Between November 2015 and June 2016, an excavation was conducted in a bell cave at Horbat Burgin (Permit No. A-7565; map ref. 197013/615890; Fig. 1) as part of an educational project. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the IAA and the and the Jewish National Fund, was directed by A. Klein and U. Rotstein (surveying and photographs), with the assistance of N. Zak (drafting).
In 2015–2016, several excavations were conducted around the ‘Adulam Park with youth volunteers, as part of the ‘Masa Israel Journey’ project. The current excavation was conducted in a bell-shaped cave at Kh. Burgin (412 m asl), which was probably used as a dwelling in recent times.
orbat Burgin was first explored by Clermont-Ganneau, who visited the region in the nineteenth century (Clermont-Ganneau 1896
:451–452). During the 1990s, the site was intensively plundered and suffered serious damage. In 1995–1996, the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery conducted a comprehensive survey of the site and its environs, which documented, among other things, an extensive burial area that was eventually understood to be the site’s necropolis; the cave discussed here was part of this survey.
A joint IAA and JNF excavation was conducted in 2008 on the site’s eastern fringes. Another series of excavations took place in 2011–2013, with the aim of opening the site to the public (Ganor and Klein 2011
; Klein et al. 2013
). The excavations unearthed ancient remains reflecting settlement continuity from the Persian to the British Mandate periods.
The excavation was conducted in a large cave under the remains of a church (Ganor and Klein 2011
; Klein et al. 2013). It consisted of three rock-hewn cavities (A–C; Fig. 2); Cavity C is bell shaped. The complex was entered from the west, via a rock-hewn passage (Fig. 3), which led to a main cavity (A) at the center of the cave; from there, the two other cavities could be accessed. A raised platform in the middle of Cavity A is probably modern (Fig. 4).
Cavity A (L100; Fig. 5) is the largest in the complex. It was excavated in its southwest part (3 × 5 m), where the primary evidence was of modern activity, as it was most probably used as a shelter for shepherds. Partition walls built of medium-sized fieldstones enclosed small stalls (Fig. 6), and horizontal niches of various sizes were detected in the cave walls (Fig. 7). Two Ottoman-period tobacco pipes were recovered from the cave (B1001; Fig. 8).
Cavity B (L101),in the northwest part of the cave,is a relatively small (Fig. 9). It contained no architectural finds but yielded an Ottoman-peirod tobacco pipe.
Cavity C (L102). Cavity C is bell-shaped, and its roof contained an opening blocked with a rock, which was probably placed there in modern times. A depression (diam. c. 10 cm, width c. 15 cm; Fig. 10) hewn in the cavity’s south wall—on which the excavation here focused—was probably a severance channel for quarrying chalk stones from the cave. Quarrying marks and evidence of stone detachment could be discerned on the walls of the cavity. The excavation also yielded a burnt layer; two Ottoman-period tobacco pipes were found in it.
The cave was found filled with alluvium soil mixed with potsherds from the Byzantine, Early Islamic, Mamluk and Ottoman periods, including tobacco pipes. Bracelets and coins from the Ottoman period were also recovered. The ceramic finds indicate that the cave was used over several different periods, but it is impossible to ascertain its precise function. It was almost certainly first hewn in the Byzantine period, when a church was located above it (and possibly also a nearby monastery). The use of caves as dwellings alongside monasteries was relatively common during this period. Over the years, building stones appear to have been extracted from the cave for use in the settlement of Horbat Burgin farther up the hill.
Clermont-Ganneau C. 1896.Archaeological Researches in Palestine during the Years 1873–1874 II. London.
Klein A., Ganor A., Gendelman P., Klein E. and Zissu B. Horvat Burgin: A Settlement in the Judean Shephelah from Second Temple Period until the Ottoman Period.In M. Billiged. Judea and Samaria Research Studies 22. Ariel. Pp. 151–166 (Hebrew; English summary pp. 19–20).