An international team of archaeologists determined the exact date of the destruction of the ancient Greek city of Scythopolis located in the modern town of Beit She’an in modern Israel.
Until very recently, it has been suggested by archaeologists that Scythopolis was destroyed by the ruling Hasmonean dynasty between 111 BCE and 107 BCE.
Destruction of Scythopolis took place in the spring of 107 BCE
However, according to new Israeli and German research, based on the remains of chicken bones, snail shells, and plant remains—as well as written evidence—this historical event took place in the spring of 107 BCE.
The ancient Greek city of Scythopolis was possibly named after the Scythian mercenaries who settled there as veterans. Little is known about the Hellenistic city, but during the 3rd century BCE, a large temple was constructed on the tell.
It is unknown which deity was worshipped there, but the temple continued to be used during Roman times. Graves dating from the Hellenistic period are simple, singular rock-cut tombs.
The research team published their findings in the journal Antiquity under the title “For everything there is a season: More than a year of destruction at Seleucid Tel Iztabba.”
Analyzing the archaeological findings revealed residues containing marrow that served to produce eggshells during the laying season in spring. This indicates that the chickens were slaughtered in spring, noted Lichtenberger and his Israeli colleague.
“We also discovered the shells of field snails, which were often eaten at this time of year,” the researchers said. Botanical examinations of the remnants of flowers on the floors of the dwellings reveal that these plants flowered in spring.
Written evidence of the destruction of the Greek city
Analysis of the objects is always accompanied by analysis of written evidence. “The contemporary Hebrew scroll of Megillat Ta’anit about the Hasmonean conquest, also known as the Scripture of the Fast, reports the expulsion of the inhabitants in the Hebrew month of Sivan, which corresponds to our May/June,” researchers said. “Only the multiplicity of analytical methods makes precise statements possible.”
“Now, using our multi-proxy approach that makes use of several analytical methods, we can for the first time date the events with certainty to the spring of 107 BCE,” it was said.
“From an archaeological point of view, this makes spring the season of destruction,” said the team. This underlines previous findings on Hellenistic warfare, as military offensives usually took place in spring and early summer. “The individual data taken on their own would not justify determining such a clear chronology,” they stressed.
“Only by taking an overall view of the results from all analytical methods can we provide more precise information about the time of the destruction of the Greek city, and thus about the course of the Hasmonean campaign,” the team said. “The finds must therefore be interpreted in the light of the seasons.”