Area A. Six squares were excavated, revealing the remains of buildings from the Ottoman period; the wall foundations superposed the wall remains from the Mamluk period. The buildings from the Mamluk period were founded on travertine bedrock and probably had their beginnings in the Early Islamic period. A well and two refuse pits from the Mamluk period were examined as well. Remains of a low curved plastered wall (length c. 20 m) were discovered in the lowest level; other sections of this wall were exposed elsewhere with a backhoe. It was probably an oval-shaped installation (min. diam. 35 m), dating to the Mamluk period.

 

Area A yielded an amazing quantity of complete and intact pottery vessels from the Mamluk period. The vessels were handmade and burnished; some were decorated with brown geometric patterns. Two intact kraters and a large number of platters, bowls and jugs that were discarded in what seems to have been a refuse pit were recovered from the buildings. This pit also contained complete glass vessels. Finds predating the Mamluk period were not detected in the area, except for flint implements above bedrock that were probably swept over there.

 

Area B. Six squares were excavated, exposing residential dwellings and a courtyard, wherein two construction phases were discerned. The early phase included well-constructed buildings that were erected on virgin soil. They were built of dressed stones arranged in straight courses, with stone chips between them; the walls were preserved   c. 1.5 m high. In the late phase, poorly built walls and partitions were added to the structures. Three pits that could be wells or cesspits, as well as a covered water conduit and remains of installations that included tabuns and a donkey mill fragment, were also uncovered. Judging by the finds in the early phase, it was dated to the Early Islamic period (8th–11th centuries CE), whereas the late phase was dated to the Mamluk period (13th–15th centuries CE). A few pottery fragments from the Byzantine and Hellenistic periods were collected close to virgin soil.

 

Area C (Fig. 2). Part of a well-preserved paved road (width 3.5 m) was exposed in the four excavated squares. It paralleled the old road that traversed the excavation and was located 1–2 m to its west. The road was paved with rectangular basalt stones, arranged symmetrically on either side of a covered drainage channel that ran along its center. In the middle of the area most of the paving stones were plundered and the drainage channel remained open after its covering stones were removed. An extensive repair to the road in the southern part of the area was noted. The paving stones were apparently lifted and reset haphazardly at a level c. 0.2 m higher than the original elevation; architectural elements in secondary use were incorporated within the repositioned pave-ment stones. Numerous folles from the 6th century CE were retrieved from below the refurbished section of the road, indicating the time of the repair. A raised stylobate that consisted of meticulously dressed basalt stones was built along the western side of the road; it bore a row of columns, some of which were revealed in the area, in secondary use. A mosaic-paved sidewalk (width c. 2.5 m) and the facade of a row of shops nearby were discovered west of the stylobate. The mosaic sidewalk in front of the entrance to one of the shops had a carefully executed Greek inscription (Fig. 3) incorporated into it, which read “to the victory of Tyche of the Blues”. The inscription wished victory for the blue faction, known from the Byzantine period as one of the two circus factions (the blues and the greens). The workmanship of the mosaic around the inscription was not as fine as that of the inscription itself; the original inscription was probably preserved when repairs were made to the road.

 

Walls from the Umayyad period superposed the level of the road; apparently, most of the road did not function during this period and the shops were enlarged, encroaching on its area. One of the stoa columns in the road was found standing on its base, in situ, while other columns were joined, in secondary use, into buildings from the Umayyad period. In this period, the mosaic sidewalk was probably not visible anymore and a complete water jar was placed above it and recorded, in situ. Very close above the road level numerous coins from the Umayyad period were gathered.

 

About half a meter above the Umayyad-period remains, scant remains of walls and a hearth from the Abbasid period, postdating the earthquake of 749 CE, were unearthed. They were probably built on the collapsed ruins of the stoa and shops. A gold coin from this period, dating to 776/7 CE (IAA 96651), was recovered.

 

In the middle of the area, near where the paving stones were plundered from the road, a vault that was partially built on the paving stones and partially severed them, was uncovered. The vault yielded modern finds and therefore, it was probably a septic tank from the Ottoman period.

 

 

Area D. Eight squares were excavated, revealing the southern extension of the road from the Byzantine period. All the stone paving from the road was robbed in this area and only a wide plaster roadbed, the drainage channel that ran along its center and another channel that drained into it from the west, had survived. Within the plaster roadbed c. 30 tiny coins turned up; based on a preliminary identification, they were dated to the end of the 4th–5th centuries CE—the time of the road’s construction. The stylobate was not preserved in this area. Yet, a long section of the mosaic sidewalk (length c. 22 m) decorated with various geometric patterns was traced. On the western side of the sidewalk the foundations of the shops’ facades were discovered; the foundation of one of the partitions between the shops included two capitals, as well as a column drum, in secondary use. The shops’ foundations severed a ceramic pipe and parts of plastered conduits that were probably preserved from an agricultural area that existed there prior to the construction of the road.

