The oval-shaped cave was in use in the Middle Bronze Age and was most probably sealed prior to the damage caused by mechanical equipment that destroyed its southern half (Figs. 3, 4). Above the northwestern side of the cave was a hewn rectangular surface (L120; c. 0.8 m above the cave’s floor; Fig. 5)—possibly the bottom of a shaft that led into the cave. The interior was completely covered with stones that had collapsed from the ceiling and a light brown, very dense cement-like sediment, which caused the disintegration of the human and animal bones, making the identification of bone articulation nearly impossible. A few vessels were found in the stone rubble of the destroyed southern part of the cave (L99). In the northern part of the cave, a stone-paved floor was found (Figs. 5, 6). At least 65 complete or almost complete vessels, clustered in six groups, were found on the paved floor and between the pavement slabs on the bedrock.
Group 1 (L102/L111; Fig. 7): Eight complete ceramic vessels (a bowl, a pithos, three jugs, two juglets and a lamp), two toggle pins, a steatite scarab and many crushed pottery vessels. The scarab (Fig. 8) was provenanced to Egypt, the late Middle Kingdom (Thirteenth Dynasty), and dated to the eighteenth century BCE.
Group 2 (L105; Fig. 9): Seven complete pottery vessels piled one atop another against the cave’s wall. These included four bowl, two juglets and a rare miniature twin vessel that was placed between two platter bowls (Fig. 10). This group also included many crushed pottery vessels and a single bronze earring.
Group 3 (L104): Three complete bowls and one or two crushed vessels.
Group 4 (L106): Four complete bowls and numerous sherds, as well as two toggle pins, a unique blue frit cylinder seal (Fig. 11) and a steatite amulet decorated in relief at its base with an ‘omega’ design (Fig. 12).
Group 5 (L103; Fig. 13): A jar and two juglets, all complete.
Group 6 (L112; Fig. 14): Fourteen complete vessels, including seven bowls, a bowl on a stand, three pithoi and three juglets, as well as sherds from many crushed vessels.
The human bones recovered from the cave belonged to at least seven individuals, aged 3–5, 7–9, 15–20, 25–40, >30, 40–50 and >50. The adult aged 25–40 was identified as a male. The archeozoological remains comprise at least nine individual animals, mostly sheep and goats, all adults at death, and butchered using a blade. Fifty-five vessels were subjected to residue analysis. The initial results indicate the presence of olive oil in many of the vessels.
Only the small northern edge of this cave (Fig. 15; actual size unknown) was preserved, as it was previously damaged and looted. It was found full of silt and yielded a well-preserved bronze dagger blade (length 20.7 cm, max. width 4.8 cm; Fig. 16) dated to MB II. The dagger blade has slightly convex sides and a rounded midrib with two parallel ribs on both sides that meet at the edge of the blade. Two round rivets were found in the tang of the blade.
The cave was nearly destroyed; only a small niche survived. A few Intermediate Bronze Age sherds were found in the rubble outside the cave, including the profile of a typical Intermediate Bronze Age carinated bowl and a jar.
The ceramic assemblage from Cave 1 is a characteristic MB II burial assemblage, showing close affinities with other central hill country burial sites, such as Bethany (Loffreda 1984
) and Efrata (Gonen 2001
). The Intermediate Bronze Age pottery sherds found scattered near Cave 3 are evidence that the burial ground was already in use during this period.