During June 2003, a salvage excavation was conducted south of the saraya in Bet She’an (Permit No. A-3919; map ref. NIG 24760–6/71140–50; OIG 19760–6/21140–50), prior to installing sewer infrastructures. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Bet She'an Economic Development Company, was directed by Y. Tepper, with the assistance of A. Markov (registration), Y. Ya‘akoby (administration), V. Essman, V. Pirsky and T. Kornfeld (surveying and drafting), H. Smithline (field photography), N. Zak (plans), E. Altmark (metallurgical laboratory), E.J Stern (pottery reading), L. Porat (pottery restoration), H. Tahan (pottery drawing), C. Amit (studio photography), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), A. Berman and R. Kool (numismatics), N. Raban-Gershtal and G. Bar-Oz (archaeozoology), O. Shamir (textiles) and L. Di Segni (epigraphy).
Area A (Fig. 2). A section excavated in the northern part of the area revealed in the bottom stratum the top of a wall (W136) and ceramic finds from the eighth century CE, including kraters (Fig. 3:1), fragments of engraved pottery vessels (Fig. 3:2) and jars (Fig. 3:3). A stone vessel and a goat’s astragal, perforated in the center and most likely used in a game, were also found in the section.
The principal stratum in the area included building remains from the Crusader period (twelfth century CE). The entrance of a building (L119), whose doorjambs were built of basalt ashlar stones, was exposed in the southern part of the area (Square 1). On either side of the entrance, walls (W104, W108) were preserved four courses high. Two ancient floors were exposed west of the entrance and below them was a paved level (L140) that may have been a street. Its elevation matches that of a street that was uncovered in a previous excavation nearby (Fig. 4). A tabun (L125) filled with small stones was exposed below the paved level. Masonry debris (L106) that belonged to W108 and the building that had stood there and collapsed was discovered north of Pavement 140. A paved surface (L123; width 3.75 m) was exposed in the northern part of the area (Square 2). It was delimited by two walls (W124, W128), which had narrow stone benches of sorts next to them. Fragments of pottery, glass vessels and marble slabs, coins, an iron knife, bone implements and stone and basalt objects, including a sling stone, weight, grinding stones and bowls, were discovered in soil layers that had accumulated on the pavement to the height of the walls.
The ceramic finds included a handmade bowl decorated with red-painted stripes on the rim (Fig. 3:4), locally produced glazed bowls (Fig. 3:5, 6) and imported glazed bowls from the Aegean Sea region (Fig. 3:7) and decorated with brown paint (Fig. 3:8), a frying pan (Fig. 3:9), a cooking pot (Fig. 3:10) and jars (Fig. 3:11). An intact juglet (Fig. 3:12), discovered below the entrance threshold, had been apparently placed as a foundation offering during the construction of the building. The glass artifacts included the base of a bowl from the Late Roman period and an elongated glass bead with an octagonal cross-section. Evidence of glass industry was also uncovered.
A floor from the Mamluk period (thirteenth–fourteenth century CE) was exposed above the building remains from the Crusader period. It was overlain with ceramic finds, including handmade bowls decorated with red geometric designs (Fig. 3:13), a bowl with blue and black decoration (Fig. 3:14), a glazed bowl (Fig. 3:15), an amphoriskos decorated with a pale green zigzag on the interior and exterior (Fig. 3:16) and an amphoriskos that was probably used in the manufacture of molasses (Fig. 3:17).
A layer of fill that contained ceramic finds from the ninth–eleventh centuries CE was exposed above the floor from the Mamluk period. This fill, which seems to have served as a foundation for later buildings, was brought here from an unknown location, thereby creating reverse stratigraphy. The ceramic finds in the fill included glazed bowls decorated with incising and green splashes (Fig. 5:1–3), brown-painted bowls with transparent glazing (Fig. 5:4, 5) and a buff-ware jug (Fig. 5:6). A hoard of coins from the Fatimid period (eleventh century CE), probably wrapped in a small linen bag, was also found in this fill (below).
Beneath the surface, dating to the Ottoman period and superposing the layer of fill, was another stratum from the Mamluk period, dating no later than the fourteenth century CE. The ceramic finds in this layer included handmade kraters (Fig. 5:7), imported glazed bowls decorated with incising (Fig. 5:8), similar bowls that are painted and slipped (Fig. 5:9), a vessel decorated in red, blue and black (soft paste ware; Fig. 5:10), a flask (Fig. 5:11), a buff-ware jug that was probably locally produced (Fig. 5:12) and a fragment of a clay pomegranate (Fig. 5:13).
Area B (Fig. 6). Travertine sediment, wherein fragments of pottery vessels from the latter Byzantine and the beginning of the Umayyad periods were mixed, was exposed in the bottom stratum (L227). The soil above it contained fragments of pottery vessels from the same periods, as well as a coin from the eighth century CE (IAA 80584). This layer served as a foundation for an overlying stone pavement (L221; Fig. 7) that dated to the Abbasid period. Three earthen floors belonged to the same period (eighth–ninth centuries CE), yet were cut when the Crusader building was constructed.
Two wide, well-built ashlar walls (W204, W205; width 0.7 m, preserved height 1.7 m) from the Crusader period were exposed (Fig. 8). They formed a corner whose angle was less than 90°. Two stepped benches (steps?) at the top of W205, built of ashlar stones in secondary use, were placed atop a fill of medium and large stones. It became clear during the antiquities inspection, overseeing the infrastructure work for the sewer line that W205 continued further south until Area A and the two areas apparently belonged to a single context. The foundation trenches of the walls contained ceramic finds that did not postdate the Crusader period (twelfth century CE), including a buff-ware jug stamped with round seal impressions on the base of its neck, a clay lamp and bowl fragments (soft-paste ware) that are decorated in shades of red, blue and black and adorned with pseudo-writing, as well as other artifacts, including a fragment of a decorated stone chancel screen that probably originated in a church, an octagonal weight decorated with incised circles, a basalt bowl (Fig. 9), ivory inlays (Fig. 10), bone inlays (Fig. 11) and fragments of polychrome mosaics (c. 95 tesserae per 10 sq cm) in eight colors.
Earthen floors and a fieldstone surface were built in the Mamluk period on the walls from the Crusader period. A canine burial was discovered along the edge of an earthen floor (see below). The ceramic finds from these floors dated to the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE.
While overseeing work at the site, a fragment of a marble slab (0.17 × 0.35 m, thickness 5.5 cm) engraved with part of a Greek dedicatory inscription (Fig. 12), which is the lower left part of a larger inscription, was discovered. The inscription reads as follows:
[This work too…] was done [by Marinus (?)] son of Silvinus the most distinguished [count and principalis].
The decipherment of the inscription indicates that it was dedicated by the ‘son of Silvinus’, probably a descendent of Silvinus, son of Marinus (Silvinus’ son?), one of the city leaders from the Byzantine period, in honor of some urban construction. We know from construction inscriptions that were discovered at Bet She’an in the past (Di Segni L. 1999. New Epigraphical Discoveries at Scythopolis and in Other Sites of Late Antique Palestine. In XI Congresso Internazionale di Epigrafia Greca e Latina, Rome 1997. Pp. 637–638) that Silvinus, son of Marinus, was responsible for building the Sigma in 506/7 CE, paving the road alongside the amphitheater and building the water carrier next to it in 521/2 CE. It is reasonable to assume that his descendant, who is mentioned in the inscription, also continued this tradition. The name of the son was that of his grandfather, as was customary at that time and hence, it was restored in the inscription as Marinus.
Area C (Fig. 13). A tamped earth floor (L316) was exposed in the bottom stratum. Above it were four floors, one atop the other, which abutted the southern side of Wall 309. The finds in this stratum, dating to the Abbasid and Umayyad periods (L325), included ceramic artifacts, such as a clay lamp, fragments of stone and basalt vessels, among them a basin that was hewn in a fragment of a granite column, and several shells. Coins that dated to the end of the thirteenth century CE (IAA 80561, 80568, 80576), two handles of a metal vessel, a thimble, a loom weight and industrial glass waste were discovered on top of the upper floor. Two walls (W310, W314) that probably belonged to a building were discovered in the level, overlying the stratum ascribed to the Abbasid and Umayyad periods. Fragments of marble columns and a Corinthian capital were incorporated in W314. A column fragment that most likely supported the roof was positioned upside down next to W310. The walls were dated to the Crusader period (twelfth century CE and no later than middle of thirteenth century CE), based on ceramic finds and coins. Building remains that dated to the Ottoman period were revealed in the upper stratum.
