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Beit Shean • בית שאן • بيسان‎

בית שאן Beit Shean is known as بيسان‎ Beesan in Arabic. Its name in English is traditionally Beth She'an. בית שאן Beit Shean has a large, ancient ten-acre mound known as تل الحصن tell al-Husn by early archaeologists. The ancient city was known by its Hebrew name, and later by the Greek name Σκυθόπολις Scythopolis. Project directors Clarence Fisher, Alan Rowe and Gerald Fitzgerald excavated eighteen city levels dating from the Late Neolithic period ( BCE) through the 12th CENT CE. At the time of the conquest, according to the Bible, Beth Shean is one of the cities from which the Israelites did not rout the Canaanites Joshua 17:11; Judges 1:27 and the city onto whose walls the Philistines fastened the body of Saul and those of his sons I Sam. 31:10. The project at Beth Shean was one of the largest excavations of its time. Among those most impressive finds were those from the Late Bronze to Early Iron Ages ( BCE - BCE) when it was an Egyptian administrative center and garrison. The highlight of the excavations was the discovery of a series of five Canaanite and hybrid Egypto-Canaanite temples. Burials contemporary with these city levels were excavated in the North Cemetery.

During more than 400 years, a superimposed series of five temples were built.

I have built you a secret shrine in the land of Djahy. I have fashioned you a great cult statue. The foreigners of Retenu come to it, presenting their gifts before you. Ramses III, P Harris I: 9,1-3.1, ~ BCE

When Egyptian soldiers arrived at Beth Shean they rebuilt a small Canaanite temple in a modified Egyptian style. From the 15th CENT BCE to 11th CENT BCE, three more re-buildings occurred. The last temple may correspond to the temple of Astarte mentioned in the biblical story of the death of Saul, the first king of Israel.

When the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa... They put his armor in the temple of Astarte; and they fastened his body to the walls of Beth Shean. 1 Samuel 31:8-10

These temples were equipped lavishly with objects indicating an interesting mixture of Egyptian and Canaanite religious practices. Small faience objects, rattles, bowls, cat figurines and an ivory clapper are associated with the worship of the Egyptian goddess Hathor. Canaanite religious practices are represented by ceramic ritual vessels, nude goddess figurines and seated gods in bronze and gold.

Memorial stele erected in the temple courts show Egyptians making offerings to Mekal, Lord of Beth Shan and to the Canaanite goddess Antit proving that Egyptians included Canaanite gods in their worship.