University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology


Volume 55 / Issue 1 (2013)


Issue Cover

Beth Shean Revisited

On the Cover: Studying excavation records provides an understanding of the context of assemblages of objects. For our cover, we recreated an archaeologist's work table from the 1920s. The molded ceramic figurine of a nursing maid, the small broken jug, and the fragments of bone pins were just some of the objects recovered from Tomb 218 in the Northern Cemetery at Beth Shean. See Life and Death at Beth Shean for information on the cemetery and Death and Eternal Life at Beth Shean to learn more about the figurine. Photograph by Jennifer Chiappardi, Museum Photo Studio


From the Director – Crossroads of History

Beth Shean, Israel

By: Julian Siggers

My first glimpse of Beth Shean occurred in the 1990s. I was a graduate student at the University of Toronto working on the excavation of a Neolithic farmstead in Jordan. At night, in the distance, we could see lights from the town of Beth Shean, which had been restored as a Roman town and was […]


Treasure Beneath the Floor

Museum Object Number: 31-50-212

By: Jane Hickman

Although the Monastery of Lady Mary is best known for its fine mosaics, another discovery awaited Fitzgerald’s team as they excavated the floor of Room H, a small room adjacent to the chapel. A gold chain and bracelet were recovered along with a cache of ten gold coins, a bronze censer, and other objects. The […]


Domestic Devotions in Late Antique Beth Shean

By: Jordan Pickett

A variety of objects found in the residential quarter testify to the expression of the Christian religious identity of the inhabitants, ranging from cross-shaped doorknockers to modest jewelry embellished with Christian symbols. Most intriguing are the souvenirs from pilgrimages to holy places, which would have figured into daily devotions or rituals of healing. Both the […]


Beth Shean Plan

Beth Shean Plan

Plan of Roman-Byzantine city of Beth Sheanor ancient Nysa-Scythopolis. After Mazor and Najjar, 2007, Plan 1.1. Civic center Tell Beth Shean Northeast (Damascus) city gate Northwest (Caesarea) city gate Southwest (Neapolis) city gate South (Jerusalem) city gate Southeast (Gerasa) city gate Samaritan synagogue Church of Andreas Church of the Martyr Monastery of Lady Mary Northern […]


Unearthing a Masterpiece – A Roman Mosaic from Lod Israel

Now in the Galleries

By: Rina Talgam

The renowned Lod Mosaic, excavated in 2009, is on exhibit at the Penn Museum through May 12, 2013. This is the Mosaic’s last stop in the United States, before it travels to Europe and then back to Israel. Rina Talgam, specialist in ancient wall paintings and mosaics, describes the context and the significance of the […]


Beth Shean Revisited

Reexamining a Late Antique City in Transition

By: Robert Ousterhout

Beth Shean (“house of ease”), ancient NysaScythopolis, sits on an important crossroads in the Galilee and is watered by abundant springs. It is known variously as Beit She’an, Bet She’an, Beth-Shan, Baysan, or Beisan — the name can be transliterated and spelled in a variety of different ways.Occupied as early as the 6thmillennium BCE, the […]


New Light on Daily Life at Beth Shean

By: Geoffrey Shamos

The Roman city of Scythopolis extended to the south of the tell, with broad colonnaded streets and large public buildings, including baths, a basilica, a theater, and an amphitheater. The monumental temple of Zeus Akrios, excavated by the Penn Museum team, was the only significant structure on the tell, apparently connected to the city below […]


Beth Shean Columns in Lower Egypt

Nicholas Harris points to the graffitied column in the Penn Museum Egypt (Sphinx) Gallery.

By: Nicholas Harris

The marble columns, majestic in their own right, contain a further curiosity: they are criss-crossed with Arabic and Hebrew graffiti. Column I carries two examples of Hebrew graffiti. One reads: “In the name of the Lord, we will d[o and will prosper].” Below this paraphrase of Gen. 39:23, commonly appearing at the beginning of Hebrew […]


Contextualizing Penn’s Excavations at Beth Shean

(1921–1933)

By: Jordan Pickett

When the dust had cleared from the devastation of World War I, the San Remo Conference of 1920 divided he remains of the broken Ottoman Empire. The conference recognized a British Mandate for Jordan-Palestine and Mesopotamia, a British Protectorate in Egypt, and a French Mandate for Syria. Consequently, European and American interest in archaeology in […]


From the Guest Editor – What Lies Beneath

By: Robert Ousterhout

I like to compare the Penn Museum to an iceberg. What you see in the galleries is merely the tip, and what lies beneath is considerably larger. For every object on display, there are hundreds more in storage, part of the Museum’s rich legacy of excavation and research. A tour of the basement storerooms can […]