Burial Cave F1
. A cave consisting of a central chamber and rock-cut loculi
was hewn in the center of the northern, rocky spur. The cave was entered from the north by way of a tapered opening (height 1.7 m, width 0.7–1.6 m; Fig. 3). Even though the entrance was below ground level, no steps were found. Two small karstic cavities were found west of the opening. The central chamber (2.5 × 2.9 m) was found filled with collapsed limestone blocks. A calcareous floor covered with soil and pottery sherds was exposed below the collapsed stones. A standing pit (F29; depth 0.2 m) was revealed in the northeastern part of the chamber. A bedrock ledge (width 0.6–0.7 m) remained between the loculi
and the standing pit. Inside the central chamber were five hewn loculi
: three in the west (F17—0.5 × 1.8 m, height 0.8 m; F18—0.6 × 2.0 m, height 0.7 m; F19—0.6 × 2.0 m, height 1 m) and two to the south (F20, F21; 0.8 ×1.2 m, 0.8 and 0.6 m high, respectively). No bones were found in the cave, but several pottery sherds were discovered. These included many fragments of bag-shaped jars (e.g., Fig. 4:1), most of which have a ledge rim, an upright and slightly everted neck with a ridge at its base, a ribbed body and shoulder, a pair of handles on the shoulder and a curved base. Similar jars were very common in Judea from the first to the mid-second century CE. In addition, a knife-pared Herodian lamp with a bow-shaped nozzle (Fig. 4:2) was found; this too is a type that was common in Judea from the first century to the mid-second century CE. Additional finds were fragments of jars and bowls from the Byzantine period and a jar from the fifteenth–sixteenth centuries CE (Fig. 4:3). The latter has an outwardly folded rim, a tapered bow-shaped neck, strap handles drawn from the base of the neck to the shoulder and a body which becomes wider towards the base and is decorated with incised horizontal and wavy lines. This type of jar was very common in the center of the country during the Ottoman period. The cave’s plan and the artifacts found in it indicate that it was used in the Roman period. Numerous similar tombs from the Roman period are found in the Ben Shemen region (Reich 1982) and elsewhere in the central and northern parts of Israel. The finds from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods indicate that the cave was used repeatedly over the years, although not necessarily for burial.
Burial Complex F7. A burial complex consisting of three tombs (F4–F6) hewn in a bedrock outcrop was discovered in the northern part of the site; all the tombs were severed by a modern road and contained no bones. Both Tomb F4 (0.4–0.6 × 1.8–1.9 m, depth 0.6 m) and Tomb F5 (0.5 × 0.7 m depth 0.6 m) had a single burial bench, which was damaged and cut on its western side, and a hewn headrest (width 0.2 m and 0.1 m, respectively) for the deceased. Chisel marks in their upper parts indicate they were sealed with a stone cover. The central tomb (F6; 0.6 × 1.7 m, depth 1.1 m) included an eastern burial bench of an arcosolium, but it was completely removed when the road, to the west, was paved. A cupmark was identified north of the tomb complex.
Tomb F22. The tomb (0.7 × 1.7 m, depth 1.2 m), which was located in the southern part of the site, consisted of a single burial bench aligned in a northeast–southwest direction. A groove in the upper part indicates that it was sealed with a cover.
Tomb F23 (0.7 × 1.1 m, 0.9 m) was located c. 10 m west of Tomb F22. It was poorly preserved, consisting of a single burial bench aligned in an east–west direction.
Cave F27 (3.8 × 5.0, 1.8 m; Figs. 5, 6). The ceiling of the cave had collapsed. The entrance to the cave was via a four step staircase (0.9 × 2.4 m) hewn in middle of the western wall.
Cistern F25 (diam. 2.5–3.8 m, depth 0.9–1.3 m; Fig. 7). The bottom part of the cistern was hewn in bedrock, and its western part was lined with stone and plastered.
