The Cultural and Political Horizons of Persian-Period Bethsaida

What do archaeologists know about the overlooked centuries of Persian rule at the biblical site of Bethsaida?

In the world of archaeology, few historical places and times have received as much attention as the Iron Age and Hellenistic-Roman periods in Palestine, due almost exclusively to the fact that these periods represent the spatial-temporal contexts for both monotheism’s foundational narrative, the Hebrew Bible, and its cognate corpus of texts, the New Testament. For over 200 years now, archaeologists—specifically “biblical archaeologists”—have conducted several hundreds of surveys and digs in and around Palestine in an effort to recover these lost worlds of the Bible, all but ignoring the roughly half-millennium of human habitation that thrived during the so-called intertestamental period. The fact that these centuries have largely been neglected is ironic given that most scholars today posit the editorial enterprise that brought the texts of the Hebrew Bible together for the first time as “Bible” somewhere during this time.

The material remains of the 6th–4th centuries BCE are often described as scarce and relatively less impressive than finds recovered from the Iron Age and Hellenistic-Roman periods, but it gives one pause to consider just how much these assertions are based on actual fact, or whether they are simply the result of an unintentional bias leading to a self-fulfilled expectation. After all, if ceramic forms during these centuries did not change much (they did not!) and surviving monumental structures continued in use from previous times (they did!), then factors of cultural continuity and political stability in the past, combined with a general lack of modern interest in the period, would likely reinforce an ongoing cycle of diminished regard for what was, relatively speaking, perhaps one of the more enlightened of ancient empires. In light of all these suspicions, I offer here a brief overview of the material remains of Persian-period Bethsaida (formerly, et-Tell)—the first composite portrait of the subject ever—as a case study for advancing interest in, and greater appreciation for the growing body of knowledge about the region in and around the northern Galilee during Achaemenid Persian rule.


The Persian Levant

The Achaemenid Persian Empire, which lasted from the mid-sixth century BCE to the meteoric rise of Alexander the Great in the later part of the fourth century, was the greatest empire the world had ever known, extending its grasp all the way west to eastern Europe, and eastward to the Indus Valley. For a time, it controlled Egypt as well. This empire’s great glory has been largely understated in the West, not so much because Alexander the Great eventually managed to conquer it, but because Greek historians like Herodotus and Thucydides overshadowed it in that way. This alone should compel the historically minded to delve deeper into the archaeological and epigraphical records in order to give the Persians their due.

However, our study of the Levantine Persian-period does not begin with the Achaemenid rulers themselves, nor even with their (neo-)Babylonian imperial predecessors, but with the Assyrians, who during the ninth through eighth centuries BCE, established a kind of template for Mesopotamian conquest in swallowing up independent kingdoms all along the Fertile Crescent, establishing new administrative centers in their wake, and connecting them all through an efficient and quite extensive network of roads.

When the Assyrian empire fell to the Babylonians in 612 BCE, the new Mesopotamian imperial overlords simply followed their predecessor’s well-worn ruts, assuming established structures as a platform for carrying out their own distinct imperial agenda. With the relatively facile conquest of Babylon by Cyrus the Great (539 BCE), aptly so-named for having been welcomed (albeit somewhat reluctantly) by the priests of Marduk and heralded by the writer of the book of Isaiah as God’s “anointed one” (mashiach; Isa 44:28–45:1), a new age of imperial control extends itself across the Levant. Making further use of existing administrative structures and roads and strengthening defenses along the Mediterranean coast, the Achaemenid Persians ushered in an age of relative stability for the Levant, which in addition to biblical archaeology’s general lack of interest in the period, has ironically contributed to the relative obscurity of the age that has only recently been coming to light (see Betlyon: 2005).

Achaemenid interest in fortifying the Mediterranean coast as a bulwark against the Greeks and Egyptians is well attested in the material record, where a line of fortresses ensured heavy defensive and administrative control over major ports of trade, while guarding the roads that connected them to storage facilities and distribution centers in cities further inland. Relevant coastal cities, among others, include (north to south) Sidon, Tyre, Achzib, Akko, Shiqmona, Dor, Jaffa, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza. Persian installations inland, many of which were also fortified, include Megiddo, Hazor, Mizpe Yamim, Kedesh, Tel Dan, Tell Anafa, Tell Kinneret, Gilam, Tell Abu Hawam, Tel Megadim, Sa’sa, Gush-Halav, Tell Qasile, Tell el-Hesi, Ayalet ha-Shahar, Beth Yarah and Beth She’an (Stern 1982).

