The Funerary Culture of the Beth She’an-Valley from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine Period
The Valley of Beth She’an has been a place of intensive inhabitation from proto-historic times until today. The ancient Nysa-Scythopolis, the biblical and modern Beth She’an, has been the main urban center in the valley, during Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine times. The city is famous not just for its large tell, and well preserved Roman-Byzantine ruins, but especially for the large number of funerary bustsfound there, the discovery of which unfortunately mostly stem from illicit excavation activity around the ancient tombs. The large number of known busts are a unique characteristic of the sepulchral customs of the ancient city. During the 1920s and 30s, an extensive ancient cemeterywas excavated by a team from the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. They called it the ‘Northern Cemetery’. This cemetery was used from as early as the Early Bronze-Age until the Late Byzantine Period, with a gap between the Iron Ages 2 and 3. While the majority of the excavations by the American team in the ancient city are published, the cemetery remains largely unpublished. In subsequent years, more tombs in the valley, particularly in the ancient city, were excavated, of which some are published extensively. My Ph.D. aims at providing a broader picture of the ancient funerary customs in the valley, with the Northern Cemetery as the centerpiece of my study. Despite extensive tomb raiding, a large portion of the original grave goods were found still in place. This provides the chance to get a deeper insight into the ancient funerary customs of the city and the valley it dominates. By studying the grave-inventories in connection with the tombs themselves, I want to shed light on more local sepulchral customs, like the funerary busts, but also the ancient inhabitants’ connections to the neighboring regions like Galilee, Samaria or the Decapolison a regional level and to the Mediterranean on wider geographical scale. A study of the ancient funerary customs of the valley of Beth She’an has the potential to deliver insights into the society, religion, economy and culture of Nysa-Scythopolis, along with enlarging our knowledge about ancient cemeteries in the region and across the Mediterranean.