Beit Shean (Beit She'an or Bet She'an)
Scythopolis - Decapollis

Feb. 13, 2010

Excavations at Beit Shean show 15 different civilizations there. The main town is largely Greek and Roman or later. The hill just outside of the Roman town shows older civilizations including some Philistine ruins and an Israeli fortress from the time of Solomon.

This city is at a strategic point in the Jezreel Valley and close to a major highway. The city is mentioned in 3900 year old Egyptian documents and appears to be fortified 3500 years ago. The Israelites were unable to conquer the Canaanites in this town until the time of King David. King Solomon made it an administrative center for a region. Under Romans, it became part of a ten city alliance, Decapollis, that stretched east accross the Jordan River.

The town was destroyed by a strong earthquake in 749A.D which toppled the columns supporting buildings and roofs along the streets. After being excavated, some columns have been reset.

Some reference links: Jewish Magazine and Jewish Virtual Library.

The Magnify symbol beside some selected pictures indicates a larger image is available by clicking the symbol.

Beit Shean: Sign Magnify
Above: Beit Shean enjoyed a pleasant environment as evidenced by this sign.
Right: This model shows the town. The theater is the large building in the upper center. The bathhouse complex is in front of it and just to the right. The hill with older ruins is in the center. The Palladius Street, the main street runs from the theater towards the hill.
Beit Shean: Model Magnify
Beit Shean: Amphiteater The amphitheater which started life as a hippodrome for horse and chariot races but apparently was also used for bloody gladiatorial contests as human bones have been found. Only the lowest rows of seating have survived. (This picture was taken from the bus as we passed by.)
Beit Shean:  Bathhouse Magnify

In the picture you can see the pillars that held up the floor. To heat the water, fires were lit along the perimeter and the smoke and heat was pushed under the floor.

Beit Shean: Model of Bathhouse

Bathhouses were an important part of Roman and Byzantine civilization. As shown by the model, this one was very large and incorporated several buildings and a courtyard with a mosaic floor.

The sign beside the model reads "The bathhouse compound comprised a number of buildings, of which the bathing halls were the central feature.

The compound included swimming pools, massage rooms, public latrines, and other convenience features. Some of the facilities faced an open court yard (palaestra) paved with mosaic floors."

Beit Shean: Northern Street Magnify The short Northern Street is still littered by columns that have not be reset. Also notice one of the intricate stone carvings that were placed on top of the columns.

Beit Shean: Palladius Street Magnify Beit Shean: Street
Beit Shean: Palladius Street Magnify These pictures show the remains of Palladius Street, the main street. Observe the street was crowned so that water would flow to the outside edges. Many of the columns along the street have been reset.

Beit Shean: Palladius Street

Beit Shean: View from hill
This is the view of the town from the hill. The theater is at the far end of the Palladius Street and the bathhouse is in front of it on the right.
Beit Shean: Active Excavation
Excavations continue at this site.
Beit Shean: Excavations on the hill Magnify Beit Shean: Israeli fortress sign Magnify

These are excavations of the Israeli fortress on the hill.                                   
Beit Shean: The broken bridge Magnify
This picture shows one end of a bridge into the town. It is now called the Broken Bridge. It was built twice, one by Greeks and once by the Romans.

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Copyright 2010 James and Danielle Brink. Permission is given for non-commercial use.

Last revision: 4/5/2010