The size and number of these installations suggest a sizable population in the region, an assertion that is supported by regional surveys. N. Zori’s survey of the Beth She’an valley and rolling hills toward the southwest yielded Persian-period pottery evidence at no less than forty-four sites and seventy-three sites respectively (Betlyon 2005: 26). Unfortunately, excavations east of the Jordan rift have yet to be carried out quite as extensively, due to the relatively diminished biblical relevancy of the so-called “Transjordan,” a perspectival name illustrating the point. However, this situation is rapidly changing, for in addition to the longstanding Madaba Plains Project (established in 1968), new excavation projects—including those by Jordanian universities—are undertaking exciting projects in the ancient regions of Ammon, Moab, and Edom. In Jordan, Persian-period activity has been found most notably at Tall al-‘Umayri, Tall Hisban, Deir Alla, Tall es-Sa’idiyeh, Tall Safut, Khirbet al-Hajar, Umm Udaynah, and Abu Nusayr (Stern 2001: 454-59). One may add to this list Tall Nimrin, Tall el-Mazar, Jalul and a growing number of others.

Politically, the largest unit of Persian administration was the satrapy, which for the Levantine regions was the huge Fifth Satrapy known as Abar-Nahara, or the land “Beyond the River,” with its capital at Damascus. The river, of course, is the Euphrates and the point of view is from one of the Persian capital cities, Susa perhaps. Administration by the satrapy, including the collection of taxes and organizing regional defenses, was carried out on a local level through the efforts of nearby city-states. Thus villages located anywhere around the littoral zone of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) might be governed by Phoenician, Syrian, Ammonite, Arabian, or even Samaritan/Israelite political and economic interests, irrespective of ethnic homogeneity.

Although local governors still had to defend and pay taxes to their Persian overlords, at least some of the provinces enjoyed a certain amount of political and cultural (including religious) autonomy. Under Darius I, for example, Yehud, Samaria, Ashdod, and Gaza, had permission to mint their own coins and inscribe their own official stamps and seals (Stern 1998: 432). Although these provincial governorships had local jurisdiction over many, often multi-ethnic settlements, they were still expected to demonstrate respect for the Persian imperial presence in their midst and, by extension, to the far-away overlords these officials represented.

The administrative picture that emerges is thus: that intercourse among various Persian administrative centers throughout the Levant flowed to and fro along a vast network of roads that passed along and through various levels of imperial control—from outposts to garrisons, to provincial centers, to regional governorships, to the seat of the satrapy, and ultimately to the Persian capital itself. Because these political units—at every level—served as pegs upon which an efficient system of taxation, defense, communication, and the transportation of goods could be draped, this meant that even the smallest regional outpost had a significant role to play in maintaining the efficiency of the imperial system. On the basis of the material remains recovered from Persian-period Bethsaida discussed below, I would suggest that such is the context for the picture that emerges.

Even so, while Persian imperial presence in the Levant is becoming better documented, ethnographic distribution in the region remains relatively obscure, especially in light of the fact that the modern concept of borders was unknown in antiquity. Population migrations and displacements were almost commonplace in antiquity, so that political and ethnic boundaries were not necessarily coterminous. In fact, it is more accurate to think in terms of “zones of influence”, rather than lines drawn on a map. This is no less the case in the vicinity of the great lake Kinneret, the biblical “Sea of Galilee”, the geographical context of our study.


Persian Bethsaida/et-Tell

Bethsaida, formerly known as et-Tell, is located along the eastern bank of the Jordan River near the northern shore of the Kinneret. The site was lost from history for the past seventeen centuries or so, until excavations began in 1987 under the direction of Dr. Rami Arav, and joined more recently by Dr. Carl Savage. Et-Tell’s identification as Bethsaida, home of Jesus of Nazareth’s first disciples, as well as the Iron Age capital of the kingdom of Geshur, is now generally accepted. Some of the more impressive discoveries during the more than quarter-century of excavation there include an extremely well-preserved ninth-century gate complex with cultic installation (‘Level 5’), massive monumental architecture from the tenth-century BCE (‘Level 6’), and several large Hellenistic-Roman courtyard houses located at the northern end of the site (‘Level 2’).

