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Bethsaida Excavation Update: 
2001 Season

Excavation of Iron Age gate area 
reveals outer city gate

By Professor Rami Arav
University of Nebraska at Omaha

Aerial shot of Bethsaida looking south.    The 2001 season began in May and ended in early August. About one hundred participants took part in the dig in five successive three-week sessions. This season was devoted to the excavations of the Iron Age gate area. The gate complex consists of the following elements: 

  1. A cobble-paved road climbing up moderately to the gate complex
  2. An outer gate, which is a small room with two opposite wide openings
  3. A cobble-paved large courtyard
  4. A thick wall connecting the outer gate to a massive bastion and to the outer city wall
  5. A prominent bastion located off the line of the city wall
  6. An outer city wall that surrounds the inner and thicker city wall
  7. A four-chamber city gate in a right angle to the outer city gate
  8. Five high places in different locations of the complex.
  9. Seven different steles, five were found in situ and two out of their original context. 

    The excavations this season revealed the following elements from the following levels: 

Level 6 (tenth century BCE to the mid ninth century BCE)

  1. Cobble-paved courtyard next to the southeast bastion of the gate 
  2. The wall that closes the gate complex from the east 
  3. Series of compact dirt floors, which separate level 6 from level 5. Very few finds were found on the floors 
  4. The eastern wall of the outer city gate 
  5. The outer city gate (discovered this season) 

Level 5 (ninth century BCE to 732 BCE) 

  1. Cobble-paved road leading up to the city gate: This road is visible as far as 18 meters away from the threshold of the outer city gate. Ground penetration radar revealed that the road continues to about 50 meters away from the outer city gate. 
  2. The outer city gate, which was built in level 6, continued with alteration also in level 5. The walls of the older city gate of level 6 served as foundations for the same purpose in level 5.
  3. One large stone is all that remains of the massive threshold of this level. This was discovered inside the outer city gate. 

Level 2 (Hellenistic Roman period, Second century BCE to the third century CE) 

    The cobble-paved road to the city was still in use during this period in spite of the destruction to the gate during the conquest of Tiglat Pileser III in 732 BCE. 2) The paved road was used to access the city and as a place where the inhabitants of the city dumped their thrash. This road was used also for burial of people of low class. Nothing was discovered inside the tombs.

    The bastion at the southeastern corner of the city gate complex was destroyed heavily in the Assyrian conquest and the entire level 5 remains was totally removed or washed down to the ravine. The reduced bastion was used during this period as a floor for small structures. 

    For more information on the Bethsaida excavation, visit the Bethsaida excavation site at: http://www.unomaha.edu/~betsaida/index.htm.

Dr. Rami Arav is a Professor at the University of Nebraska, Omaha and the Director of the Bethsaida Excavations Project. Professor Arav is the author of Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee