a floor (L111) made of large limestones with a soil fill and small limestones between them. The wall probably served as the bottom course of a wall in an impressive building. The pottery finds from the accumulations covering Floor 111 and abutting W105 on the south (L103) included cooking casseroles (Fig. 5:1, 2) and a jar (Fig. 5:3) from the Late Roman period (second–fourth centuries CE).
A section cut along the northwest flank of the excavation area (1.2 × 11.0 m; Figs. 2: Section 1–1; 6) yielded remains of three pilasters (W113, W115, W117) built of large ashlars (0.25 × 0.50 × 0.50 m, preserved height 1.2 m). The pilasters, which were damaged by mechanical equipment while preparing the area, probably supported the building’s roof. Pilaster 115 was founded on a wall (W116) built of medium-sized ashlars; it probably served as the threshold for the entrance to an area that continued beyond the limits of the excavation. Another wall (W123), also built of medium-sized ashlars, ran along a northwest–southeast alignment. The pottery finds from the section were extremely meager, comprising a jar (Fig. 7:1) and a fragment of a northern oil lamp (Fig. 7:2) from the Late Roman period (second–fourth centuries CE).