Following the Assyrian devastation of Bethsaida’s Iron Age city by Tiglath-Pileser III, in 732 BCE, architectural modifications to the bit hilani-style structure in Area B indicate the presence of continued activity on the mound into the neo-Babylonian period, most likely of an administrative nature (Greene 2004: 63-82). Whether or not there was ever a complete abandonment of Bethsaida at any point thereafter has not yet been satisfactorily demonstrated. At any rate, material remains from the Achaemenid Persian period lie scant and scattered in and about the ground, as is the case at many sites throughout the Levant, evidenced mostly by random shards harvested from unsealed loci and labeled along with either late-Iron Age or early-Hellenistic assemblages of mixed pottery.

Yet amid Bethsaida’s seemingly uninspiring ceramic record and apparent lack of architecture for the Persian period, there is enough recovered material to entice one toward taking a closer look at this obscure period—finds (discussed further below) that include a classical mid-fifth century Athenian silver tetradrachm; a rare and as yet unpublished glass coin; other glass objects in the form of vessels and beads; an assortment of Persian-period pottery including several shards of “black figure” ware, typical mortaria, Persian-type bronze bowls, and a complete Achaemenid-period, Phoenician “court-style” cylinder seal. Also relevant, although with somewhat less certainty regarding actual dating, are a few Phoenician-style figurines similar to those found from favissae at the Kharayeb temple, near Tyre.

Taken all together, there is a sufficient amount of material remains and intriguing circumstantial evidence to suggest the presence of some sort of small established settlement at et-Tell during the Persian period, which may have played some minor administrative role (and therefore perhaps even cultic) at the eastern periphery of the Phoenician cultural and political orbit—perhaps an auxiliary outpost charged with monitoring movement around the northern edge of the great lake, including a road running up the Jordan rift from Ammonite cities like Tell es-Sadiyeh, following the shore of the lake (modern Israeli highway 92), then splitting, with the western spur continuing northward along the Jordan valley, grazing Bethsaida’s eastern edge before eventually connecting with the Great Trunk Road between Hazor and Damascus, or to other points beyond (e.g., Tyre, Sidon, Kedesh, Tell Anafa, etc.)


Numismatic Evidence

Having situated Bethsaida in the likely network of regional traffic ways, we turn now to its material culture in an effort to ascertain the nature of the settlement, both in culture and function. Beginning with Bethsaida’s numismatic assortment, we find that we have a handful of coins dating to the late-5th, early 4th century BCE. These include the aforementioned Athenian tetradrachm (from Area A), two large, nearly as impressive silver Tyrian tetradrachms, two silver obols, and three bronze pieces.[1] All but the classical Athenian coin were minted in Tyre, and all but one of the Tyrian coins were discovered in ‘Area C’. The Tyrian shekels are nearly as large as the Athenian coin, measuring roughly 28 mm in diameter, and bear an image of the bearded Melqart, patron god of Tyre, riding a hippocampos, the mythic horse of the sea. They also bear the ubiquitous owl on the reverse. Evidence from the numismatic record thus indicates a rather homogenous Phoenician economic, if not cultural, presence.


The Athenian tetradachm recovered at Bethsaida 



A Cylinder Seal

During the 1994 season, two cylinder seals were discovered at Bethsaida in entirely separate contexts: a neo-Assyrian seal recovered from Area C and a complete Achaemenid period seal from Area A. The latter was recovered from a mixed context, but dated by Baruch Brandl to the late-sixth or fifth centuries BCE on the basis of motif and manufacture (Brandl 2004). He identifies the artifact as belonging to a small group of Achaemenid seals in the “court” style, characterized by the vertical arrangement of two separate motifs resulting from a bivalve molding process. The upper register shows a winged bull facing toward the right; the lower register bears a bearded fish-man, with a double-plumed helmet, also facing toward the right. The “merman” carries what appears to be a palm branch or tree-like figure in his left hand, while his right hand appears to be raised in a blessing.

