Beth She’arim

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Dates Excavated:



Benjamin Mazar

Archaeological Information: Building B

Date of Building Construction:

Phase I: 3rd- early 4th century (Period IIIA)[785]
Phase II: 1st half of 4th century (Period IIIB)[786]

Place of Building in Settlement:
On the northeastern side of a hill, overlooking the structures on the slopes. [787] The settlement was surrounded by a wall. Building B is a public building of at least two stories high, northwest of the synagogue building proper. Possibly the buildings belonged to the same “synagogue-complex.”

Building Description:
Phase I: (=Period IIIA) This was a south-west north-east basilica synagogue with two rows of eight columns. By the northwest wall was a raised platform between the columns that could have been the base for a bemah. The floor was paved with flagstones. There were three doorways in the southeast wall that connected to a courtyard. The courtyard had two cisterns. This synagogue was built as an addition to Building B, which was erected during Period II (2nd half 2nd century to beginning of 3rd century). Building B was affected by many changes during Period III. Phase II: (=Period IIIB) Two doors in the southeast wall were enclosed, creating niches. The raised platform remained in use. The walls were coated in colored plaster and marble slabs with various decorations, and inscriptions were affixed to them. Far reaching changes were made to the annex buildings and building B, which served in this period as a large private residence. The buildings were eventually destroyed by a fire, probably around 350 CE. [788]

Maps and Plans

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First Deposit

Date Excavated: 1939

Deposit Location:

In the basement of the building

Archaeological Information:

Room 8 of Building B, northwest of the synagogue

Certain association with the building itself? No; found in burnt debris [789]

Deposit Retrievable? Unknown

Deposit Type: II?3

Deposit Description:

1200 bronze coins found in the burnt debris in the basement of Building B at the end of Period III.[790]

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:

The coins found in 1939 in the synagogue site at Beth She’arim were never published. The only published reference to the coins is in Mazar’s report of 1973, in which he alludes to the 1200 bronze coins found in Building B, stating thatmost of the coins are of the period of Constantine the Great, Constantine II (335-340 CE), Constans I (335-350 CE), and Constantius II. There are a few of Helena with Constantine, Licinius (307-323 CE), Fausta, wife of Constantine, and his sons Crispus (died 327 CE) and Dalmatius (died 337 CE).”[791]
Gabriela Bijovskyre-examined the coins for her 2007 article on the revolt of Gallus and identified 616 poorly preserved bronze coins.[792]According to her, the bulk of the coins are dated to the last quarter of the 3rdcentury to the ‘30s of the 4thcentury CE. There are, however, a couple of later coins: a coin of Constans I (348-350 CE), a fallen horseman coin of Constantius II (roughly 346-355 CE), a “Victory dragging captive” coin (383-395 CE), a “cross” (395-408 CE), and finally a worn coin dated from the 2ndhalf of the 4thcentury to the 5thcentury.
In the fall of 2019, I was able to access the archeological depot of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, with permission from Yosef Garfinkel, Head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University, and Zeev Weiss, the Eleazar L. Sukenik Professor of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology. I was allowed to visit the depot for two full days, and with the help of Daphna Tsoran, the Curator of the Collection of Institute of Archeology, I was able to examine the Beth She’arim coins, which are now stored in the coin safe at the Institute. In total, 615 legible coins from the basement deposit are stored in a wooden box. On my first day, I sorted the coins according to their emperor and type. On the second day, I took photographs of the obverse and reverse sides of all 615 coins. Back at my office, I tried to identify and date each coin. However, I did not have the time to measure and weigh the coins for my database. Some coins are also difficult to analyze from the photos I took. All mistakes or inaccurate identifications are thus mine.[793]
If we assume that 1200 coins were originally found in the deposit, then 585 coins are missing from the coin safe. Perhaps these were not legible and thus were not kept. For the sake of completeness, they have been added to the database as “unknown.”
Of the 615 legible coins, I was able to date 577 coins with certainty. Of these, only one coin is older than 300 CE: a coin of Probus, dated to 276-282 CE. All other coins are from the 4thcentury, with 96.5% of the coins having aterminus postquemof the second quarter of the 4thcentury. Of the 615 coins, the emperors of 522 could be determined. 258 coins are of Constantine I (49.5%), 138 coins of Constantine II (26.5%), 93 coins of Constantius II (18%), 24 coins of Constans I (4.5%), 6 coins of Crispus (1%), and 1 coin of Licinius I (0.5%). All eastern mints are represented, with a predominance of Antioch. Only 1 coin could be attributed to Arles: a follis minted by Constantine I (322-323 CE).
Interestingly enough, 364 of the 586 coins, or 62% of the coins are of the GLORIA EXERCITVS-type. I could not find the late coins that Bijovsky identified. Unfortunately, she does not provide any coin numbers in her article, so it is difficult to determine to which coins she was referring. Hopefully, a future full publication of this deposit will solve this problem.