The Beisan Expedition

Originally Published in 1934

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THE 1933 season of the Beisan Expedition was brought to a successful close in December, but Mr. FitzGerald’s report on the second half of the work was received too late for inclusion in the last Bulletin. During the concluding weeks of excavation the deep cut on the south side of the mound was carried down to virgin soil, as had been planned. In addition a further section to the east was cleared through two levels [Plate II]. A large square structure, which may have been a watch tower, and a covered stone drain were two structural finds of interest in the last-mentioned area. Here, too, were found bronze objects and examples of pottery of the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1600 B. c.), with finely burnished black and red ware proving especially noteworthy.

View of excavations of city walls
Plate II — Bronze Age Levels in the Excavations at Beisan, Palestine

In the deep cut, the levels dating from the Early Bronze Age (prior to 2000 B. C.) were followed down to virgin soil. Two features particularly drew the attention of the excavators: one was the remarkable flatness of the virgin soil, which falls away from the edge of the mound towards the valley below; the other was the depth of the filling between the soil and the lowest walls, indicating a very long period of inhabitation of the mound before the walls were built.

In the lowest level at which any signs of buildings remained, the few walls found were built of small, round-topped bricks bearing some resemblance to the plano-convex bricks so characteristic of certain early periods in Mesopotamia. The walls stood on a filling of debris. In the red, virgin soil below, a number of pits had been dug; these can scarcely have been used for any other purpose than that of dwelling places for the earliest inhabitants of this part of the mound. The pits contained a quantity of gray debris probably having an admixture of vegetable matter, and it seems likely that they had been roofed over with reeds or brushwood. Pottery fragments were found in the pits, including some noteworthy painted potsherds decorated with bands of chevrons in red.

View of a partially excavated house showing the foundation
Plate III — Remains of an Early Bronze Age Dwelling at Beisan, Palestine
Image Number: 49385

An interesting feature in a higher one of the Early Bronze Age levels was that the buildings had almost uniformly curved walls. In this level were found the substantial remains of a primitive dwelling [Plate III], with one room having a door on one side and a hearth at one end, while beyond was a smaller chamber containing bins and a small area paved with potsherds. In or near this building were found two copper ‘axes’ and a blade and pin of the same metal; the longer of the two ‘axes’ was very thin and had been used either for ceremonial purposes or possibly as an implement for cutting leather or some such material.

The season has been a very instructive one, rather than one fruitful in strikingly decorative objects, which could hardly have been expected in the early levels which were under examination. In the division of objects, following the close of excavations, the Museum was awarded a very satisfactory assortment quite representative of the finds as a whole.

Cite This Article

"The Beisan Expedition." Museum Bulletin V, no. 2 (March, 1934): 37-40. Accessed July 15, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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