According to Brandl, these motifs reflect both Achaemenid and Phoenician motifs and witness to the sort of political and cultural integration characteristic of the Persian Empire. He further observes that such a seal would most likely have been in the possession of some sort of official. The fact that two seals from different periods have been found at Bethsaida suggests possible continuity in et-Tell’s role as a minor administrative outpost. In any case, in addition to the Phoenician numismatic presence, we may now add an intriguing bit of evidence pointing to an Achaemenid Phoenician administrative presence at Bethsaida.


Persian period cylinder found at et-Tell/Bethsaida



Additional Small Finds

Other small finds include the unpublished glass coin mentioned above, as well as a number of core-formed vessels, including shards of a type known as an alabastron, a small, bulbous glass juglet with a trefoil mouth, decorated with zigzag bands of white and yellow (Rotloff 2009: 205) and not uncommon in Phoenician sites throughout the region. Last, but not least, two bronze bowls of a distinctively Persian type were recovered from a mixed context in Area A, one nesting within the other.


Bronze bowl discovered at et-Tell/Bethsaida



The Ceramic Record

Seymour Gitlin sums up the problems associated with cataloguing Persian period ceramic assemblages in a statement descriptive of our situation at Bethsaida and therefore worth quoting in full: 

More often than not, the Persian period was only attested by remnants of architectural evidence found above Iron Age and below Hellenistic occupation phases. Often the presence—but not in situ—of imported Greek ware, coins, and stamp impressions indicative of the Persian period had been sufficient reason for the excavator to assign this intermediate architectural phase to the Persian period. The pottery associated with, but not stratigraphically sealed in, this intermediate period was also then designated as belonging to the Persian period. (Gitlin 1997: 90)

So it is that the gap between Iron Age and Hellenistic levels—at Bethsaida and elsewhere—remains for the most part an undifferentiated repository for ceramic forms deemed “Persian-period,” without much further chronological or typological precision.

Nevertheless, in surveying the past dozen excavation seasons, by far the largest concentration of Bethsaida’s Persian period ceramic finds have been retrieved from unsealed loci at or near the apex of the tell, that is, toward its southern end. In fact, fully 72% of the total ceramic record for these seasons[2] was harvested from a very distinct line forming an east-west axis across the southern end of the tell in Area A (squares 54 F-G-H-I), just south of the building designated as a temple. The fact that excavations have been conducted in the squares running along both sides of this line assures us that this assemblage is not some artificial construct based on a limited dig trajectory. The ceramic record includes kraters, cooking pots, bowls of varying kinds, a number of shards of Persian-style “black figure” pottery, as well as both ring-based and flat-based mortaria. Moreover, the greatest concentration of shards were retrieved at the center of this line, where according to the anecdotal report, excavators found a “strange square installation”—the dimensions of which were not entered into the record—as well as an unspecified amount of plaster, the ring base of a Persian crater, a shard from a Persian period cooking pot, and “lots of bone”. That the finds were concentrated in such a narrow configuration suggests not so much a loosely domestic cultural context, but rather a somewhat regimented one.

Of all the ceramic forms, apart from the “black figure” pottery, the mortarium is the most distinctive. A mold-made vessel, the basic mortarium is somewhat flat and usually has an outwardly rolled rim. It stands roughly eight centimeters high and measures about thirty centimeters in diameter. Its design makes it also suitable for grinding. Basically, two types of mortaria have been identified, although there is more variation than this statement would suggest, both of which have been found at Bethsaida. There is a flat base variety common to the seventh century, as well as a Persian (and Hellenistic) bowl-shaped form with ringed base, which has been described as ubiquitous and almost entirely unique to Palestine (Blakely, et al 1989: 196). Mortaria at Bethsaida have been recovered in the vicinity of the large courtyard structure in Area B, but have also been found at the southern apex of the tell in Area A. Although without recovery from a sealed locus it has not been possible to narrow down the precise dating of these vessels, it is worth noting that at least prior to the mid-fifth century BCE, the ring-based variety, such as found at Bethsaida, appears almost exclusively in connection with military or other administrative-type installations (Blakely, et al 1989: 223). Albeit circumstantial, we may have reason to add to the numismatic, glass, and ceramic (including the cylinder seal) evidence in support of the hypothesis that something other than random activity was occurring on the tell, perhaps during the late-fifth, early-fourth centuries BCE, and that in light of the apparent absence of residential structures it seems likely that some modest official or military-type operation may have been taking place within a distinctively Achaemenid Phoenician political, economic, and cultural context.


