Late Hellenistic and Early Roman Periods
Area E (Fig. 3). Remains of a dam (Figs. 4, 5) were exposed at a depth of 1.5 m beneath brown alluvium. It was built on the eastern bank of a tributary that flows south from Zeva’im Spur to Nahal Harod. Four of the dam’s walls (W5, W28, W41, W42) were preserved. They joined to form a single construction that was intended to halt the flow of the runoff in the tributary and collect the water.
Walls 5 and 41 were massive; they joined at an oblique angle, open to the southeast. The walls were constructed of hewn basalt stones and fieldstones, bonded with light-gray mortar mixed with sand and tiny travertine pebbles. Large stones had been removed for the construction of the railway station (Fig. 6) from the eastern end of W5, and from the eastern part of W41 at the point where it joined W5. Wall 5, which was built of a single row of large stones that were arranged as stretchers, was preserved to a height of one course. Small fieldstones (L10) were inserted between and around the stones in the wall, to fill the gaps and level the area. Wall 41 was constructed on pristine hamra, of various-sized stones on fieldstone-foundations. The eastern part of the wall was built of two rows of stones, while the western part was constructed of a single row of stones arranged as headers; the construction at the western end of the wall was not meticulous. Wall 41 was preserved to a height of two courses. Stones scattered on the hamra soil (L26) were exposed southwest of the wall. An doorway (width 0.85 m, preserved height 0.86 m) with a threshold of flat fieldstones was set in W41. The doorway was blocked by two walls (W38, W44). Wall 38, which blocked it from the outside, was built of medium and large stones placed on their narrow side. Wall 44 was built inside the opening, perpendicular to it; it was founded on alluvium, and was preserved to a height of one course. Wall 42 continued the dam to the west. The eastern part of the wall was adjacent to W41, and its western end apparently joined W28. Wall 42 was built on hamra soil, of dressed stones and fieldstones of various sizes; it was preserved to a height of two courses. Only a short segment of W28, which was oriented northeast–southwest was exposed. It was constructed of dressed basalt stones, with small fieldstones and soil between them; the wall extended beyond the limits of the excavation.
North and northwest of the dam were layers of eroded soil and travertine pebbles that had collected at the bottom of the dam (L2, L6, L11, L27, L37). Numerous river pebbles accumulated on the northern and northwestern sides of the walls. The surfaces of the walls that faced north and northwest were covered with a thick layer of travertine sediment (more than 0.25 m; Fig. 7), consisting of at least six vertical deposits adjacent to each other. Judging by the inclination of the layers of travertine pebbles and the hamra at the bottom of the dam, the water apparently flowed to the dam from the north and northwest. The doorway in W41 was covered to its full height by three layers of alluvium, and its doorjambs were covered with travertine sediment. The upper layer of alluvium in the doorwayway covered W44 (L9); it contained brown soil and travertine pebbles. The middle layer of alluvium accumulated on both sides of W44, and contained numerous river pebbles with some brown soil. The bottom layer of alluvium accumulated at the base of the doorway and over the threshold, and it comprised small fieldstones, sand and travertine pebbles that consolidated into a stone surface on which the water flowed to the south (L35); Wall 44, which blocked the opening, was constructed on this surface.
The layers of alluvium extended also to the area southeast of the doorway (L9, L24), where they accumulated to below the level of the foundation of W41. Below them was hamra devoid of pottery, with a large hewn stone resting on it. The layers of alluvium extended to the southern balk of the excavation area, and were bounded by hamra devoid of any pottery sherds on the east and west.
It seems that the dam was built to collect runoff, which accumulated in a naturally formed pool north of it, for use primarily in agriculture. Ongoing maintenance, such as clearing the silt that accumulated at the bottom of the dam, repairing and renovating the walls and occasionally replacing them, was necessary for its function. Different construction methods and materials are evident in the dam’s walls. It seems that Walls 5 and 41 were the original walls of the dam, and that the doorway in W41 was designed to regulate the water level in the pool. It is possible that a channel, which did not survive, reached the doorway and conveyed water from the pool to the fields.
Fragments of pottery dating to the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman periods (first century BCE–second century CE) were discovered in the excavation of the dam and included mortaria (Fig. 8:1, 2), a casserole (Fig. 8:3), a cooking pot (Fig. 8:4), a jar (Fig. 8:5) and a jug (Fig. 8:6).
