Pella

Pella lies at sea-level in the eastern foothills of the north Jordan Valley, 27 kilometres (17 miles) south of the Sea of Galilee and 130 km (80 miles) northwest of Amman. The first settlers arrived in the region around Pella in the Neolithic period and the site itself has been continuously occupied from around 8000 BC. Originally known by the Semitic name Pihilum, as mentioned in the 19th century BC Egyptian execration texts, Pella was one of the ten Decapolis cities that were founded during the Hellenistic period. Its name was Hellenised to Pella after the birth town of Alexander the Great in Macedonia. The Romans settled in ancient Pella in the 1st century AD and developed it into a thriving economic centre. Pella is exceptionally rich in antiquities and the University of Sydney and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities have been conducting excavations there since 1979.

Coordinates: 32° 27′ 0″ N, 35° 37′ 0″ E

Situated near a major intersection of trade routes through the Jordan Valley, Pella has a long history. Excavations over the past thirty-eight years have unearthed many important discoveries including; a Chalcolithic settlement from the 4th millennium BC, the remains of Bronze and Iron Ages temples (Canaanite temple) and administrative buildings, an odeon, baths and a nymphaeum of the Roman Imperial city, Byzantine churches and houses, an Early Islamic residential quarter and a small medieval mosque.

In 63 BC, the Roman General Pompey captured the city and it was integrated into the Eastern portion of the Empire. Pella came to be one of the Decapolis cities that would become centres of Greek and Roman culture in a region which was inhabited by ancient Semitic-speaking peoples (Nabataeans, Arameans, and Judeans). In the 1st century AD, the Romans began to build temples, theatres, collonaded streets and to integrate civic architecture and city planning into the pre-existing Greek city. According to Eusebius (History of the Church 3:5), Jewish Christians of Jerusalem took refuge here during the first Jewish revolt against Rome (AD 66-70) and Pliny mentions its famous spring (HN 5.16.70).

Pella reached its greatest size during the Byzantine era when trade routes strengthened and local industries developed. During this time many monasteries were constructed and the city had its own Christian bishop as early as AD 451. The population at this time may have been as high as 25,000. The city is the site of the battle between Byzantine troops and Muslim invading forces in AD 635 at the Battle of Fahl. The city proper was largely destroyed by the devastating Galilee earthquake in 749.

Today Pella is one of the most important archaeological sites in Jordan.

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Foundations of the Canaanite Migdol Temple, originally constructed around 1650 BC during the Middle Bronze age with two major rebuilds; the first in 1350 BC during the Late Bronze age and the second in 900 BC.
The Canaanite temple was dedicated to the god Baal. Excavation of this structure has shown that this temple is the largest of its type and antiquity yet uncovered in the Levant.
Atop the site’s main hill are the ruins of an Umayyad settlement (c. AD 660-750), which consisted of shops, residences and storehouses.
The remains of the Umayyad settlement (c. 660-750 AD).
The remains of the Umayyad settlement (c. 660-750 AD).
The Middle Church built atop an earlier Roman civic complex in the 5th century AD and expanded in the 6th and 7th centuries.
The columns of the Middle Church, which formed the atrium, have been restored to standing position. The church had three apses, decorated with mosaics and marble.
The Middle Church.
The Middle Church.
In the 7th or 8th century, a monumental staircase was built in the west of the Middle Church, using the stone seats of the nearby Odeon.
The adjacent Odeon, a small theatre used for musical performances, once held 400 spectators.
The Odeon with the Middle Church in the background.
The East Church built at the end of the 5th century AD on the lower slope of Tal Abu El Khas overlooking the valley.
The East Church had a basilica design with two rows of columns and three apses.
The West Church, built in the 6th century AD and used during the Islamic (Umayyad) period.
Abbasid domestic houses.
An ancient mosque built commemorates the death of one of the Companions of the Prophet Mohammed, who fell in battle here during the Battle of Fahl in January AD 635.

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Scythopolis/Nysa (Beit Sh’ean)

Scythopolis/Nysa (Beit Sh’ean) is one of the oldest cities in Israel. It is located in the Galilee region in northern Israel where the Harod Valley and Jordan Valley meet, just 27 kilometres south of the Sea of Galilee and 5 kilometres east of the Jordan River. Beit Sh’ean is one of Israel’s largest archaeological sites.