Persian Period Structures at Bethsaida?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, with only trace evidence (the plastered square structure mentioned above) and one other possible exception, no clearly identified structures from the Persian period have yet been discovered at Bethsaida. As mentioned earlier, the bit hilani-style structure (Area B) underwent an apparent re-purposing in the aftermath of Tiglath-Pileser III’s conquest of the region in 732 BCE, when a large hall was partitioned to form smaller rooms. But whether or not the re-purposed structure continued in use into the neo-Babylonian or Persian periods has not been determined. Certainly Persian re-use of existing structures would not be without precedent in the region. For example, a large administrative structure discovered in 1950, just east of Tell Hazor, only sixteen kilometers northwest of Bethsaida, was initially identified by Stern as Persian on the basis of the ceramic record, but its foundation was later determined to be rooted in the Assyrian period (Reich 1975).

Is there anything to suggest building activity at Bethsaida’s putative Persian level? One interesting possibility exists in connection with the so-called “Temple of the Imperial Cult,” a structure initially identified as a Roman-period temple built by Philip Herod and dedicated to Livia Julia, wife of Caesar Augustus, which excavators initially established on the basis of Josephus (Ant. 18:28) and supported by numismatic finds. However, excavation and research carried out by a Polish team during the 1998–2000 excavation seasons raised serious questions about the nature of the structure, noting that the data “deviate in many aspects from the criteria accepted for standard Helleno-Roman sacral buildings” (Skupińska-Løvset 2006: 79).

The temple is located on the apex of et-Tell (Area A), situated along an east-west axis, plus some twenty degrees southward. Its walls were constructed of basalt stones carefully positioned around a core of rubble with no apparent use of cement. The foundation measures roughly twenty meters by 5.9 meters, with its longer walls having been disrupted by twentieth-century Syrian military entrenchments. The building is divided into two main rooms: a larger hall, identified as the naos, with walled off areas at both ends, associated with the Roman level. However, upon further investigation, the Polish team arrived at the conclusion that the foundation of the structure predates this layout (Skupińska-Løvset 2006: 52, 61).

According to the report, the division of the hall is later than the foundation and the entrance to it was on the broad side of the rectangular structure, not the end. In addition, in an area designated as Room B three distinct levels of floor were discovered, which excavators identified as post-Iron Age, yet predating the Hellenistic–early Roman periods, leading Dr, Ilona Skupińska-Løvset, director of the Polish team, to conclude: “Many layers of usage tightly placed upon each other would suggest peaceful and long occupation” (Skupińska-Løvset 2006: 62). If she and her team are correct, it would mean that some obscure activity is taking place between Levels 5 and 2, something relatively lasting and undisturbed. No wonder archaeologists love destruction!

In addition to these architectural findings, the Polish team found a significantly large number of animal bones strewn amid mixed shards of cooking pots and Rhodian wine amphorae in the further excavated hall area. This suggests to the excavators the likelihood that ritual dining taking place in the building, which is a well-documented practice among Phoenicians, as well as Greeks. There are indeed numerous Phoenician cult locales in Palestine, which have been dated to the Persian period, including Tell Dan, Mizpe Yamin, Elyakin, Dor, Makmish, Jaffa, Nebi Yunis, and Lachish.  Of these, Mizpe Yamim (Jebel el-Arbain), excavated by Rafael Frankel during 1988–1989, is the nearest both in proximity as well as architecturally, thus it might be of help to bring it into the discussion.

