In June 2013, a trial excavation was conducted northeast of Bet Sheʽan (Permit No. A-6838; map ref. 2488–90/7127–8; Fig. 1), prior to the installation of an electrical cable. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by O. Zidan, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), R. Mishayev and M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), A. Shapiro (GPS), Y. Bibas (photography), D. Syon (metal detection), W. Atrash (scientific guidance), L. Porat (pottery restoration), H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing), Y. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory) and D.T. Ariel and R. Kool (numismatics).
Two excavation areas (A, B) were opened in farmland south of Highway 71, c. 100 m west of the Bet Sheʽan Junction, revealing an ancient system for conveying water.
In a previously conducted survey of the excavation area, remains of building foundations, pottery sherds and fragments of glass vessels dating to the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods were documented (Zori 1962
). In 2003, an agricultural installation and water reservoir dating from the Byzantine and Early Islamic period were exposed in an excavation conducted southeast of Kibbutz Hamadiya
). A field tower(?) dating to the Late Roman period was exposed in an excavation carried out nearby in 2004 (Atrash 2011
). Terra-cotta pipes and an agricultural installation were revealed in an excavation conducted in 2013 north of Highway 71, across from the current excavation (Permit No. A-6757).
Area A. Remains of a water-channel inspection and cleaning compartment (L19; Figs. 2, 3) were unearthed 0.5 m below the surface. It was built of three U-shaped walls (W15–W17; width 0.6 m, preserved height 1.5 m) constructed of basalt ashlars and treated on the inside with gray hydraulic plaster. The compartment was constructed right to the west of a travertine outcrop. A channel (L24; width 0.7 m; Fig. 4) built of dressed basalt stones along a general east–west axis was exposed beneath the compartment; it was founded on travertine bedrock and was covered with large basalt slabs (L23; 0.35 × 0.35 × 0.95 m).
Gray–brown soil was exposed while excavating the upper part of the compartment (L14). The soil contained fragments of pottery vessels, including two jars dating to the Intermediate Bronze Age (Fig. 5:1, 2) and three jars from the Early Islamic period (Fig. 5:3–5), as well as an Umayyad fals (697–750 CE; IAA 143560). Fragments of a roof tile (Fig. 5:6), a fragment of a basalt bowl (Fig. 5:7) and a stone weight (Fig. 5:8) were recovered from gray–brown soil (L19) that had accumulated at the bottom of the compartment. It is impossible to date its construction of the compartment; however, the artifacts discovered inside it suggest that it was used until the Early Islamic period.
Area B. Remains of a pipe (L12; length 5.1 m, diam. 0.23 m; Figs. 6, 7) built on travertine bedrock along a northeast–southwest axis were exposed below a light brown layer of alluvium (thickness 0.5 m). The pipe was composed of terra-cotta sections set on a foundation of fired bricks and pinkish–orange hydraulic plaster. It was lined on all sides by bricks and was reinforced with hydraulic plaster. The terra-cotta pipe sections (length 0.28 m; Fig. 8) were connected to each other and sealed with hydraulic plaster (Fig. 9). The pipe sloped gently toward the northeast.
The excavation area was located within the agricultural hinterland of the city of Nysa-Scythopolis, dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods. The remains of a sophisticated system that supplied water to the region north and northeast of the city reflects the importance of the place and the existence of agricultural settlements in the region. The water conveyed in the system was probably supplied from a nearby spring or from one of the city’s aqueducts.
Atrash W. 2009. Dabayib et
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Zori N. 1962. An Archaeological Survey of the Beth-Shean Valley. In The Beth Shean Valley: The 17th Archaeological Convention. Jerusalem. Pp. 135–198 (Hebrew).