During July 2003, a salvage excavation was conducted in Shikun Alef in Bet She’an (Permit No. A-3949; map ref. NIG 2466/7125; 0IG 1966/2125), in the wake of exposing antiquities while digging foundations for construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by W. Atrash, with the assistance of D. Avshalom (administration), T. Meltsen (surveying), D. Sandhouse (ceramics), A. Pikovski (pottery drawing) and D. Syon (numismatics).
The single-square excavation was southwest of the northwestern gate (‘Caesarea Gate’) of the Roman city and beyond the city walls. A residential building, which had survived by two rooms, was exposed. Two strata (I, II) that dated to the Roman and Byzantine periods were discerned and two construction phases were noted in Stratum I (Fig. 1).
Remains of two walls, dating to the Roman period (third century CE; W19, W22; 0.73 m below surface; Fig. 2), were discovered in the northwestern corner of the square. Wall 19, oriented east–west, was preserved a single course high (exposed length 0.9 m, width 0.8 m, height 0.37 m). It was founded on travertine bedrock and was built of different size basalt fieldstones. Wall 22, oriented north–south, was also preserved a single course high. Its construction was identical to that of W19, with which its southern end formed a perpendicular corner. The western part of W22 was completely destroyed probably when a modern sewer was installed. The walls were dismantled down to their foundation when the residential building in Stratum I was constructed. A layer of gray soil (L18) was found in the corner formed by the two walls. A few potsherds that dated to the third century CE were recovered from the foundation trenches of the walls, including a fragment of cooking bowl with a sunken rim (Fig 3:1) and a jar with an everted and thickened rim (Fig. 3:2).
Remains of two architectural units (eastern and western), which belonged to a residential building that dated to the Byzantine period (fourth century CE; Fig. 4), were exposed. Two construction phases, Phase 2, dating to the Early Byzantine period and Phase 1 from the Late Byzantine period, were discerned.
The Eastern Unit, Phase 2
Three walls of a rectangular room (W5 in west, W23 in north and W24 in south; 3.0 × 5.5 m) were exposed. Wall 5 separated between the eastern and western units. The wall, built of basalt fieldstones and oriented north–south (exposed length 5.5 m, width 0.65 m; Fig. 5), was preserved three courses high (c. 0.96 m) and had two symmetrical openings (width c. 0.72 m each) at its two ends. The core of W5 consisted of small basalt stones, gray soil and lime. The northern part of the wall was founded on W22 and its southern part was set on a layer of gray soil fill, which contained many small pieces of travertine and a few potsherds that dated to the end of the third century CE, deposited on bedrock. The construction of the northern W23 (exposed length 0.5 m) and the southern W24 (exposed length 0.7 m) was identical to that of the western W5. The floor of the unit was not preserved. A drainage channel (T2; length 5.5 m, width 0.2 m, height 0.22 m) that crossed the unit diagonally and connected to another channel (T1) in its southwestern corner was exposed. The floor of the channel (L11; Fig. 6) consisted of mud-brick pieces set on a layer of gray soil fill (L20). The fill layer comprised many small pieces of travertine and a few potsherds that dated to the end of the third century CE. The walls of the channel (east—W12, west—W13) were built of mud-brick lumps bonded with clay. The channel was covered with basalt slabs (W9; length 0.6 m, width 0.25–0.50 m), many of which were building stones in secondary use whose dressed surface was placed facing the interior of the channel (see Fig. 4).
