Bet Shean National Park
Meet Bet Shean National Park
Bet She’an National Park houses the spectacular ruins of the glory that was the Roman and Byzantine city of Bet She’an. Rising above them is the high mound on which Biblical Bet She’an stood.
Main points of interest
- She’an Nights – a breathtaking audiovisual display taking place after sunset.
- The entrance plaza – model of the Roman-Byzantine city and view of the site.
- Roman theater – the spectacular remains and reconstruction of the 2nd century CE theater.
- Western bathhouse – the ruins of the large bathhouse of Bet She’an, in use during the Byzantine period. The remains of the bathhouse offer an opportunity to get to know this aspect of life at that time.
- The reconstructed cardo (Palladius Street) – a street paved with basalt stone slabs, approximately 150 m in length. Along the length of the street are the remains of columns and impressive buildings.
- The Sigma and the Tyche mosaic – a semicircular plaza that was the site of commerce and entertainment. In one of the rooms around the plaza is a mosaic depicting the figure of Tyche, goddess of the city’s fortune.
- The Roman temple – the ruins of a large temple. The four huge columns of the facade collapsed in the 749 earthquake, and since then have remained lying on the ground as they fell.
- The propyleum (monumental gateway) – the remains of a gateway with three entrances. Processions would apparently enter through this gateway on their way to the temple that stood atop the tel.
- The nymphaeum – the remains of a splendid, decorated public fountain.
- The central monument – the remains of the building that stood at the intersection of the main streets of the city of Bet She’an during the Roman and Byzantine periods.
- The decumanus (Sylvanus Street) – a basalt-paved street. On either side of the street are the ruins of shops and a large pool.
- The Basilica (agora) – the remains of the open market of the Byzantine period.
- Valley street – the street is paved with basalt slabs and leads to the “truncated bridge” extending over Harod Stream.
- The Truncated Bridge – the remains of an impressive Roman-era bridge that led to the northern gate of Bet She’an during the Byzantine and Roman periods.
- Tel Bet She’an – the remains of the Biblical tel. From the top of the tel is a spectacular view of Bet She’an and the Valley of Springs (Emek Hama’ayanot).
- The eastern bathhouse – a large bathhouse that has been partially uncovered, between Sylvanus Street and the theater.
- Public latrine – a building and colonnaded courtyard. 57 toilet seats are set in the walls of the courtyard.
- Ritual compound – a religious complex with a temple, altars, and nymphaeum fountain.
- She’an Nights – a breathtaking audiovisual display of the finds at the site, a multi-sensory experience.
- The entrance plaza – model of the Roman-Byzantine city and view of the site, next to the entrance plaza, souvenir store and kiosk.
- The Roman theater – the 7000 seat theater was built at the end of the 2nd century CE. The lower block of seats, with 23 rows, has survived in its entirety. Outside the theater a row of piers was found around the circumference that apparently supported a dome surrounding the theater from the outside, carrying a third block of seats. The skene (scenery), the wall behind the stage, rose to a height of 21 m, the height of the seats.
- The western bathhouse – the large bathhouse was built at the end of the 4th century CE, and was in use throughout the Byzantine period. It is 100 m long, and 90 m wide. The bathhouse had a courtyard surrounded by porticoes, with rooms facing into it on three sides, from the outside, most of them paved with mosaics or colored marble tiles. The central courtyard served as a palestra – a place for physical exercise. Inside the bathhouse were eight halls and four open bathing pools, surrounded by columns. Fountains stood between the pools.
- The reconstructed cardo (Palladius Street) – the street is 150 m long, and was named after the governor who built the portico alongside it. The name appears in an inscription found in the street. The floor of the portico was entirely covered with mosaics. The street was paved between the theater and the temple, and in the center was an area of basalt stones laid in a herringbone pattern, beneath which ran a drainage channel. Alongside this section a portico was built, with Greek inscriptions on its columns, and a mosaic floor. This was a commercial street, and there were shops in the portico.
- The Sigma and the Tyche mosaic – a semicircular plaza on the western side of the street. An inscription names the site “Sigma”, apparently because of the shape of the plaza, reminiscent of the shape of the Greek letter sigma. The Sigma was a center of commerce and entertainment. According to the inscriptions found there, it was built at the time of Theosobius son of Theosobius, governor of the Province of Palaestina Secunda (in 570 according to the calendar of Scythopolis, which is 507 CE). 12 rooms or shops were built around the Sigma, and three apses at the sides and center of the plaza. In the center of the mosaic in one of the rooms is a medallion containing the figure of Tyche, goddess of the city’s fortune. She is depicted as a woman with a crown on her head in the form of a crenellated and turreted wall, carrying a horn of plenty filled with fruit, and a fig tree.
- The Roman temple – the temple was built in front of the nympheum, at the main intersection of streets in Bet She’an. The remains of the temple that can be seen at the site today were built in the 2nd century CE. The temple was apparently destroyed in the 4th century, under Christian rule. The temple is in a central place, large and magnificent, and yet we cannot know for sure who was worshipped here. The temple façade faces to the north-west, and had an entrance hall, at the front of which stood four giant pillars, 9.5 m high, weighing 25 tons each, carved out of a single stone. The pillars were topped with large Corinthian capitals, supporting a pediment. The pediment apparently towered to a height of 14 m, and had a broad flight of stairs leading up to it. The pillars and capitals collapsed in the 749 earthquake, and are still lying on the ground just as they fell. On the stairs, on the plinth of a statue, an important Greek inscription was found, which translates as: “With good fortune. The residents of the city of Nysa Scythopolis, sacred city and city of refuge, one of the Greek cities of Coele Syria, [dedicated this statue in honor of] Marcus Aurelius Antonius Augustus Caesar by Curator Theodorus, son of Titus.”
