Thursday, February 16, 2017

Roman-era gate at Beit She’arim

WHAT'S IN A NAME? Archaeologists shocked to find ancient gateway at ‘House of Gates.’ Excavation at Beit She’arim in northern Israel unearths fortifications of Roman-era Jewish town where the Mishna was written (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel).
With a name like Beit She’arim, Hebrew for “House of Gates,” it seems obvious that the UNESCO world heritage site would have ancient portals. Still, archaeologists from the University of Haifa were surprised to stumble across a massive gateway during recent excavations at the site in northern Israel.

Half of an impressive northeast-facing gate built of limestone blocks, with postholes for doors and locks, abutting a circular tower, along a road leading into the ancient town, turned up during a dig in the fall of 2016, the school announced Wednesday.


The gate turned up in the even tinier town of Beit Zaid, a moshav founded by Jewish pioneer Alexander Zaid, who discovered Beit She’arim right next door. Tali Zaid, his granddaughter and one of the 74 people who live in the community, happened upon some ancient-looking stones in her yard a few years ago during renovations on her home.

[Archaeologist Adi] Erlich got approval from the Israel Antiquities Authority to dig up the yard this past fall, and uncovered the gate during excavations from September to November.

Though the gate hasn’t yet been dated, the University of Haifa team was certain it was associated with the Roman period.

Erlich was astonished by the discovery.

“Most of the settlements in the Roman period aren’t fortified, and certainly not a relatively small Jewish town that wasn’t even considered an official Roman town. There were isolated fortified Jewish towns in the north, like Yodfat, but even those towns that were large and central didn’t include a large and impressive gate like this,” she said.

Some past posts on Beit She'arim (Beit Shearim) are here and links (cf. here and here).