Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beit She'an

Wow. We visited Beit She'an today. It's quite something. Much more than I expected actually. We set out at 6am as usual, this time we had brother-in-law blackyanno with us. The boy so loved the idea of a "gaziyah" to make black coffee, as Ravid illustrated last week, that we had to go out an buy one. We bought a cute little pack that came complete with gas stove, glasses, finjan and containers for coffee, tea and sugar. We arrived at the park a half hour before it opened at 8am, and so had time for coffee. A good new ritual.
Beit She'an has a wonderfully long and involved history. Look here for a more complete synopsis. Basically because of it's excellent strategic placement and fertile soil it's been populated in one form or another since the fifth millennium BCE (on the tel) till the present day. It was a major Egyptian, Greek and Roman center. In the 4th century CE Beit She'an became the capital of Palaestina Secunda and it's population reached an enormous 40,000-50,000. So it's quite something. The same earthquake in 749 CE that destroyed last week's site of Sussita/Hippos, caused huge damage in Beit She'an as well.

Like all good Roman cities there is an impressive Theater. It seats 7000, and once had three tiers of seating, only the lowermost of which remains intact. The view from the seats, through the columns overlooking the backdrop of the ruins and the tel, is quite breathtaking.
Below is a picture of the main drag, Palladius Street. The imposing Tel is in the background. I assume they reconstructed the fallen pillars alongside the street.
Yep we climbed up to the top of the Tel (it was hot). The view is excellent. There are a lot of ruins on the top of the Tel and the many layers of civilization are visible as you climb up.
This is the view of the palaces behind the "Agora" from half way up the Tel.
I had to include this picture. In the top right hand corner you can see the "Golden Arches" of Beit She'an's McDonald's while in the foreground you see the huge columns of Silvanus Street, they have been restored after the earthquake.
This interesting ruin is visible from the back of the Tel. It's called the "Truncated Bridge" and is all that is left of the triple vaulted bridge that spanned the Harod River and left into the main street.
These are the remains of the forth millennium BCE (yes that's 6K years back) settlement on the Tel. Unbelievable. Although it's not really surprising as Beit She'am had it all, fertile land, plenty of water and an easily defended position.
This is Tyche, guardian godess of the city, wearing a crown of the city walls. This is from one of the mosaics in the Sigma, a Byzantine concourse near the baths.
Yes, folks what you see below is a hypocaust. A Roman method of underfloor heating in their public baths. These pillars raised the floor so that heated air could pass underneath and warm the room. There are two bathhouses in Beit She'an. Both are very complex buildings.
Below is a Corinthian Capital for a pillar, complete with the head of the god Dionysus. Those Romans had some talented stonemasons.
This was my favorite building of all. The public latrines. Apparently men and women both used these at the same time and there were no partitions between the stalls. Basically you perched between the two slabs and all your waste was washed down the trough into the sewerage ditches below. You were given a fig leaf to cleanup with after.
The most amazing thing of all was in all the time we were wandering about the site, we saw five other people. Beit She'an is well worth the 20NIS entry fee. It was even worth braving the sweltering heat.


jozie said...

Wow. For once that was not boringo.
Just a fig leaf you say? I assume there are loads of fig trees in the vacinity.

I love your new Archeology format with the photos in the middle much easier to read.
Beit She'an looks awesome. It's amazing how much there is to see in this tiny country of ours and how far back our history goes.

So how was the coffee?:

blackpetero said...

Well I'm glad it didn't bore you. I would hate for that to happen. I don't want you thinking that because you commented that you didn't like the old format, I rushed off and changed. It's just easier to post the pictures in the middle of the page. O.K. Did I mention that I would hate to bore you?

Yann commented that if you, dear love, were living in Roman times, you would never ever be able to poo. However would you deal with other people begin able to see not just your feet underneath the stall?

The coffee was good, the stick of cinnamon (dubbed "Oren Style" by bso) added a pleasant aftertaste. Can I just say that boring you is the last thing on my mind? Sorry there's no time.

jozie said...

ooohhhh touchy touchy.
But you are right about the pooing. No way in hell.