The Eastern Unit, Phase 1
A mud-brick drainage channel (T1; width 0.19 m, height 0.2 m) lined with potsherds (see Fig. 6) was built next to Walls 5 and 23. The floor of the channel (L16) was founded on a layer of small flat basalt stones (height 0.1 m). The covering of the channel was composed of fieldstones (W6; length 0.3–0.4 m, width 0.15–0.20 m), some of which were missing. The channel was sealed with a layer of light gray alluvium (L14) that contained several potsherds from the first half of the fourth century CE, including a cooking pot with a triangular rim (Fig. 7:8), jars with a long neck and folded rim (Fig. 7:12), a jar with a ribbed body and thickened and folded rim (Fig. 7:13), a juglet with a ribbed body and high disk base (Fig. 7:16) and five coins from the third century CE (see table below). Between the two channels was a layer of tamped light gray soil (Loci 4, 10; see Fig. 6) that contained small chunks of limestone, lime, four coins from the third century CE and potsherds from the fourth century CE that included a handmade basin with four grooves in its rim (Fig. 7:1), a krater with a ledge rim and an incised wavy decoration (Fig. 7:2), a carinated cooking krater with a wide everted rim and two prominent grooves (Fig. 7:3), a cooking krater with a ribbed body, plain rim and two horizontal loop handles (Fig. 7:4), cooking pots that have a rim with two grooves (Fig. 7:5, 6), a jar with a molded rim that has an inner groove (Fig. 7:11), a jar with a flat, slightly everted rim and a ridge at the base of the neck (Fig. 7:14), a jar with a long neck and a cut, inverted rim (Fig. 7:15) and two lamp fragments, the first has a radial design (Fig. 7:17) and the second is adorned with stamped triangles (Fig. 7:18), both dating to the first half of the fourth century CE. The two channels were covered with a layer of gray soil fill (L1; thickness 0.2 m) that contained mud-brick pieces, lumps of plaster, potsherds, tesserae, a coin and modern material. The ground level of the excavation area had been removed in the past, probably during development works and re-covered again with soil fill that contained archaeological material from the immediate vicinity.
The Western Unit, Phase 2
The eastern wall (W5) and a small section of the floor (L17F; 0.3 × 0.5 m) were preserved. The entrance to the unit was via the openings in W5. The floor was a plain white mosaic, laid atop a bedding of small flat basalt stones; the northern and western parts of the floor had been destroyed in the past during the installation of a sewer pipe.
The Western Unit, Phase 1
During this phase, slight changes were made to the plan of the unit. A bench (W3; length 3.3 m, width 0.45–50 m, preserved height above floor 0.26 m) that was built next to W5 blocked the southern opening in the wall (L15) and a mosaic floor (L2F) was set on the remains of the floor from Phase 2 (see Fig. 4). The bottom part of Bench 3 was mostly built of broken mud bricks (0.23 × 0.23 m, thickness c. 4 cm) and small pieces of basalt were incorporated in its upper part. The bench was coated with plaster. Remains of white plaster survived in the seam where the bench was joined to the mosaic floor. The pottery recovered from the blockage of the southern opening in W5 was dated to the first half of the fourth century CE and included cooking pots with two grooves and a triangular rim (Fig. 7:7, 9, 10). The floor of the unit (1.6 × 3.3 m) was a white mosaic. The tesserae (c. 1.5 × 1.5 cm) were cut of indigenous pink-white limestone. Four layers were discerned in the floor bedding (L17; Fig. 8). The first upper layer (thickness 0.3 m) was lime in which the tesserae were embedded. The second layer (thickness 7 cm) consisted of stone-dressing debris, small stones and gray sand and contained a few potsherds that dated to the first half of the fourth century CE, including a cooking krater with sloping sides and a cut, inverted rim (Fig. 9:1), a jar with a folded rim (Fig. 9:2) and a jar with a thickened rim that has a rhomboid-shaped cross-section (Fig. 9:3). The third layer (thickness 0.1 m) was composed of square mud bricks (0.23 × 0.23 m), round mud bricks (diam. 0.24 m) and pieces of mud bricks. The fourth and bottom layer (thickness 1–2 cm) was fine gray soil that probably meant to level out and fill in the depressions in the earlier mosaic.
On the floor was a layer of gray soil (L2, see Fig. 5) that contained lumps of white tesserae and potsherds that dated to the first half of the fourth century CE, including a cooking krater with a ledge rim (Fig. 10:1), a cooking pot with a gutter rim and large loop handles (Fig. 10:2), a ribbed jar (Fig. 10:3), a jar with a thickened rim and an arched neck with a ridge at its base (Fig. 10:4) and a jar with a tall neck, folded rim and a ridge at the base of the neck (Fig. 10:5).
Eleven poorly preserved coins were found; six are illegible but appear to be Roman city-coins from the third century CE.