Cave 1 (9 × 14 m) is an irregularly shaped cave hewn in the limestone bedrock; coarse chisel marks that were probably made when enlarging the cave were noted. The cave had two openings in the east (each 2.5 m wide and 2.5 m high) and a central courtyard (L206; diam. c. 3 m; Fig. 2) surrounded by walls (W10, W13, W14) built of roughly hewn fieldstones, without mortar. In the southwestern side of the courtyard was an elliptical installation (L210) built of fieldstones. A thick layer of ash (0.4 m) was exposed at the bottom of the installation. The courtyard was abutted from the northwest by a floor (L203) made of white compact mortar. Remains of a juvenile interment were found in a probe (L205) excavated below the floor (Eshed, below). The floor adjoined two walls (W11, W12) built of roughly hewn fieldstones (0.15–0.20 × 0.25–0.30 × 0.30–0.35 m). Between the two walls and below a floor made of white compact mortar (L201; Fig. 3) was a fill layer containing soil mixed with small stones. Another floor (L217) of pink mortar overlying a bedding of small stones mixed with earth was exposed in a probe under Floor 201. Remains of yet another floor (L221; Fig. 4) built of flat stones and dated to the Byzantine period were also exposed. Floor 221 abutted a wall (W16) that enclosed Courtyard 206 from the east. Three niches probably used for storage were hewn in the western wall of the cave. In addition, several small niches for placing oil lamps were hewn within the cave. The ceramic finds from the cave included bowls (Fig. 5:1–3) and a jar (Fig. 5:4), all dating to the Byzantine period (sixth century CE).
Cave 2 is rock-hewn with an opening (L100; 0.5 × 0.9 m; Fig. 6) fixed in its southwest side. Soil fill, alluvium and modern remains were found in the cave, evidence that it was disturbed in the past. Scattered fragments of human bones were discovered in the central chamber (Eshed, below). Several loculi opened from the central chamber, but they were not examined. From the Pottery sherds, including jars (Fig. 5:5, 6) dating to the Byzantine period (sixth century CE), were also found.
Physical Anthropology
Vered Eshed
In Cave 1, a juvenile interment was exposed in a probe (L205) excavated below the floor. The skeleton was in found in articulation, comprising the skull, including the mandible, as well as bones from the upper and lower portions of the body. The child’s age is estimated at 4–5 years on the basis of the following data: (1) the length of the fibula (151 mm), without epiphyseal fusion, is characteristic of an individual 4–5 years old (Bass 1987:239–245); (2) three pelvic bones were not fused, corresponding to a child of 3–5 years (Bass 1987:186–191); (3) the primary teeth and permanent teeth correspond to the development of a child approximately 4 years of age (Ubelaker 1989: Fig. 62).
In Cave 2, bones were found scattered in the main chamber, which was apparently robbed in the past. Thus, the location of the bones does not necessarily represent the exact location of the deceased, but rather remains belonging to deceased that were interred in the loculi. The bones include cranial and postcranial fragments, from which several children and adults were identified. The assemblage of adult bones is represented mainly by tibiae. Seven of the tibiae—all correspond to the right side—had ends that were fused to the body of the bones, indicate that the burial included at least seven adults who were older than 19 years of age. Of these, two males and two females were identified on the basis of the measurements of the ends of the bone (Bass 1987:228–238). An individual over 40 years of age was also identified, as indicated by age-related pathological changes: osteophytes and extention of the articular faset of the calcanum (Ortner and Putschar 1981:399–411). In addition, at least four children and a fetus were identified (Table 1).
Table 1. Estimated age of the children (based on anthropological measurements)
Estimated Age
Bone length 49 mm
Bass 1987:234–235
Bone length 72 mm
0.5–1.5 years
Bass 1987:234–235
Bone length 60 mm
0–0.5 years
Bass 1987:244
Part of a mandible
First permanent molar, first premolar with a complete crown and a root developed to one-third its height
7–8 years
Ubelaker 1989: Fig. 62
Part of a mandible
First and second permanent molars and a third molar that had not yet erupted
12–15 years
Ubelaker 1989: Fig. 62