In May 2018, a salvage excavation was conducted at Kibbutz Mesillot (Permit No. A-8263; map ref. 244844/711343), prior to the construction of a new neighborhood. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by Kibbutz Mesillot, was directed by Y. Har’el (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Lavan (administration), Y. Shmidov (surveying and drafting), H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing and plans) and G. Bijovsky (numismatics).
An excavation square opened in a field immediately to the west of the kibbutz uncovered architectural remains dating from the Roman period. Approximately 115 m east of the current site, a previous excavation revealed remains of a small building that probably dates from the Roman period, as well as a Byzantine farmstead with a central courtyard surrounded by 16 rooms that was also used in the Early Islamic period (Druks 1974; Porat 2006).
Segments of two perpendicular walls (W2, W4; Figs. 1, 2) uncovered 0.4 m below the surface may be the southeastern corner of a building. The walls were founded on alluvial soil (L6) containing a few worn and abraded potsherds and were built of basalt and limestone fieldstones of various sizes; they were preserved to the height of a single course (0.18–0.21 m). Wall 2 was built of a single row of large stones interspersed with small stones, whereas W4 was built of two rows of large and medium-sized stones with a core of small stones and soil. In the west part of the excavation square were the sparse remains of a structure (L5) built of small, flat basalt stones, the function of which is unclear.
The excavation yielded a few worn potsherds and a fragment of a Roman-period jar (L1, Basket 1000/1; Fig. 3). A coin of Constantine from 307–313 CE (IAA 166526) found among the stones in W2 dates the architectural remains to the Roman period.
The remains discovered in the excavation are similar in style and construction method to those of the Roman building excavated in the past to the east of the current site. The proximity of these remains to the aqueduct leading to Bet She’an suggests that during the Middle and Late Roman periods, the site was mostly agricultural in nature. The Byzantine farmstead previously discovered nearby indicates that the surrounding area was also used for farming during this period.
* The author passed away before he was able to see the final version of the article.
Druks A. 1974. Mesillot. HA 50:6–7 (Hebrew).
Porat P. 2006. A Late Byzantine—Early Islamic-Period Farmhouse at Mesillot in the Bet She’an Valley. ʻAtiqot 53:181–192.