Coordinates: 32° 30′ 0″ N, 35° 30′ 0″ E

Beit She’an was first settled in the 5th millennium BC on a mound south of the Harod Stream, in the heart of a region of great fertility and abundant water and at a major crossroads. During the Late Bronze Age (16th – 12th centuries BC), the Egyptians made Beit She’an the centre of their rule over Canaan. A basalt tablet from Seti I (1290–1279 BC) was found in the city with the name of Beit-Shean. A Canaanite city was later constructed on the site of the Egyptian centre, followed by Israelite rule and the Philistines during the Old Testament period. Beit Shean is mentioned in the Bible several times and is best known as the site where King Saul and his sons were hung from the city walls.

The city was later expanded into a large Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine city under the name of Scythopolis or Scythopolis-Nysa. The name derived from the Greek myth according to which Dionysus buried his nurse Nysa in the city where he settled with his Scythians personal guards. Scythopolis became the largest of the cities in the regional alliance known as the Decapolis and reached its zenith after the Bar Kocha revolt under Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161) and Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180). Temples, bathhouses, a theatre, an amphitheatre and other monumental buildings were constructed. During the 4th-7th century, Scythopolis continued to prosper but the pagan structures were converted to other uses since the majority of the population was Christian.

The large city was levelled by a massive earthquake in the 8th century AD and was in ruins until recent archaeological excavations uncovered eighteen layers of remains dating from the Late Neolithic period (4500 BC) through the 12th century AD. The ancient city ruins are now protected within a national park, known as Bet She’an National Park.

