In September 2014, a trial excavation was conducted in the southern part of the settlement of Tel Te’omim in the Bet She’an Valley (Permit No. A-7198; map ref. 246973–7014/705008–50), prior to construction. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the M‘ayanot Valley Regional Council, was directed by Z. Horowitz, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), V. Nosikovsky (metallurgical laboratory), D. Syon (numismatics), Y. Bibas (computing and studio photography), I. Ktalav (mollusks) and H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing).
The excavation area extended along level ground, sloping gently to the southeast, on the fringes of alluvial fans of streams flowing down from the Gilbo‘a and Samaria mountains. Four squares—two manually excavated and two probed using mechanical equipment—were opened in the middle of settlement, c. 480 m southeast of Tel Te’omim (Tulul eth-Thaum) and c. 400 m northeast of Horbat Ne‘etar. Numerous artifacts were discovered in the excavation. These included coins dating to the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods and ceramic finds from the Middle Bronze, Iron, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods.
Finds discovered in surveys previously conducted at Tel Te’omim were ascribed to the Early Bronze – Roman periods (Albright 1924–1925
:43, Tell el-Hamra; Zori 1962
:98; Maeir 1997
:226–227; Kohn-Tavor 2010
: Appendix 4 – Survey Maps: 3; Kohn-Tavor 2012
: Site 31). An excavation carried out c. 260 m southwest of the tell (Permit No. A-5438) revealed a cemetery comprising pit graves from the Middle Bronze Age II and the Late Bronze Age.
The excavation was undertaken after an abundance of ceramic finds was found in trial trenches opened with mechanical equipment in the area slated for construction. The area where the four excavation squares were opened was disturbed in the past, probably during the installation of the infrastructure for mobile homes that once stood there. A layer of soil that contained a large quantity of pottery sherds, three bronze coins, several animal bones, mainly of cattle, a few flint items and some shells was discovered below the surface in all of the squares.
The ceramic finds are dated to several periods, including the Middle Bronze Age (a few sherds), the Iron Age (numerous finds), as well as the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman (a few sherds) and Byzantine (a few sherds) periods. Some of the pottery sherds, especially the most ancient ones, have limestone encrustations affixed to them, indicating that they were exposed to an environment inundated with water. The mollusk shells (melanopsis buccihoidea) that were discovered are common in springs and streams where the water flows slowly, similarly indicating an environment flooded with water. The pottery was mixed and not stratified; hence it was found ex situ and had been brought there either naturally or by man.
Two of the three bronze coins are especially large and date to the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (283–246 BCE; IAA 106771, 106772; Fig. 1) and were evidently minted in Alexandria. The head of Zeus appears on the obverse of the two coins. On the reverse of one of them is an eagle; while on the back of the other coin is a pair of eagles standing on a bundle of lightning bolts. The third bronze coin dates to the reign of Justin II (565–574 CE) and was minted in Constantinople. The emperor and his wife, Sophia, appear on the obverse, and the denomination—40 nummi—appears on the reverse.
Below the layer of soil and artifacts was a thin layer of earth that lay directly on travertine. The numerous finds discovered in the excavation seems to have been transported there by erosion from nearby ancient sites, including Tel Te’onim, Horbat Ne‘etar and Tel Trumot, where pottery sherds from the same periods as those discovered in the current excavation were found.
Albright W.F. 1924–1925. The Jordan Valley in the Bronze Age. AASOR
Kohn-TavorA. 2010. Survey of Tel Rehov Area in the Beit-She’an Valley. Master’s thesis, Hebrew University. Jerusalem (Hebrew).
Maeir A.M. 1997. The Material Culture of the Central Jordan Valley during the Middle Bronze Age II Period: Pottery and Settlement Pattern. Ph.D. diss. The Hebrew University. Jerusalem.
Zori N. 1962. An Archaeological Survey of the Beth-Shean Valley. In The Beth Shean Valley: The 17th Archaeological Convention. Jerusalem. Pp. 135–201 (Hebrew).