 

Area J. Better-preserved remains of the road from the Byzantine period (length c. 70 m) were noted in this area, though its course had slight bends. In the middle of the area the road intersected with another road, which continued to the west and may have led to the remains of a bathhouse from the Late Roman period that had been excavated in the past, c. 100 m west of here (HA 31–32:8). The sidewalk section at the intersection was paved with large limestone slabs and the passage leading past the row of stores was paved with especially large basalt slabs. Almost the entire stylobate was exposed, including two column bases, in situ. Here too the remains of the original shops, which were enlarged into the area of the road in the Umayyad period, were recovered. A column drum in one of the shops had been placed horizontally as a partition, and in the corner of a nearby shop was a large ceramic krater that contained two small intact jars. A tabun was in another shop and close by were several complete buff-ware flasks that probably originated in a workshop, whose debris was excavated in Area F (below). A few of the shops contained several square, red sandstone pavers that were not in situ, and may have constituted the remains of the shops’ original floor. All segments of the road in Areas C, D and J seem to have been built according to a single plan and contemporaneously, probably in the 5th century, or at the latest, the beginning of the 6th century CE.

 

Area E. Four squares were excavated; three comprised large accumulations of potsherds, dating to the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, particularly the Umayyad period. The fourth square had a similar dump of pottery fragments, though below it were the remains of a well-constructed building (Fig. 4). A square room with thick walls and broad doorways in three of its walls were preserved from the building. The walls were built of fieldstones, except for the doorjambs, doorways and corners that consisted of dressed stones. The southern wall was built entirely of fieldstones and was possibly a later renovation of the original wall. Some 1.8 m north of the room was another wall, similar in its construction to the walls of the room; it had a broad doorway, facing the one in the room’s northern wall. A corridor between the two walls had pillars at its two ends that constricted the passage and probably supported arches. Approximately 1.8 m west of the room was the corner of another room, wherein a column base was incorporated. A small space, which may have been a courtyard, paved with small fieldstones mixed in mortar bedding, was discovered to the east of the room. In the northern part of the space was a wall, whose bottom course was built of limestone ashlars and the other courses—of fieldstones. Two column drums, a fragment of an Ionic capital and the bottom stone of a basalt donkey mill were found in this space. Remains of a water conduit were detected south of the building. Large concentrations of pebbles, snail shells and worn potsherds that were swept here and stratified probably after the building was abandoned were recorded in several places in the area.

 

It seems that the building remains were those of a large farmhouse. Its beginning may date to the Roman period, to which the ashlar-built limestone wall, column drums and capital are attributed. A preliminary examination of the ceramic finds indicated that most of the building remains apparently dated to the Byzantine period. In the Umayyad period most of the doorways in the square room and in the wall to its north were sealed off with a pebble and fieldstone fill and the room’s southern wall was probably rebuilt. Judging by the pottery fragments and coins on the floor of the space to the east of the building, the final use of the room should probably be dated to the Umayyad period as well.

 

Area F. Four squares (A–D) were excavated, revealing wall remains that did not join up to form a coherent building plan. The upper stratum in each of the squares contained fragments of pottery vessels from the Mamluk period, yet no connection was established between them and the wall remains. A floor section, without walls, clearly dating to the Mamluk period, was exposed only in Sq C. In Sq A was a rock-cut, plastered installation, probably a water reservoir, which subsequently had a water cistern hewn in its bottom. A vertical ceramic pipe was incorporated into the reservoir’s western wall; it drained into another water cistern that was not excavated. A large quantity of ceramic finds from the Abbasid period, including complete vessels, was retrieved from the installation; however, it seems that the installation dated to the Umayyad period. Another wall in this square, probably dating to the Abbasid period, was flanked by a thick layer of ash, overlaid with large clusters of potsherds, some of them deformed, which mainly belonged to undecorated buff-ware-type flasks. These clusters were apparently the debris of a pottery workshop that produced flasks. The stratigraphy in Sq A indicated that the upper parts of the walls in the rest of the squares should be dated to the Abbasid period; it seems they constituted a repair or reuse of earlier walls from the Byzantine period.

 

The remains of a building that probably dated to the Byzantine period (Fig. 5) were uncovered at a considerable depth below the layers of the Early Islamic period. The walls of buildings in Sqs B and C descended to a depth of 4 m below surface, where a plaster floor was noted on bedrock. These squares also contained large amounts of limestone ashlar collapse and a very large quantity of small black and white tesserae, as well as a carbonized wooden beam that may have fallen from the second story. Close to the building’s plaster floor were fragments of several pottery vessels, among them fragments of Cypriot Red Slip Ware, suggesting the building dated to the end of the Byzantine period. The top of the Byzantine-period building was lower than the strata from the Early Islamic period and it therefore seems that the builders from the later period were completely unaware of that structure’s presence there. The floor in the Byzantine-period building was c. 2 m lower than the road from this period in Areas C, D and J; hence, it can be assumed that the surface in antiquity was uneven or the floor in Area F belonged to a cellar that was almost entirely bedrock hewn.