PORTFOLIO

The Roman theatre, built at the end of the 2nd century on the remains of a 1st century AD theatre, which could seat about 7,000 spectators.
The Roman theatre, built at the time of the Severan emperors on the remains of a 1st century AD theatre. It could seat about 7,000 spectators. It is the best-preserved ancient theatre discovered in Israel.
The Roman theatre had eight arched entrances called vomitaria which led to the seating area.
The Roman theatre had eight arched entrances called vomitaria which led to the seating area.
The reconstructed section of the scaenae frons, the decorated background of the stage comprises a row of marble and granite columns.
The reconstructed section of the scaenae frons. The 21-metre high stage building was comprised of a two-storey structure of white marble columns and two-storey lateral structures of red granite columns.
The Roman theatre, built at the time of the Severan emperors on the remains of a 1st century AD theatre. It could seat about 7,000 spectators.
The Roman theatre, built at the time of the Severan emperors on the remains of a 1st century AD theatre. It could seat about 7,000 spectators.
Palladius street, the 150-meter colonnaded street crossing the city from the slopes of the Tel to the theatre, built during the Roman period and renovated at the beginning of the Byzantine period.
Palladius street, the 150-metre collonaded street crossing the city from the slopes of the Tel to the theatre. It was built during the Roman period and renovated at the beginning of the Byzantine period.
Colonnaded portico along Palladius street paved with intricate mosaics and lined with marble-faced shops.
The collonaded portico along Palladius street paved with intricate mosaics and lined with marble-faced shops.
Corinthian capital bearing the head of Dionysus, the god of wine and the patron of the city. According to myth the city was founded by Dionysus who lived in the city. His wet nurse Nysa who breast-fed him was buried in the city, so it was named Nysa-Scythopolis.
Corinthian capital bearing the head of Dionysus, the god of wine and the patron of the city. According to myth, the city was founded by Dionysus who lived in the city. His wet nurse Nysa who breast-fed him was buried in the city, so it was named Nysa-Scythopolis.
Statue of Dionysus, from Beit Sh'ean/Scythopolis, 2nd century AD, Israel Museum.
Statue of Dionysus unearthed at Beit Sh’ean/Scythopolis, 2nd century AD, Israel Museum.
Exedra (semi-circular building) with twelve small rooms and a portico opening onto a courtyard built in the 6th century AD on the western side of Palladius Street.
Exedra (semi-circular building) with twelve small rooms and a portico opening onto a courtyard built in the 6th century AD on the western side of Palladius Street.
Mosaic with representation of Tyche, goddess of fortune, found in the semicircular exedra off Paladius Street at Scythopolis (Beit She'an). Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Mosaic with a representation of Tyche, goddess of fortune, found in the semicircular exedra off Paladius Street at Scythopolis (Beit She’an). Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Statue of Tyche holding the cornucopia, unearthed in Beit Sh'ean/Scythopolis, 3rd century AD, Israel Museum.
Statue of Tyche holding the cornucopia, unearthed in Beit Sh’ean/Scythopolis, 3rd century AD, Israel Museum.
Exedra (semi-circular building) with twelve small rooms and a portico opening onto a courtyard built in the 6th century AD on the western side of Palladius Street.
Exedra (semi-circular building) with twelve small rooms and a portico opening onto a courtyard built in the 6th century AD on the western side of Palladius Street.
Steps on Palladius Street leading to the Western Bathhouse.
The entrance gateway leading to the Western Bathhouse.
The Western Bathhouse built in the 4th century AD.
The Western Bathhouse built in the 4th century AD.
Remains of two pools in the Western Bathhouse built in the 4th century AD.
Remains of two pools in the Western Bathhouse built in the 4th century AD.
The colonnaded exercise yard of the Western Bathhouse had a mosaic pavement decorated with geometric pattern.
The collonaded exercise yard of the Western Bathhouse had a mosaic pavement decorated with geometric pattern.
Scythopolis.
Scythopolis.
Silvanus Street crossing the city in a north-south direction.
Silvanus Street crossing the city in a north-south direction.
The ruins of the Round Temple attesting to the ferocity of the 749 AD earthquake.
The ruins of the Round Temple attesting to the ferocity of the 749 AD earthquake. The Temple was perhaps erected for the worship of Dionysus or his wet nurse, Nysa.
The ruins of the Roman Nymphaeum originally built in the 2nd century AD.
The ruins of the Roman Nymphaeum originally built in the 2nd century AD.
Overview of Silvanus Street.
Overview of Silvanus Street.
View on the Tel from the Agora.
View on the Tel from the Agora.
The public latrines with open courtyard paved and a mosaic floor.
The public latrines of the Northern Bathhouse with an open courtyard paved with a mosaic floor.
Overview of Scythopolis from the top of the Tell.
Overview of Scythopolis from the top of the Tell.
On the top of the hill are the ruins of an Egyptian governor’s house dating back to the 12th century BC. During the late Bronze period and the beginning of the Iron age, the city became as a centre of the Egyptian imperial administration in northern Canaan.
The Egyptian governor's house. Above the doorpost (lintel) of the house was a stone tablet bearing the name and title of the governor: Ramses-Weser-Khepesh. The inscription attests to his high rank:
The Egyptian governor’s house. Above the door of the house (lintel) was a stone tablet bearing the name and title of the governor: Ramses-User-Khepesh. The image depicts the governor kneeling before the name and attributes of Pharaoh Ramses III.
Basalt statue of Ramses III depicted seated on his throne, found at Beit She'an, 1184-1153 BC. Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem.
Basalt statue of Ramses III depicted seated on his throne, found at Beit She’an, 1184-1153 BC.
Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem.
The Amphitheatre, situated beyond the city limits, there was probably ten or twelve rows accommodating 5,000-7,000 spectators.
The Hippodrome, constructed in the 2nd century AD. It was used for horse and chariot races. It was later converted into an amphitheatre which hosted gladiatorial combats. The amphitheatre ceased to function in the 2nd half of the 4th century AD because the city’s Christians disapproved of the activities that took place there.
The Amphitheatre, situated beyond the city limits, there was probably ten or twelve rows accomodating 5,000-7,000 spectators.
The Hippodrome/Amphitheatre, situated beyond the city limits, there was probably ten or twelve rows accommodating 5,000-7,000 spectators.
The ruins of the Roman bridge, a triple arched bridge crossing the Nahal Harod.
The ruins of the Roman bridge, a triple-arched bridge crossing the Nahal Harod.

See more images of Scythopolis on Flickr

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