During May 2001 a burial cave from the Roman period was documented on the northern fringes of Kafr Wadi Fukin (map ref. NIG 2093/6233; OIG 1593/1233), after it was breached by antiquity robbers. The documentation, on behalf of the Archaeological Staff Officer of Judea and Samaria, was carried out by S. Batz, with the assistance of Y. Peleg and P. Portnov (surveying), A. Tsipin and Y. Bar-Rashi (find drawing), L. Di Segni and Y.L. Rahmani (reading of an inscription).
The cave (Fig. 1) is located on the western bank of a wadi channel, north of Kafr Wadi Fukin. It is a small and simple burial cave, oriented east–west and hewn in the soft limestone bedrock that is characteristic of the region. An open square forecourt (1.80 × 1.85 m) is located to the east of the square-shaped cave's entrance (0.55 × 0.55 m), which has a hewn frame that was partly exposed (length 1.75 m, width 0.7 m). The entrance leads to a burial chamber (2.6 × 2.6 m, height 1 m) whose floor is c. 0.55 m lower than the elevation of the entrance and its ceiling is arched. An oval pit that served as a bone repository was cut in the southwestern part of the chamber and a rectangular kokh (0.7 × 2.4 m, height 0.6 m) was hewn in its northern wall. The elevation of the kokh's floor was identical to that of the chamber and its ceiling was mainly flat, except for the northern side that was arched.
Fragments of three ossuaries (1–3) and two lids were discovered outside the cave and within the burial chamber. The ossuaries were not in situ and were damaged as a result of the plundering. A few fragments of pottery vessels and bones were recovered as well.
The Ossuaries. Ossuary 1 (0.22 × 0.55 m, height 0.27 m; Fig. 2) is made of hard limestone and has four narrow legs and a convex lid (width 0.22 m, height 7 cm). On both of its narrow walls an incised decoration of a six-petal rosette, enclosed within two circles (diam. 0.16 m) is located. The main decoration appears on the ossuary’s long walls within a rectangular frame of two parallel lines. Judging by its dimensions the ossuary was probably used for the burial of an adolescent or child. Identical ossuaries were found in numerous burial caves in the Jerusalem area.
Ossuary 2 (0.22 × 0.55 m, height 0.27 m, Fig. 3) is made of soft limestone and has a flat lid. The long sides are adorned with a frame (thickness 5 cm) that is centrally divided into two halves. A six-petal rosette enclosed within two circles is incised in each half. A schematic floral decoration is incised in the corner of the wall. A delicate six-petal rosette decoration, which is formed by six circles connecting at the point of intersection, using a compass, is incised on one of the narrow walls. On the ossuary's lid (width 0.22 m, thickness 4 cm) an incised six-petal rosette is encompassed with a zigzag pattern that is confined within two circles. A frame of parallel lines with a zigzag pattern between them is incised along the length of the lid.
Ossuary 3 (0.28 × 0.67 m, height 0.33 m; Fig. 4) is made of hard limestone and has four thick legs. A frame that consists of two parallel lines with a zigzag pattern between them is incised on one of the ossuary’s two long walls. On the bottom part of the frame a schematic decoration of interlaced semicircles is incised; traces of red paint are visible in some of them. A rosette circumscribed with delicate circles was incised within the frame. The area inside the petals and between the lines of the circle is decorated with a zigzag pattern. The other long wall is adorned with an incised schematic decoration. On the left side is a tree with nine branches, only the right side of which has survived. Similar trees that appear on ossuaries of the period usually symbolize the soul. An incised decoration in the center of the wall can be interpreted in two ways: a monogram indicating the name of the deceased or other initials or an instruction by the owner of the workshop on how to close the lid and to position the ossuary. However, the location mark for the lid on other ossuaries usually appears on the narrow side of the ossuary rather than on the long side. On the right side of the wall is an incised inscription, of which only the upper part is preserved. Reading the inscription is difficult and our attempt to find an appropriate name for the period suggests the name Acolla ΑΚYΛΑ or Acollas ΑΚYΛΑΣ in the genitive form.
The three ossuaries represent a type that has been discovered in sites around Jerusalem. The ossuaries can be dated to the first century CE, until the destruction of the Second Temple, on account of the rosette decoration. The etching style of the rosettes dates the ossuaries to the end of the Second Temple period, prior to the destruction of the temple. This decoration practically vanished after the destruction of the Second Temple, following the dispersal of the artisan population that produced these ossuaries.
Pottery. The cave contained fragments of bag-shaped storage jars (Fig. 5:1–3) and a cooking pot (Fig. 5:4), dating to the end of the Second Temple period (first century CE). The decorative style of the ossuaries and the pottery vessels indicate that the cave was probably sealed before the destruction of the Second Temple.