town, northeastern Israel, principal settlement in the low 'Emeq Bet She'an ('emeq, "valley"), site of one of the oldest inhabited cities of ancient Palestine. It is about 394 ft (120 m) below sea level. Overlooking the town to the north is Tel Bet She'an (Arabic Tall al-Husn), one of the most important stratified mounds in Palestine. It was excavated in 1921-33 by University of Pennsylvania archaeologists, who found that the lowest strata date from the late Chalcolithic period in the country (c. 4000-3000 BC) and progress successively upward to Byzantine times (c. AD 500). A series of buildings, including temples and administrative buildings, span the Egyptian period-the earliest from the time of Thutmose III (ruled 1504-1450 BC), and the latest dating to Ramses III (1198-66 BC). The local Canaanite deity Mekal was especially venerated. Important stelae (stone monuments) tell of the conquests of Pharaoh Seti I (1318-04 BC) and of the worship of the goddess Astarte. It was to the temple of this goddess that King Saul's armour was brought after his death, and his body was hung from the city wall (I Sam. 31:10). Later, the town's Jewish community is mentioned in rabbinic literature.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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