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Urbnism at Scythopolis-Beth Shean in the Fourth to Seven Centuries

Urbnism at Scythopolis-Beth Shean in the Fourth to Seven Centuries

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Urbanism at Scythopolis-Bet Shean in the Fourth to Seventh CenturiesAuthor(s): Yoram Tsafrir and Gideon FoersterSource:
Dumbarton Oaks Papers,
Vol. 51 (1997), pp. 85-146Published by: Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard UniversityStable URL:
Accessed: 18/03/2010 07:28
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Urbanism atScythopolis-BetSheanintheFourthto SeventhCenturies
YORAM TSAFRIR AND GIDEONFOERSTERI.INTRODUCTION
hisstudydiscusses someaspectsof the urbanismofScythopolisfrom theByzantineperiodtothe Islamicconquest(ca.640C.E.)and in theearlyIslamicperiod.'Thisintroductorysectionbrieflydescribestheoriginsandearlyhistoryof thecityanditssettingintheRomanperiodinordertoprovideageneral backgroundforthestudyofthehistoryandarchaeologyofByzantine Scythopolis.Duringtheperiodunderdiscus-sion,Scythopolisdid notexperiencedestruction asa resultofwar orconquest, yetthere
Thisarticle is based on alecture deliveredbyYoramTsafrir at the1995ByzantineSymposiumatDumbar-ton Oaks. The material underdiscussionderivesfromehe excavations of theebrewUniversityofJerusalemat BetShean,directedbyGideonFoerster and YoramTsafrirduringtheyears1980-81and 1986-96aspartof thelargearchaeologicalprojectofBetShean,onbehalfoftheMinistryofTourism,theNational ParkAuthority,theJewishNationalFund,the IsraelAntiquities Authority,andthe HebrewUniversityofJerusa-lem.Themapsandplansinthisarticlewerepreparedby BennyArubas;thephotographsarebyGabi Laron.Themembers of thearchaeologicalteam andareasupervisorswhoparticipatedinthese excavationsare toonumerousforusor tomention allofthembyname. Thepermanentmembers ofthe team are B.Arubas,surveyingandarchaeology;G.Laron,photography;S.Hadad,ceramics andglass;S.Agadi, computing;M.Drewes,architecturalfragmentsandreconstructions;N.Amitai-PreissnrandY.Yanai,numismatics;E.Khamis,metalsandregistrationoffinds;L.DiSegni,epigraphy;and L.Kirilov,drawing.Amongtheareasupervisorsandresearchers whoworkedinthedig,we mentionthepermanentteamand those whopartici-patedforlong periods:M.Arazi,Y.Arbel,E.Assaf,M.Avissar,W.Daud,H.Goldfus,S.Hadad,0.Moran,S.Nahari,0.Ron,G.Shelah,A.Shugar,I.Vitelson,andY.Yanai.TheBeracha Foundationhasassisted theresearchtoward finalpublication.Tothese and toheose whomwe could notmentionbyname,we owemanythanks. We shouldalsoliketoexpressourgratitudetothe twoanonymouspeerreviewers ofthisarticle,whomadehelpfulsuggestionsforitsimprovement.'The termByzantineperiodsusedinthisarticleto define theperiodbetween themid-4thcenturyand theMuslimconquestofPalestineinca.640 C.E.Weprefer Byzantineto lateantique(whichis usedtodayby manyscholars),asthe lattertermseems toogeneralandbased onsocial andculturalcriteria,and thuslessappro-priateas achronologicaldefinition.Theterm lateantiqueisperhapsinevitableifoneattemptsasynoptichistoricalsurveyofthewholeMediterraneanworld(e.g.,A.Cameron,TheMediterraneanWorld n LateAntiq-uity,
AD
395-600[London,1993]),but islessappropriatewhen asurveyof aparticularregionisunderdiscussion. InusingthetermByzantinewecontinuean oldtraditionusedbyarchaeologistsandhistoriansofPalestine,Arabia,andSyria,whohavefound the termByzantineapracticalcode ofclassification forpottery,architecture,andtheperioditself.Seealso,forsimilardifficulties ofnomenclatureandinfavor ofthe useofthetermByzantine,E.Kitzinger, ByzantineArt in theMaking(Cambridge,Mass.,1980),1-3.However,onemustview the4thcenturyas atransitionalperiodinwhichnocleardistinctionbetweentheRomanandtheByzantineerascan bedrawn.
 
