The Quarry. Part of a courtyard-type quarry (L103; 8.0 × 9.5 m; Figs. 2–4) was excavated. It was surrounded on the north, south and east by high (height 1.5–2.5 m; Fig. 2: Section 1–1) and low (0.5–1.0 m) quarrying steps. A rock-cut pit (upper width 2.3 m, lower width 2.15 m, depth 2.1 m; Fig. 2: Section 2–2) discovered in the center of moderate steps that were hewn in the western part of the courtyard. The pit tapered down to the quarry floor. Two severance channels were identified at the bottom of the pit. Wide, deep severance channels (width 0.10–0.15 m, max. depth 0.3 m) and three stones were noted on the quarry floor. Although the stones were not completely hewn, the original size of three stones could be estimated: two (0.55 × 1.05 m; 0.6 × 0.9 m) in the courtyard’s northeastern corner and one (0.7 × 1.1 m) at its western end. The quarry was covered with fill (depth 1.5–2.0 m) containing mainly soil and stone chips, characteristic of this kind of quarry. A large quantity of modern debris was found in the upper part of the fill. The fill contained several pottery sherds, including a jar from the Hasmonean period (Fig. 5:1), two amphorae (Fig. 5:2, 3) and a cooking jug (Fig. 5:4) dating to the Early Roman period; a bowl or lid (Fig. 5:5) and a jug (Fig. 5:6) from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods; and a bowl (Fig. 5:7) from the Byzantine period. A fragment of a lamp (Fig. 6:1) that was probably from the Byzantine period (Rosenthal-Heginbottom and Sivan 1978:125, No. 517) and a piece of a bracelet made of dark glass (Fig. 6:2), characteristic of the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (Baramki 1932: Pl. VI:13) were also found. Three lumps of iron, probably iron pickaxes that broke while quarrying, were found on the bedrock at the bottom of the fill. A coin was also discovered on the bedrock at the bottom of the fill. It dates to the time of Alexander Jannaeus (80/79 BCE; IAA 143561) or is an imitation of this type of coin which was minted after his death, indicating the quarry was filled with debris after his reign.
Burial Cave Façade. A monumental burial cave façade (length c. 8 m, height c. 2.5 m; Fig. 7) was exposed rising slightly west of the quarry, above the rock-cut pit. The façade was carefully smoothed. A decorated opening (width 2.49 m) in its center was highlighted by two rock-hewn engaged pillars (width 0.51 m) protruding c. 2 cm from the cave’s façade. The bases of the pillars were fashioned as three steps, one above the other (bottom width c. 0.7 m), were positioned on a step that protruded c. 0.1–0.2 m from the façade. The floor between the pillar bases was missing; in its place was a rock-cut pit that extended from the elevation of the bases down to the quarry floor. The phases of fill from the pit’s floor to the elevation of the debris layer that covered the front of the cave were clearly discernible in the excavation section. Fill consisting of light brown soil and stone chips was found to a depth of c. 1.5 m from the bottom of the pit (L102A; Fig. 8). This fill was similar to the fill that covered the area of the quarry that was excavated east of the cave’s facade. Above that was a fill which contained brown soil, stone chips, medium–large fieldstones and a large rock that was placed on its long side in the center of the pit (L102B; 0.4 × 1.2 m). Above this fill, at the elevation of the base of the pillars, were the remains of a wall (L102C; length 2.25 m) built of medium-sized stones that abutted the pillars on both sides of the opening. It was impossible to examine the interior of the burial cave; therefore, it is difficult to determine the purpose and the date of the fill or the chronological relationship between the quarrying of the pit and the hewing of the cave facade. Wall 102C might have blocked or reduced the opening of the original cave and Fill 102B could have served as a foundation for this wall. The upper part of the cave’s façade and part of the entrance’s ceiling were destroyed and covered with modern refuse. The anteroom in the cave (height c. 2.5 m) was not excavated, yet it was possible to discern an opening in its rear wall that probably led to a burial chamber.
Approximately 10 m northwest of the burial cave’s opening was a burial chamber that was photographed by means of an optical fiber inserted through a hole drilled in the rock. The chamber was square and its corners roughly corresponded to the cardinal points. In the center of its southwestern wall was an opening flanked by a square sunken frame that led to a loculus with a vaulted ceiling (Fig. 9). Opposite this loculus, in the center of the chamber’s northeastern wall, was a shallow hewn niche, probably a preparation for the quarrying of another loculus. In the center of the chamber’s southeastern wall was a trapezoidal passage (Fig. 10) that led to the cave’s opening. The elevation of the chamber’s floor was c. 753.5 m asl, which was also the elevation at the bottom of the quarried pit below the pillars.
The discovery of the burial cave is a significant contribution to the study of Jerusalem’s Second Temple period necropolis. Although the excavation data is insufficient to date it, the style of the facade as well as loculus in the burial chamber seem to indicate that the burial cave is from this period. The design of engaged pillars in the doorjambs is known in the funerary architecture of burial caves from the Second Temple period, though the engaged pillars usually flank wider openings and two columns (distyle in antis) are between them. The following burial cave facades for example were designed in this manner: the Tomb of Nicanor on Mount Scopus (Avigad 1954:119–124), the Benei Hazir tomb in Nahal Kidron (Avigad 1954:37–78), the Umm el-‘Amud tomb in Nahal Tsofim (Avigad 1947:115–119) and a burial cave in the Sanhedriyya Park (Avigad 1947:119–122).
The artistic style resembles that of the engaged pillars in the walls of the magnificent “nymphaeum” that was discovered in the excavations of the Western Wall tunnels, whose construction is thought to have begun during King Herod’s reign (Onn and Weksler-Bdolah 2011:193–197). Though the design of the pillars bases in the walls of the “nymphaeum” is more sophisticated, the width of the bases (c. 0.7 m), the width of pillars (c. 0.5 m) and their thickness (2–3 cm) match the dimensions of the pillars in the façade of the burial cave. It is important to note that in the current excavation no remains of capitals or a frieze were discovered, which almost certainly adorned the front of the cave.
The chronological relationship between the quarry and the burial cave is unclear. That issue can only be resolved by examining the inside of the cave. There are two possibilities. One is that the burial cave predated the quarry, and after the cave was no longer used, the pit was hewn below the floor of the entrance to the cave. If the burial cave had a courtyard, it was removed by the later quarrying. The step upon which the pillar bases are hewn and the upper parts of the quarrying courtyard’s northwest and southwest corners might be remains of the original level of the tomb’s courtyard. This possibility raises several questions: is it reasonable that a magnificent burial cave was destroyed in this way by a quarry in the late Second Temple period, if that is indeed its time? However, it is possible the quarrying of the cave was never completed or its use was prohibited for some reason. On the other hand, the cave might have been destroyed by quarrying in a later period; hence, the quarry was still in use after the Second Temple period.
Another possibility is that the quarry was used before the cave was hewn, thus creating the hewn pit which was enlarged in a later phase for the purpose of installing a burial cave in it. The position of the burial chamber which was documented with an optical fiber, whose floor is at the level of the bottom of the hewn pit, apparently suggests that the original entrance to the cave was at the level of the bottom of the pit. It might have been decided for some reason to raise the level of the entrance with intentional fill to the elevation at which the pillar bases were later formed. If so, the layer of stones in the opening of the cave may be a remnant of the cave’s floor foundation, which was founded on fill consisting of stone chips and soil. It is possible the level of the cave’s entrance was raised because it was prone to flooding by rain water. Either way, the burial cave raises problems that this excavation cannot solve.