Area E (Fig. 14). A soil level and numerous potsherds (L512) that probably constituted a refuse pit from the Byzantine period were discovered at the bottom of the excavation. Overlaying it were the remains of a building that included a well-tamped, crushed chalk floor (L508) and a wall (W510). It seems that the building was constructed at the earliest in the twelfth century CE and continued to exist in the Mamluk period (thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE). Above Floor 508 were two levels of ash, separated by fragments of pottery vessels and coins (IAA 80578, 80583) that dated to the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE. A hearth from the Ottoman period, probably the remains of an oven, was discovered in the uppermost stratum. It seems that some of the ash from the hearth penetrated into the habitation levels from the Mamluk period.
Coins and a Coin Hoard
Ariel Berman, Robert Kool and Orit Shamir
Forty-eight coins were recovered from the excavation, twenty-nine of which were completely or partially identified (Table 1; IAA 80561–80591). For the most part, the dating of the coins is consistent with that of the pottery. In addition, a hoard of coins (IAA 107931–108027; Fig. 15) in a lump, wrapped in a small white linen bag, was discovered in Area A (L115). The hoard contained one gold dinar (Fig. 16), two silver dirhams and 131 coins and fragments of silver coins with a total weight of 46.67 grams. The identified coins were struck in the Filastin mint at Ramla. The gold dinar dates to the second year of the rule of Al-Hassan Ben Ahmad Abu ‘Alī Al-‘Asam of the Karmatite dynasty (972/3 CE). The rest of the coins dated to the time of the Fatimid dynasty. Based on the date of the coins, it seems that they were hidden in the tenth century CE, after the beginning of Ma‘add al-Mu‘izzreign (953–975 CE). It seems that the silver coins (dirhams) and the coin fragments were valued by weight, due to a shortage of copper coins. It is known from manuscripts in the Cairo geniza (tenth–eleventh centuries CE) that during this period payments were frequently made by a bundle of silver that was sealed and marked with the designation of the weight, quality and number of the coins.
|Roman (1st–4th centuries CE)
||Geta, Bet She’an
|Byzantine (4th–7th centuries CE)
||Late Roman; Justin I, Nicodemia
||2 (1–Justin II, Alexandria)
|Umayyad (7th–8th centuries CE)
||Marwan Ibn Bashir, Homs; Anonymous
|Crusader–Ayyubid (12th–13th centuries CE)
||Ghazi I, Halab; Al-Nasir II, Halab; Ayyubid, Hamat
||Al-‘Adil I, Damascus; Al-Mansur II, Hamat; Ayyubid, Hamat (2)
|Mamluk (13th–15th centuries CE)
||Kitburgha, Damascus; Mamluk
||Baybars I, Hamat; Abu Bakr, Damascus; Hajji II, Damascus; Sha‘ban, Damascus; Mamluk (2)
||Al-Salih Isma‘il, Damascus (2)
|Ottoman (17th century CE)
||Suleyman II, Constantinople
Three hundred and one animal bones and bone fragments were discovered in the excavation, mostly coming from the Crusader and Mamluk strata. The main animals were sheep, goats and cattle, with a few camels, donkeys, fowl and pigs. Dog bones were discovered in the Mamluk strata, as well as an in situ canine burial. The composition of the animal bones and the evidence arising from the butchery marks on the sheep and goat bones indicate that during the Crusader and Mamluk periods the settlement’s subsistence was predominantly based on agriculture.
The excavation has revealed a settlement in this part of the city that began in the Byzantine period and continued until the Ottoman period. Especially noteworthy is the complex from the time of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, which is located near the Crusader citadel. Remains that dated to the twelfth century CE—the First Kingdom of Jerusalem and above them were remains from the thirteenth century CE—the Second Kingdom of Jerusalem, were exposed. Remains from the Mamluk (thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE) and Ottoman periods were found in the upper layers.