Kiln F26 (diam. 2.5–3.5 m, depth 3.4 m; Fig. 8) was hewn in soft chalk bedrock at the top of the hill. Fill consisting of soil, ash and stones was found inside the installation. Burn marks were visible on the walls of the kiln, and a large concentration of charcoal was found on the floor. A layer of lime and a large quantity ash were discovered c. 1 m above the kiln’s floor. A step-like ledge (max. width 0.4 m, height 2.3 m), which encircled the kiln, was probably meant to support its cover.
(diam. 2.5–3.4 m, depth 1.0–2.1 m; Fig. 9) was located c. 20 m north of Kiln F26. It contained burn marks; remnants of burnt lime were found on its floor. A ledge (width 0.2 m, height 1.6 m) meant to support the kiln’s cover was evident on its western side. Limekilns of this type were widely used in the Shephelah and the hill-country during the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (Cohen 1972
; Spanier 1989
Rock-Cuttings. Five rock-cuttings were exposed: F10 (diam. 1.4 m, depth 0.1 m; Fig. 10); F13 (0.6 × 0.6 m, depth 0.01–0.40 m); F14 (0.4–0.7 × 1.0 m, depth 0.05–0.10 m); F16 (1.3 × 1.9 m); F24 (2.5 × 2.5 m, depth 0.3 m). Rock-cuttings F13 and F14 were adjacent to each other. Evidence of possible hewing of an opening to an incomplete underground installation can be discerned on the southern part of F16.
Winepress F2 was a simple rectangular installation, hewn along a northeast–southwest axis. The winepress comprised a treading floor (1.5 × 1.7 m, depth 0.2 m; Fig. 11) and a collecting vat (0.8 × 0.8 m, depth 0.4 m). It is of a type that was commonly used throughout the country from the Hellenistic period to the Early Islamic period.
Cupmarks. Three round cupmarks (F11 and F12—diam. 0.2 m, depth 0.2 m; F15—diam. 0.4 m, depth 0.2 m) were located on a spur near Rock-cutting F14. Cupmarks documented in the immediate vicinity (see van den Brink et al. 2001) were probably used for agricultural-industrial activity.
. A natural pit (F30; 1.4 × 1.4 m, depth 1 m) containing a concentration of pottery sherds (Figs. 12, 13) was found c. 20 m west of Burial Cave F1. The sherds date to the Iron Age II (eighth century BCE), and include a bowl with an S-shaped rim (Fig. 12:1), a bowl with a straight wall (Fig. 12:2), curved bowls (Fig. 12:3, 4), bowls with an everted ledge rim, a carinated body and a ring base (Fig. 12:5, 6), a chalice fragment (Fig. 12:7), a round juglet base (Fig. 12:8), large holemouth kraters that have an outwardly folded rim with handles below it and a ring base (Fig. 12:9–11), a lamp with a pinched nozzle (Fig. 12:12) and a weight (12:13). Similar ceramic assemblages are known from excavations that were conducted in the immediate vicinity (Yannai 2012
) and were common in the central part of Israel and Judah.
The site is located in an open area between settlement sites. Some of the remains that were scattered within it, such as the cistern, the winepress and probably the cupmarks as well, were used in conjunction with agricultural activities. The other installations were used for the preparation of lime, for burial or for other purposes. The dating of the installations indicates that the activity occurred during the Iron Age II, and later, in the Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. The rocky, northern spur, where most of the remains were concentrated, is located just c. 500 m from Tel H
adid, where remains from these periods and other periods were discovered (Brand 1998
). It is important to note the intensity with which the area’s residents exploited the rocky ridges that run between the alluvium-covered areas. For example, fourteen rock-hewn installations were found in an area of approximately eight dunams on the northern ridge. The unique nature of the local rock, which can be easily quarried, led a maximal utilization of the area for a wide variety of purposes. The excavation contributes a new dimension for understanding the area in ancient times and underscores how important it is to direct research efforts toward examining the outskirts of settlement sites. Research that does not focus exclusively on residential sites allows for the reconstruction of entire settlement systems, which highlights the connection between people and their environment.