 

Area G. Three squares were excavated; building remains from the Mamluk period and two modern refuse pits that penetrated into the building remains were revealed. The excavation in this area, which yielded pottery fragments from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, was suspended due to technical reasons.

 

Area H. Three squares that consisted of a complex of walls and floors that probably belonged to a residential building were excavated; the remains were founded on bedrock and comprised several rooms, a courtyard and cisterns, wherein two construction phases were discerned. A number of rooms that had two beaten earthen floors, one atop the other, were attributed to the early phase (c. 2 m thick), which was dated to the Early Islamic period. A pit, probably a water cistern, was cut into the floor of one of the rooms. Most of the rooms continued in use during the late phase, which also possessed two beaten-earth floors, c. 0.1 m one above the other. A courtyard with a stone floor that was lower than the two earthen floors of the late phase was noted as well. A stone-lined drainage pit equipped with a built conduit that led to the southeast was found below the stone pavement in the courtyard. The late phase dated to the Crusader/Mamluk period. The building remains yielded ceramic finds that included some complete vessels, dating to the Early Islamic and Crusader/Mamluk periods.

 

A long section of the Byzantine-period road was revealed, but no other building remains survived next to it. It seems, therefore that most of the area surrounding the road was undeveloped, probably farmland. In the salvage excavation conducted by Y. Alexandre in 1995 on Ha-’Arba‘a Boulevard in Bet She’an, c. 100 m south of the road segment, the foundation remains of a circular wall from the Byzantine period were discovered. This foundation was similar in its dimensions to the circular towers that were recorded in several places in the city walls of Bet She’an; it seems that this was the tower’s base of the city’s southern gate. If this assumption is valid, then this must be the gate referred to in the Rehov inscription as the Pilei de-campon, which is the gate to the Roman camp that was situated on Tel Shalem, south of the city. In this case, the road section was built after Bet She’an was enclosed with a city wall in the 4th or 5th century CE. It was constructed, however, in an area of land reserves that was intended for future development. The excavation showed that these reserve tracts were not fully utilized and the region remained semi rural until the Ottoman period, when it became densely built up, as evidenced in aerial photographs from the beginning of the 20th century. It should be noted that the close proximity of the road from the time of the British Mandate to the road from the Byzantine period attests to the preservation of the ancient route, along which the Crusader citadel and the Saraya were also built. It is assumed that the road led north to the center of town, where it may have connected with Silvanus Street. One of the questions that remains unanswered concerns the location of the city’s eastern wall. The road was undoubtedly located inside the city wall and the line of the wall probably passed slightly to the east of the excavation, below Highway 90.

 

The excavation also elaborated on the extent of the settlement in this part of Bet She’an during the different periods. The Byzantine-period road in the southern excavation areas (C, D, E, J) continued to be used in the Umayyad period and the beginning of the Abbasid period. The center areas (B, F) witnessed a meager stratum from the Mamluk period close to surface and a thick layer from the Umayyad/Abbasid periods below it. A few remains from the Byzantine period were discovered in Area F. A thick dense layer from the Mamluk period was in the northern excavation areas (A, G, H), with no evidence from the Byzantine period, other than random pottery fragments. It should be noted that the Mamluk-period stratum contained numerous fragments of vessels associated with the sugar industry that was widespread in the Bet She’an Valley, mainly during the Crusader period, but also later on. It should also be stressed that only a few finds from the Crusader period were recovered from the excavation, although it was conducted only c. 200 m south of the Crusader citadel.

 

The excavation yielded 1,042 coins. Some 36% of them were partially identified, or at least their general periods were noted; only c. 20% of the coins were fully identified. The dates of the coins from the different excavation areas (Table 1) usually corroborated the chronological conclusions drawn from the ceramic finds.

Table 1. Numismatic finds

Area

Area A

Area B

Areas C, D, J

Area E

Area F

Area G

Area H

Period (CE)

             

Total

91

69

600

168

46

23

45

Early Roman (1st and 2nd centuries)

 

2

2

2

 

 

1

Early Byzantine 

4th century

                              5th century

 

3

 

2

 

23

-------

1

 

1

 

3

 

1

------

 

 

 

------

1

Late Byzantine (6th–7th centuries)

 

1

25

2

6

 

2

Arab–Byzantine and imitations (7th century)

1

1

13

       

Umayyad (7th–8th centuries)

3

3

43

 

2

   

Abbasid (8th–9th centuries)

2

2

6

 

1

 

2

Zandjid–Ayyubid (12th century)

9

4

3

1

3

4

2

Mamluk (13th–15th centuries)

8

2

 

2

1

1

4

Ottoman (18th–19th centuries)

3

1

 

 

 

 

2

Modern (20th century)

   

3

1