- The propyleum (monumental gateway) – to the north of the temple, on the other side of the street, the remains of a gateway with three entrances was found, and in front of it a set of large stone piers with columns between them. Beyond the gate the remains of a hall were found, with niches in two of its walls. This splendid complex apparently served as the gatehouse of the road going up from the temple to the tel and the temple that stood at its summit. It was apparently used for religious processions.
- The nymphaeum– the nymphaeum was built opposite the portico, to the north-west of the main monument. It has a magnificent façade that served as a public fountain. A dedicatory inscription, from around 400 CE, mentions the construction of the nymphaeum but talks about it being rebuilt. The earlier nymphaeum was built in the 2nd century CE. The architectural decoration of the nymphaeum is one of the finest found in the country. The water flowed into a shallow pool at the front from pipes behind the nymphaeum. The nymphaeum combined considerable splendor with a pleasant coolness. Its height is 13 m above street level. This structure too collapsed in the earthquake of 749.
- The central monument – at the intersection of streets in the center of the city was a paved plaza, and rising above it, a splendid columnar monument. The monument stands on a trapezoid base, 3.95 m above the plaza. The base is made of basalt and faced with limestone. Many pieces of marble found in a rock-fall at the foot of the base indicate that this was a splendid structure of columns topped with arches. Although it is not possible to reconstruct the entire structure, the pieces that were found show that the upper structure had decorated marble arches, and an apse decorated with depictions of animals set in acanthus leaf medallions.
- The decumanus (Sylvanus street) – the decumanus is a basalt-paved street, leading up from the central monument towards the south-east. On the south-western side the street was bounded by a thick basalt wall, in which small shops with domed roofs were set. At the front of the portico, parallel to the street, was a long ornamental pond (487 m long, and 70 cm deep). In the Byzantine period, at the beginning of the 6th century CE, a new street was laid along the route of the Roman road, at a higher level, and a new hall was built over the pond, its ceiling carried by the columns of the portico. In the Umayyad period the hall fell into disuse, and in its place 18 shops were built, fronted by a portico supported by columns and arches. The columns and buildings collapsed in the 749 earthquake. Part of the facade of the shops has been reconstructed. An inscription found there mentions a Scythopolis lawyer by the name of Sylvanus, who was involved in the building of the hall.
- The Basilica (agora) – the Basilica was built in the Byzantine period, and was an open market surrounded by porticos. In the 6th century the area of the Basilica was reduced, and by the north-eastern gate an “Oriental-style” bazaar was built, with the aim of developing commerce in the city. In the bazaar there were 21 shops in four rows, with two lanes running between them.
- Valley Street – close to the Basilica was an intersection at which three of the city’s main streets met. The longest and most important of them was called Valley Street by the excavators, because it runs parallel to the riverbed of Amal Stream. The street runs north-east from the intersection to the city gate, part of it paved with basalt slabs, and with sidewalks on either side. The paved street is some 8 m wide and the total width is 24 m. On either side of the street are rows of columns carrying stone beams. The columns are set on plinths and bases, and topped with Corinthian capitals. The length of the street up to the north-eastern gate was 560 m. It crossed Harod Stream over an enormous bridge. The columns, including the bases and capitals, were 6.9 m high. On either side of the covered sidewalks were shops, opening onto the sidewalk. The columns along the street were found fallen, as a result of the earthquake in 749 CE.
- The Truncated Bridge – the remains of an impressive Roman-era bridge, extending over Harod Stream. The bridge led from the northern gate of Bet She’an, Damascus Gate, at the top of the hillside to the north of Harod Stream. The bridge was 37 m long, and 18 m wide. The bridge collapsed in the earthquake that struck the region on January 18, 749 CE. The impressive parts of the bridge that are still standing have been restored and reinforced.
- Bet She’an Tel – a steep flight of stairs leads to the top of the Biblical tel. In the tel, the remains of buildings from the period of Egyptian rule were found, and a Crusader fortress. From the top of the mound there is a spectacular view of the surrounding area.
- The eastern bathhouse – another large and impressive bathhouse has been partially uncovered between Sylvanus Street and the theater.
- Public latrine – to the east of the southern part of the bathhouse is the latrine. The building has a mosaic-paved courtyard surrounded by columns, with porticoes on three sides. Long marble plinths were set against the portico walls, creating 57 toilet seats. Under the seats were sewage channels through which water flowed, carrying the waste to the municipal drainage system.
- Ritual compound – a religious complex with a temple, altars, and a nymphaeum. The temple was built on a raised square podium, with steps leading up to it. Inscriptions were found on the altars.
Bet Shean National ParkUseful Information
Entrance to the park closes one hour before cited closing timeSummer hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 17:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 16:00 - 08:00 Winter hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 16:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 15:00 - 08:00 Holiday eves: 13:00 - 08:00 Yom Kippur eve: 13:00 - 08:00
- entrance area including restroom
- souvenir store and snack bar
- The archaeological site is only partially accessible: A section of the Roman theater, including an audio station for the hearing impaired
- the restored bathhouse and Roman streets
- Accessible opening film to the She’an Nights sound and light show.
Dogs may not be brought into the park
Kiosk, souvenir shop, guided tour (by advance arrangement), partial access for people with disabilities, including support vehicle
The national park is in the town of Bet She’an, and there are signs directing visitors to the site at the entrances to town.
Bus 412 from Jerusalem to Afula – details from Egged Information
|Adult in group||₪ 24.00|
|Child in group||₪ 12.00|
|Israeli senior citizen||₪ 14.00|
|Israeli senior citizen||₪ 28.00|