URBANISMATSCYTHOPOLIS-BETSHEANweremanychangescaused andinfluencedby political,religious,and socialprocesses.Manyof thearchaeologicalfeatures andsocial and cultural characteristicsofByzantineScythopolismustbeexaminedintheframeworkof its Romanorigins,in which onefindsbothcontinuityandinnovation.Atthebeginningof thefifthcenturyC.E.thecityofScythopoliswas chosenasthemetropolisofthenewlyfoundedprovinceof PalaestinaSecunda(Fig.A).2Thischoiceexpressedofficialrecognitionof thepositionofScythopolisas themostimportantcityinnorthernPalestine,whose riches andgrandeursince the Romanperiodwerebasedonits naturaladvantages.The siteof BetSheanhadattracted settlersandtheattentionofthecountry'srulers sinceearlytimes. Thecityissituatedinthemiddleofaveryfertileagriculturalvalleywith an abundance of water.There are severalspringsin itsvicinity;some of them are rathersaline,but othersyieldfreshdrinkingwater.3Theabundanceofwater and fertile landinspiredReshLakish,one of theleading Jewishsagesinthird-centuryPalestine,tosaythat"Paradiseifit isinEretzIsrael[teLand ofIsrael],itsgateis BethShean."4TheperennialriverofNahalHarod and itstributary,Nahal'Amal,irrigatetheregionand thecity.Thesite wassituatednearthejunctionof twoimportantroads,onerunningvia theJezreelValleyfromthecoast(andfromEgypt)toSyriaandMesopotamia,theotherleadingfromSyriatoJerusalemalongtheJordanValley (Fig.B).TheCanaanite andbiblical tellof BetShean waslocatedabovethejunctionofNahalHarodand Nahal'Amal,protected bysteep slopesonthenorth,south,and east.5BetShean wasfounded as aHellenistic town inthefirst halfof thethirdcentury
B.C.E.,
probablyunderPtolemyIIPhiladelphus.6The towngainedthestatus ofpolisperhapsacenturylater undertheSeleucids.Thenameofthenew townwasNysa-Scythopolis.Thequestionof theoriginof theuniquenameScythopolishas notyetbeensolved.7IntheRomanperiodthentnameNysawasexplainedbyalocaltradition,whichfounditswayintothewritingsofPlinyandSolinus,that thecitywasfoundedbythegod
2The exactdateoofthedivision ofPalestineinto threeprovincesisunknown.TheterminusantequemforthefoundationofPalaestinaSecunda istheedict of 409
C.E.
(CTh7.4.30),whichmentions thethreePales-tines.Forfurtherdiscussion,seebelow,note110.T.Tsuk,"The WaterSources,"inR.Bar-Nathanetal.,Guidebooko theAntiquitiesofBetShean(Scythopolis),inpress.Theauthorcounts atleast fourmainaqueductsfromfourdifferentsources thatbroughtalargeamountofwatertothecityinthe RomanandByzantine periods.Threeoftheaqueductswereeachsome 5kmlong,andthefourth wasabout13 kmlong.Itissignificantthat nocistern orwaterreservoir oftheRoman-Byzantine periodwasfound;rather,the mainproblembecamethemaintenance ofanadequatedrainagesystemtoconductwaste waterandwinterfloods outof thecitytowardtheJordanValley.4Bab.Talmud,Erubin19a.5See,inbrief,on BetShean inthe2ndand 1stmilleniaB.C.E.,A.Mazar,"Beth-Shean,"inNewEncyclopediaofArchaeologicalExcavations ntheHolyLand,ed. E.Stern,4vols.(Jerusalem,1993),I,214-23,hereafterNEAEHL.6FortheearlyhistoryofBet Sheananditshistoryin theHellenistic andRomanperiods,see,forexample,M.Avi-Yonah,"Scythopolis,"IEJ12(1962),123-34;B.Lifschitz,"Scythopolis:Lhistoire,lesinstitutionsetlescultesde la villeal'6poquehellenistiqueetimperiale,"inAufstiegundNiedergangderrdmischenWelt,ed.H.TemporiniandW.Haase,11.8(Berlin-NewYork,1977),262-94;G.Fuks,Scythopolis:GreekCitynEretzIsrael(Jerusalem,1983;inHebrew).Foragenerallist ofthesourcesandbibliography,see Y.Tsafrir,L.DiSegni,andJ.Green,TabulaImperiliRomani,Iudaea-Palaestina:MapsandGazetteer(Jerusalem,1994),223-25,hereafterTsafrir,DiSegni,andGreen,TIR.7Seediscussions ofthenamebyAvi-Yonah,"Scythopolis,"124-27;Fuks,Scythopolis,160-65;K.J.Rigsby,"SeleucidNotes,"TAPA110(1980),238-42,infavor oftheinterpretationthatthecitywasoriginallynamedNysaafterthedaughteroftheSeleucidkingAntiochusIV,whileestablishingScythopolisasapolis.
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