The area (32–33 m asl), located on the lower slopes of the Carmel Ridge, in the drainage basin of Nahal Mitla and Nahal Sefunim, is characterized by mountainous alluvium. A large ancient olive grove covered the area prior to the development work. When the olive trees were uprooted for relocation, wall remains were discovered. Three squares (A1–A3) were excavated. Part of a wall or floor built of kurkar ashlars (L102; Fig. 2) was exposed in Sq A1. The foundation of a wall built of small fieldstones (W3; Fig. 3) was uncovered in the middle of the square. A wall aligned in an east–west direction and preserved to a height of two courses of dressed kurkar stones (average size 0.25 × 0.30 × 0.60 m) was exposed in the center of Sq A2. A possible threshold stone was revealed in the wall. Collapsed stones, belonging to construction where they were in secondary use, were uncovered in the southern part of the square. The top of a wall constructed of dressed kurkar stones was exposed in the eastern part of the square (Fig. 4). A floor built of kurkar stones was exposed in Sq A3.
The area (43.1 m asl) was located on the upper slopes of the ridge. A plaster floor built on bedrock outcrops with sand and medium-sized stones (average size 0.2 × 0.3 × 0.5 m; Fig. 5) was exposed. No datable finds were discovered beneath it.
Forty-two burial complexes in caves and loculi were discovered in preliminary inspections; of these twenty-two were excavated. The burial caves were hewn from west to east, into the slope of the spur, their openings facing west. The caves were hewn in three levels (38–39 m, 41–43 m and c. 50 m asl) that followed the contour lines of the spur and utilized the hard lime crust (nari) for the ceilings of the cave; the cave itself was hewn in soft chalk. Four main types of burial complexes were discerned: (1) an arcosolium cave; (2) caves with an entrance corridor, a single burial chamber and burials in clay sarcophagi; (3) loculi caves and burials on the floor; (4) a rock-hewn burial trough.
Arcosolium Cave (C48; Fig. 6). The cave was discovered in the eastern wall of a quarry, and was evidently hewn after the quarry was no longer in use. Part of the quarry served as the entrance courtyard. The cave was found sealed with a partly broken roll-stone that was completed with fieldstones and soil. The roll-stone was set within a hewn track along which it could be rolled. A bolt-hole was hewn on the inside of the southern doorjamb. Next to it was another hewn recess that was used for an oil lamp; its sides were burnt and covered with soot. On the first step below the threshold and in the northern lintel were two rock-cut holes and a groove which held a stone door that turned on a hinge, inside an inner frame. The three walls of the cave were fashioned as wide arcosolia. Three perpendicular troughs were hewn in the northern and southern walls. A burial trough was located below the eastern arcosolium. All of the benches were open and filled with alluvium almost to the top of the partition, and on the floor of the cave was a concentration of scattered bones, probably as a result of robbery. Among the small finds discovered in the main chamber were pottery sherds; fragments of a bronze buckle; fragments of glass vessels; a bronze Byzantine coin; jewelry, including crosses; and animal bones. The initial analysis suggests that the cave was breached and plundered in antiquity. The anthropological finds in the burial complex represent at least 27 individuals. The cave was evidently used over a long period and was opened and closed numerous times, as indicated by the number of individuals interred in it and the variety of their ages.
Burial Cave with an Entrance Corridor, Single Burial Chamber and Burial in Clay Sarcophagi (C49; Fig. 7). A rectangular, rock-hewn corridor, in which alluvium had accumulated, led to the cave opening. A rectangular opening, sealed with a heap of large stones, led to a square burial chamber with a vaulted ceiling. In the northern part of the cave’s interior was a clay sarcophagus (Fig. 8) sealed with roof tiles and covered with chunks of stone and earth that had fallen from the cave’s ceiling. Glass vessels, a piece of limestone worked in the shape of a leaf, iron nails, glass beads and a glass vial were found on the floor at the southern side of the cave. Inside the clay sarcophagus were bones that represented at least four individuals, a copper button, bivalve shells (Glycymeris), a metal ring, a hoop with a small bronze bell and body fragments of glass vessels. A cluster of bones, in which at least three individuals were identified, was arranged on the cave floor along the southern wall of the cave.
Loculi Cave (C19).Most of the cave was damaged by the development work, and only the eastern part of a loculus survived. Human bones, including part of a cranium and teeth, were found on the floor of the loculus. Near the inner, eastern wall was a primary burial of a child, 5–10 years of age, with its head in the east and legs in the west. In addition, bones of an adult individual over 20 years old and part of an upper jaw of a child, 8–10 years of age, were found. Remains of two other individuals were identified. A cluster of glass items was found beside the primary burial: eight beads combining glass and stone, four button-like beads, pairs of finger cymbals, four bottles and a stirring rod (Fig. 9). A scarab fashioned from white stone was also found (Fig. 10).
Burial Trough (C41). A burial trough was hewn in the hard limestone of the southern wall of the corridor leading to a burial complex. A wide, level groove was hewn around the trough, on which stone slabs were placed to seal the tomb. The tomb was found plundered; inside it were fragments of pottery vessels and a bone kohl stick.
A village that probably dates back to the Early Roman period extended along the western slopes of the Carmel Ridge, between Nah
al Sefunim and Nah
al Mitla in the south and Nah
al Gallim in the north. It was probably inhabited continuously into the Byzantine period (fourth–fifth centuries CE). The village was near main roads and other villages on the Carmel Ridge and its slopes that were founded and prospered in the third–sixth centuries CE, including among others H
orbat Shallala, H
orbat Samuqa, H
aruvim (Dar 1998
:201–221) and ‘Atlit. Presumably, the inhabitants of the village traded their agricultural produce with markets near and far, bringing into the village a variety of imported pottery vessels. Scores of handles and rims of locally manufactured bag-shaped jars were found; these were widely used in commerce and for storage. Many fragments of LRRW bowls and other imported vessels were also found.
Most of the fifty or so possible remains that were located prior to the excavation were identified as burial caves; however, additional burial caves, similar to those identified in the survey of the Map of ‘Atlit (Ronen and Olami 1978
), seem to be located on the higher, northern slopes. Some of the burial caves were set into quarries after the latter ceased to be used. The types of burial caves at H
orbat Mitla, such as loculi
and arcosolia caves, were in use from the Second Temple period until the Late Roman period, if not later. The archaeological and anthropological finds indicate that some of them were used until the Byzantine period (fourth–fifth centuries CE). Burials in clay sarcophagi were found in some of the tombs, and several tombs contained intact or broken clay sarcophagi. Sarcophagi fragments were also found in the fill on the slope of the spur, indicating that the tombs had been plundered. H
orbat Mitla is the southernmost archaeological site where clay sarcophagi were discovered in situ
. A comparative study of burials in clay sarcophagi in the Galilee shows that the custom continued from the second half of the second century CE until the second half of the fourth century CE, after which it disappeared (Aviam and Stern 1998
:151–162). It has been also suggested that Cypriot was the manufacturing center for clay sarcophagi, which were imported into Israel by way of the large port of ‘Akko, which also served the Carmel settlements. The early date of the caves was based on glass artifacts that were well-preserved, most of which were produced in a local workshop in the Early Roman period. The later date, the Late Roman period, relies on the identification of the sarcophagi and pottery sherds. An initial analysis of the archaeological and anthropological finds suggests that most of the caves were used over a long period of time.