The excavation (Figs. 2, 3) took place to the north of Ha-Arba‘a Boulevard and to the west of Menahem Begin Boulevard, near the municipal pedagogy center. A single excavation square was opened, revealing three settlement layers (III–I; Fig. 4) dated to the late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.
Many previous excavations conducted near the current excavation, in the southeast of the old city, have revealed multiple architectural remains dating from the Roman to the Ottoman periods (Syon 2004
[Fig. 1: A-2829]; Atrash 2009a
[Fig. 1: A-4982]; Atrash 2009b
[Fig. 1: A-3949]; Tepper 2009
[Fig. 1: A-3919]; Hanna 2010a
[Fig. 1: A-4261]; Hanna 2010b
[Fig. 1: A-3887]; Sion 2014 [Fig. 1: A-2885]).
Stratum III. Two parallel walls were uncovered (W9, W31). Wall 9 (length 2.45 m, width 1.2 m, height 0.6 m) was built of two rows of roughly dressed stones and large and medium-sized basalt, nari and travertine fieldstones, with a core of small stones. It was founded on travertine sediment devoid of potsherds (L27, L30), and was preserved to the height of only two courses. Wall 31 (Figs. 5, 6) was insufficiently documented, as it was encountered in the final hour of the excavation. The wall had a northern face built of medium-sized dressed limestone blocks, and its southern face was built of small and medium-sized limestone and basalt fieldstones bonded with light gray material; it may be a foundation wall. A narrow channel running ran northeastward was incorporated through W31 (L32; width 0.17 m, max. depth 0.2 m); its walls were coated with gray plaster.
Stratum II. Three architectural spaces were uncovered (1–3) on a roughly north–south alignment. The northern space (1) was paved with stone slabs consisting of smoothly dressed limestone slabs and basalt fieldstones arranged in rows on a north–south alignment; the paving was preserved in the northern corner (L6; length 1.75 m; Fig. 7) and in the square’s northern balk (L11), and some of the stones had evidently been robbed. The paving was bedded on a fill of soil and small stones (L22, L23, L26). The space was enclosed on the south by W9, which continued to be used in Stratum II.
The central space (2) was delineated by W9 on the north and by another wall (W13) on the south. Wall 13 (height 0.25 m; Fig. 8) was built on a roughly west–east alignment of large and medium-sized stones founded on a soil fill. The wall had probably collapsed, and only a few stones of the lower course remained in situ. Traces of a light gray plaster floor (L12) were uncovered to the east of the wall. The floor abutted the eastern end of W13, and it covered a relatively small area. It was bedded on a fill of soil, burnt refuse, small stones and potsherds (L21). Remains of another floor, paved with stone slabs, were discovered in the northeastern corner of the space and beside W9 (L15; Fig. 9).
The excavation revealed a small part of the southern space (3), bounded on the northwest by W13. In this phase, W31 was evidently dismantled, and the area was filled with soil mixed with large quantities of burnt refuse and potsherds (L16, L29).
Stratum I. A narrow, northwest–southeast wall (W8; length 1.4 m, width 0.4 m, height 0.45 m; Figs. 9, 10) was built over the remains of the east–west W9. Wall 8 was built of large, roughly dressed stones; they retained traces of light gray plaster. Wall 8 was founded on W9 in the place where the top of the earlier wall was a course lower in its eastern part. A fill comprising fragments of stone slabs, small stones and pieces of brick abutted the northeast face of W8. The area to the west of W8 was leveled with stones bonded with plaster (L10, L18). The function of W8 is unclear; it may be the remains of some type of installation.
The excavation yielded a pottery assemblage dating mostly from the early Umayyad period with a minority of finds dating from the Late Byzantine period, and it resembles assemblages from several sites excavated in and around Bet She’an.
Bowls and Basins (Fig. 11). Bowls 1 and 2 are imported Egyptian Red Slip A bowls. Bowls of this type are made of clay derived from the Nile and are imitations of African Red Slip bowls. Bowl 1 imitates Forms 82–84 of this ware and dates from the seventh century CE, whereas Bowl 2 imitates Form 91 and dates from the mid-sixth century CE (Hayes 1972:387–392, Figs. 85e, 86q). Bowl 3 is made of well-levigated clay and has a thin, rounded wall. It is an example of Fine Byzantine Ware (FBW), which dates from the sixth–eighth centuries CE. Similar bowls were found in the Bet She’an Youth Hostel excavations (Avissar 2014: Fig. 14:1). Bowl 4 is a continuation of the FBW tradition and belongs to a type that was produced until the ninth century CE. Bowls 5–7 are plain and have an everted or ledged rim. All date from the Umayyad period, and parallels have been found in the production kiln in the Bet She’an theater (Bar-Nathan 2011:284–286, Fig. 11.35:11–15). Bowls 8 and 9 are made of a brown fabric and have a wide mouth and a round wall. Parallels from Tiberias date from the eighth–early ninth centuries CE (Stacey 2004: Fig. 5.9:2, 4). Basin 10 is made of a coarse, light-colored fabric and was locally produced in the Umayyad kiln in the Bet She’an theater (Bar-Nathan 2011:241–242, Fig. 11.9:1). Basin 11 is gray—the hallmark of Umayyad assemblages—and similar examples were discovered at the Bet She’an Youth Hostel (Avissar 2014:90–91, Fig. 17, and see additional parallels therein).