Perched some 734 meters atop the Meiron range, Mizpe Yamim offers a bird’s eye view of a large expanse of the Jordan Valley and, as indicated by its name, a breathtaking view of the “sea”, the great Lake Kinneret, as well. The site supports an irregularly shaped stone complex that includes a citadel and a large walled area measuring roughly 2500 meters square. A structure situated along a longitudinal axis and consisting of two rooms, built into the southern edge of the enclosure wall, has been interpreted as a temple. The larger room is 13.7 meters x six meters in size; the smaller room measures 4.8 meters x 4.4 meters. Similar to the Polish team’s findings regarding the original foundation of the Bethsaida temple, entrance is gained through an opening in the broad north wall, about one meter wide and located about two meters off-center toward the east. Benches formerly lined the northern, eastern, and southern walls and it appears that three columns once supported the roof. The structure’s interpretation as a temple is based on the non-domestic character of the structure, the presence of two raised stone platforms that likely served as altars, and the discovery of over a hundred votive objects nearby (Berlin and Frankel 2012: 25–26). On the basis of architecture, pottery analysis, and small finds of a cultic nature, excavators describe the site as “…most probably a fortified Phoenician border shrine founded in the later sixth or early fifth century BCE, when the city of Tyre was granted administrative control over the Upper Galilee” (Berlin and Frankel 2012: 28). Note how well this scenario and architecture accords with the Polish team’s examination of the early stages of Bethsaida’s temple.

Given the architectural similarities and the fact that Mizpe Yamim is perched on the edge of a massif overlooking the traditional cultural and political divide between upper and lower Galilee (Berlin and Frankel 2012: 25), I would suggest that whatever the massif divides north and south, it also connects east to west—to the extent that natural geography or foreign political influence would permit. Thus the watchful overlook that Mizpe Yamim provides for this strategic passageway would likely include the valley below within its zone of influence, likely overlapping at some point with Syria’s own zone of influence. Looking at a satellite image, one sees a wide natural arc radiating around the Phoenician coast to the foot of the western Syrian highlands, a region supported and defended by a host of Phoenician outposts that would include sites like Mizpe Yamim, Hazor, Kedesh, Tell Anafa, and, I would now add, Bethsaida. Indeed, one could easily imagine that just below the watchful eye of Mizpe Yamim, a similarly designed, somewhat less impressive outpost played a part in anchoring the lowest point of the Kinneret basin to Tyre. As is commonplace in antiquity, any official role would no doubt have been included a cultic aspect as well. Thus it comes as no surprise that Skupińska-Løvset finds an even closer analogy to the original layout of Bethsaida’s putative temple in the sanctuary of Apollo at Tyre (p. 89).

In addition to similarities in architecture and artifact with Phoenician religion along with the likelihood that ritual dining took place, it is worth mentioning that a number of figurines of the “Eastern” type—that is, bearing a mix of mock-Egyptian and Phoenician stylistic influences—have also been found at Bethsaida, which seem to resemble figurines of the type found in favissae at Tell Dor and, according to Skupińska-Løvset, at the Kharayeb sanctuary, located about 15 km north of Tyre.


Figurines of the “Eastern” type found at Bethsaida/et-Tell




Relative to Bethsaida’s Iron Age and Hellenistic/Roman strata, Persian-period Bethsaida still leaves one to confess that there is not much there; however, there is now enough evidence to say with certainty that something was going on—something non-domestic, most likely of an administrative nature, and, as such, perhaps cultic as well, taking place on the eastern frontier of a wide, arcing Phoenician cultural and political orbit probably anchored to Tyre. Taken all together, the evidence suggests that Bethsaida was an imperially sanctioned, minimally-staffed remote outpost operating during the mid- to latter half of the Persian period, charged with the responsibility of keeping a watchful eye over activities taking place by land or by sea in the natural basin near the northern shore of Lake Kinneret, including the north-south road connecting the line of Persian-period settlements along the eastern edge of the Jordan rift with the Phoenician ports to the northwest and the Great Trunk Road running northeast to Damascus.

As a minimally-staffed regional outpost overlooking nearby transit routes, administrative representatives stationed at Bethsaida—at least one of which possessed a cylinder seal—may also have been involved in the collection of local taxes. (Perhaps it is no coincidence that all but two of the Persian-period coins were found in Area C, at the northern end of the mound, closest to the road suggested above!) At any rate, Bethsaida’s Phoenician frontier setting and its proximity to the blurred confluences of Syrian, Ammonite, and perhaps other zones of influence, lend support to its interpretation as a modest lookout installation in the grand cultural and geopolitical mosaic of the Achaemenid imperial network.

