A salvage excavation of a burial cave was carried out in July 2000 at Horbat Zivda (Permit No. A-3254; map ref. NIG 2182/7347; OIG 1682/2347), following its discovery while laying sewage pipes in the village of Manshiyat-Zibda, next to Ramat Yishay. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was conducted by Yardenna Alexandre, with the assistance of H. Tahan (pottery drawings) and D. Avshalom-Gorni (assistance with pottery reading).
Two chambers of a rock-cut burial cave were exposed at a depth of over 3 m below surface, one on each side of a mechanically-dug trench (Fig. 1). Chamber A was a single unit (2.0 × 3.5 m; height 1.0 m); Chamber B was a larger room (3.5 × 5.0 m; height 1.5 m), with at least 13 small niches carved in its walls. Additional niches may have existed in the southern wall, but had been destroyed by the mechanical equipment. A stone-blocked entrance in the western wall of Chamber B could not be excavated; it probably led from an antechamber, communal to both chambers. It was likewise impossible to ascertain whether the burial cave complex included additional chambers. The dimensions of the niches, which were unusually small, were irregular (max. 0.8 × 0.4 × 0.8 m; min. 0.4 × 0.3 × 0.6 m). The niches were too small for either burials or for ossuaries; their function is not clear. Two plaster layers (c. 1 cm thick) could be discerned in several niches. The chalk rock of the burial cave was soft, damp and crumbly, causing the collapse of part of the ceiling and the walls inside the cave, which contained much soil as well.
Human bones were not found in the cave. A small pile of sherds near the presumed entrance to chamber A indicates that the cave was plundered in the past, probably in antiquity. The fragmentary assemblage in the cave consisted of bowls (Fig. 2:1–3), cooking pots (Fig. 2:4–6), storage jars (Fig. 2:7–10), jugs (Fig. 2:11, 12), lids (Fig. 2:13, 14), and a few lamp fragments (Fig. 2:15). In addition to the pottery some fragments of a glass bottle and bowl and some burnt olive pits were found. On the basis of the pottery the cave was apparently in use sometime in the second to third centuries CE.
Subsequent supervision of the sewage pipeline exposed part of a globular amphora in a rock cavity, 10 m north of the excavated cave. The cavity may have been part of another burial cave that was not examined. This imported amphora (Fig. 2:16) is probably of Spanish origin and can be dated to the second–fourth centuries CE.