Cooking Ware (Fig. 12:1–8). The excavation yielded deep, open cooking pots with two horizontal handles (Fig. 12:1–4), which are typical of Umayyad assemblages; closed, thin-walled cooking pots with dense ribbing on the body (Fig. 12:5, 6), which date from the sixth century CE; and closed cooking pots (Fig. 12:7, 8) that have parallels in fifth–seventh-century CE assemblages from Kellia in Egypt (Egloff 1977: Fig. 50:2–3). A similar assemblage containing all these forms of closed cooking pots found at Horbat ‘Aqav is dated to the Byzantine period (Calderon 2000: Fig. XXII).
Pithos (Fig. 12:9). A handmade gray pithos with a wheel-made rim and plastic decoration on its shoulder was discovered. It was dated in Pella to between the mid-sixth century CE and the 749 CE earthquake, and the type is no longer found in the Abbasid period. Similar pithoi were uncovered in the Bet She’an Youth Hostel, at Kefar Nahum and in the Transjordan sites of Pella and Jerash (Avissar 2014:109, Fig. 30:9, 10).
Bag-Shaped Jars (Fig. 13:1–7). These are the main type of jar from the Umayyad period, and they are differentiated by their fabric and rim forms. Jar 1 is made of light-colored clay and has an incurved rim. It dates from the seventh–eighth centuries CE, and parallels have been found in the Bet She’an theater pottery workshop and at many sites in northern Israel and in Transjordan (Bar-Nathan 2011:232–233, Fig. 11.3:4). Jar 2 is made of light-colored clay; it is of a type common in the 749 CE destruction layer at Tiberias (Stacey 2004: Fig. 5.34:1, 2). Jar 3 is also dated to this era. Jar 4 is made of gray-fired red clay and has a thickened, slightly incurved rim and a long cylindrical neck. Parallels were found at the Bet She’an Youth Hostel (Avissar 2014:103, Fig. 27:1, and see discussion and parallels therein). Jar 5 is made of buff clay and was produced at Bet She’an, where several Umayyad jar-firing kilns have been excavated. Identical jars were found in Bet She’an and at nearby sites (Avissar 2014:107). One of the Bet She’an kilns also produced Jars 6 and 7, which are not typical of the period and which have a wide mouth and no handles. Similar jars were found at Tiberias in a pit that was abandoned after the 749 CE earthquake (Stacey 2004:134–135, Fig. 5.45:1, 6).
Jugs (Fig. 13:8–10). Jug 8 is made of well-levigated light-colored clay and has a metallic ring. The jug has thin walls and a wide mouth. It first appears in the region of Persia in the seventh century CE, but it has been found in eighth–ninth-century CE assemblages at Caesarea and elsewhere (Arnon 2008:36–37, Type 521o. 2). Jug 9 is made of a pinkish fabric, and it probably belongs to the same group of jugs as those discovered at Caesarea in Stratum VII, which have been dated to the mid-eighth–mid-ninth centuries CE. Jug 10 is made of a buff fabric and has a sieve. It is a common drinking vessel that was used from the seventh to at least the ninth centuries CE. The three jugs were produced at Bet She’an in the Umayyad period, and parallels have been found throughout the site. No similar jugs have been found at more distant sites, an indication that they were most probably manufactured purely for the local market (Bar-Nathan 2011:265–266, Fig. 11.25:6–8).
Flasks (Fig. 14:1–3). Flasks are one of the commonest vessels at Bet She’an in the Umayyad period (Bar-Nathan 2011:272–275, Fig. 11.28, and see discussion and parallels therein). Flasks 1–3 have a plain rim and a short and narrow cup-shaped neck; the bodies of the flasks were not preserved. They are made of light-colored, brown and orange fabric; each flask is made of a slightly different fabric, suggesting that they may have been produced in different workshops. The fabric of the flasks differs from that of the other vessels in the assemblage and from the buff clay of the flasks known to us from local workshops.
Oil Lamps (Fig. 14:4, 5). Two types of oil lamps were found. Lamp 4 is decorated with a palmette, and parallels have been found at several sites within the boundaries of Bet She’an; it dates from the late seventh–eighth centuries CE (Hadad 2002:65, Type 28, No. 287). Lamp 5 is made of a grayish buff fabric, and it has a button handle and a very large filling hole and is decorated with a geometric pattern. Lamps of this type were common at Bet She’an from the beginning of the Umayyad period until 749 CE (Hadad 2002:78–82, Type 35, No. 352).
The current excavation uncovered new settlement remains in the southeastern part of ancient Bet She’an. The excavation revealed that the site was first occupied at the end of the Byzantine period, and it was most intensively used in the Early Islamic period.