Whatever plausible scenario we may have been able to reconstruct was all but obliterated by the Ptolemaic urban renewal project that soon followed, as the explosion of material finds in the Hellenistic period—in coins, pottery, and architecture—suddenly eclipses the Persian-period at Phoenician sites throughout the region, including Mizpe Yamim, Hazor, Tel Anafa, and Kedesh.  Perhaps now, the idea of a purposeful Achaemenid Phoenician presence at Bethsaida can no longer be discounted.



Berlin, Andrea M. and Rafael Frankel

2012      “The Sanctuary at Mizpe Yamim: Phoenician Cult and Territory in the Upper Galilee during the Persian Period.” BASOR 366: 25-78.


Betylon, John

2005      “A People Transformed: Palestine in the Persian Period.” Near Eastern Archaeology 68 1/2: 4–58.


Blakely, Jeffrey A., W. J. Bennett and Edmund Toombs

1989      Tel Hesi: The Persian Period (Stratum V). Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1989.


Brandl, Baruch

2004      “Two First-Millennium Cylinder Seals from Bethsaida (et-Tell). Pp. 225–44, in vol 3 of Bethsaida, A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University.


Fortner, Sandra

2009      “Persian Period Mortaria at Bethsaida-Julias.” Pp. 147–71, in vol. 4 of Bethsaida, A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University.


Gitlin, S.

1996      “Formulating a Ceramic Corpus: The Late Iron II, Persian and Hellenistic Pottery at Tell Gezer.” Pp. in Retrieving the Past: Essays on Archaeological Research and Methodology in Honor of Gus W. Van Beek. Joe. D. Seger, ed. Eisenbraun’s, 1996.


Greene, John T

2004      “Tiglath Pileser III’s War Against the City of Tzer.” Pp. 63–82, in vol. 3 of Bethsaida: A City by the  North Shore the Sea of Galilee. R. Arav and R. Freund, eds.; Kirksville, MO: Truman State University.


Lipschitz, Oded and Manfred Oeming

2006      Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006.


Reich, R.

1975      “The Persian Building at Ayyalet ha-Shahar: The Assyrian Palace of Hazor?” IEP 25.4 (1975): 233-37.


Rotloff, Andrea

2009      “Pre-Roman, Roman, and Islamic Glass from Bethsaida.” Pp. 204–51, in vol. 4 of Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee. R. Arav and R. Freund, eds.; Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press.


Stern, Ephraim

1982      Material Culture of the Land of the Bible in the Persian Period: 538–332 B.C. Westminster: Aris and Phillips.


1998      “Between Persia and Greece: Trade Administration and Warfare in the Persian and Hellenistic Periods (539–63 BCE).” The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land. Thomas Levy, ed., London: Leicester.           


Skupińska-Løvset, Ilona

2006            The Temple Area of Bethsaida: Polish Excavations on et-Tell in the Years 1998-2000. Lodz, Poland: Lodz University Press.


[1] Special thanks to my Bethsaida colleague, Greg Jenks, of Charles Sturt University in Brisbane, for providing current information on Bethsaida’s coins.

[2] I have not yet had an opportunity to study previous seasons.


Cover Photo, Top Left: The ruins of Bethsaida, Chmee2, Wikimedia Commons

Other photo images credit Bethsaida Excavations Project and Nicolae Roddy

Nicolae Roddy

Dr. Nicolae Roddy, Associate Professor of Older Testament at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, has co-directed the Bethsaida Excavations Project since 1997, and the Virtual World Project ( since 2006.  Roddy holds an M.A. in Theology from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in the area of Judaism and Christianity in the Greco-Roman World from the University of Iowa. Roddy was appointed as a Fulbright scholar to Romania (1994-95), which resulted in his first book, The Romanian Version of the Testament of Abraham: Text, Translation, and Cultural Context (Society of Biblical Literature, 2001). He is also the author of several book chapters and journal articles on topics related to the Bible and archaeology. Nicolae Roddy is married to Alexandra, who along with his daughter Aurelia, assists in supervising the dig at Bethsaida. Aurelia has three younger siblings destined to dig.