Archaeologically speaking, Beth-Shean refers to two major sites. The first is a tell, a magnificent mound rising from the plain: Biblical Beth-Shean on whose walls the Philistines displayed the mutilated bodies of King Saul and his sons, whom they had killed in battle at nearby Mt. Gilboa.
In the shadow of the tell lies the second Beth-Shean, a vast Roman/Byzantine city with theaters, fountains, temples, baths and colonnaded streets—not only the largest, but the best-preserved Roman/Byzantine city in all Israel.
Beth-Shean has been inhabited almost continually for something like 6,000 years. Today it is home to 15,000 Israelis. Modern Beth-Shean, adjacent to the archaeological ruins, is a development town with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Nearby kibbutzim, about 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, till the fertile Jordan Valley.