Area F (Figs. 9, 10). A rectangular room that was part of a building was exposed. The building continued east and north to two additional units (1, 2), which were only fractionally exposed. The walls were dry-built of basalt stones, some hewn and some fieldstones, and were preserved to a maximum height of three courses. The northern, southern and western walls (W8, W13, W21) of the room were built on hamra devoid of pottery. They consisted of an inner face of medium and large hewn stones, an outer face of small fieldstones and a core of small fieldstones and brown soil. The northern wall and the southwestern corner of the room were thickened on the outside with a fieldstone construction (L3, L25, L30), probably intended to reinforce the structure. The eastern wall was constructed of small and medium fieldstones and survived to a maximum height of two courses. The southern part of the wall was destroyed prior to the excavation in the course of earthmoving work. A threshold and two doorposts were preserved of an entrance (width 0.75–0.80 m) in W14 which connected the room to Unit 1 on the east. The threshold was built of stone slabs set on a fill of brown soil and pottery sherds. Two floors of tamped brown earth, one on top of the other, were exposed in the room. The lower floor (L40) abutted the northern, southern and western walls of the room. Brown soil fill (L33) was discovered on top of Floor 40. The upper floor (L16) was discovered above Fill 33, and adjoined all the walls in the room, as well as the threshold of the entrance in the eastern wall. A layer of alluvium was discovered overlying Floor 16. Three coins that date to the fourth century CE were found in Fill 33 (IAA 154930; IAA 154928—383 CE; IAA 154929—383–395 CE).
The remains of Unit 1, east of the room, consisted of several stones adjacent to the room’s northeastern corner. The continuation of Unit 1 to the east was destroyed during the construction of the modern railway station. The remains of Unit 2, north of the room, included a short section of a wall (W32) that joined W13, and a narrow section of an occupation level slightly to the east. Wall 32 was built of small fieldstones and was narrower than the walls of the room.
Area G (Figs. 11–13). Fragmentary architectural remains were exposed, including a wall (W7) and a circular construction (L18). Only the southwestern face of W7, which was carefully built of dressed basalt stones arranged as headers and stretchers, was revealed. The stretchers were inclined to the southwest. The wall was founded on hamra devoid of any pottery, and was preserved to a height of a single course. The circular construction (L18) consisted of one curved row of dressed stones, which were arranged as headers, above a course of flat fieldstones; it was founded on virgin soil. To the west and southwest of the architectural remains, a layer of alluvium (L12, L19), which consisted of brown soil, small stones, basalt gravel, numerous travertine pebbles, small fragments of marble slabs and tesserae, was discovered. Below the alluvium was a layer of hamra devoid of pottery (L20). Fragments of pottery dating to the Byzantine period (fifth–seventh centuries CE) were found in the alluvium, including imported LRC bowls, red slipped and with incised decoration on the outside (Fig. 14:1–5); among them was a bowl (No. 1) that had also black slip on the outside surface below the rim, a casserole (Fig. 14:6), a cooking pot (Fig. 14:7), a handmade basin (Fig. 14:8) and jars (Figs. 14:9–11). Glass fragments from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (fourth–sixth centuries CE) were also found in the alluvium; they were poorly preserved and were therefore not drawn. Similar finds were also discovered in the topsoil.
The excavation areas were part of the agricultural hinterland of the city of Scythopolis during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. The dam which was exposed in Area E dates from the Late Hellenistic period until the end of the Early Roman period, and ensured a supply of water for drinking and crop-irrigation to the surrounding area. Even where water resources are abundant, as they are in the Bet She’an Valley, farmers needed a dam to collect the runoff for irrigation. It is possible that the dam went out of use because of the construction of new municipal aqueducts. The place was abandoned after the Early Roman period, but settlement was renewed in the second half of the fourth century CE, and continued until the end of the Byzantine period. It seems that the building in Area F was used in the Byzantine period as a farmhouse or a storeroom for grain and tools. The architectural remains that were uncovered in Area G may be related to an agricultural installation that involved the use of water. This assumption is based on the layer of alluvium discovered west and southwest of the remains, indicating considerable water flow.