In June 2016, a salvage excavation was conducted at Kibbutz Nirim, north of Horbat Ma‘on (Khirbat el-Ma‘in; Permit No. A-7759; map ref. 142252–439/582811–85; Fig. 1) following the exposure of cist graves during the construction of a road. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by O. Shmueli (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Al-ʽAmor (administration), E. Aladjem (field photography, surveying and drafting), Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), N. Zak (plans), C. Hersch (pottery drawing) and laborers from the Perah Ha-Shaked Company, Ltd. Additional assistance was rendered by M. Balila of the IAA, M. Oved of the Jewish Agency and D. Lev of Kibbutz Nirim.
Twelve cist graves were found, of which three were oriented in an east–west direction (L100–L102; Fig. 2).
Tomb 100 (0.6 × 1.6 m; Fig. 3) was covered with three limestone slabs (0.3 × 0.6 m). The tomb was not excavated. Slightly east of the slabs, two Gaza jars (Fig. 4:1) were placed on the loess soil facing up.
Tomb 101 (0.6 × 1.1 m; Figs. 5, 6) was covered with one stone (thickness 0.1 m). The tomb was lined with four stone slabs (0.05 × 0.50 × 0.60 m) lying on their narrow side. The tomb contained the bones of an adult female, c. 30 years of age, placed in a supine position with her head in the west. The poor state of preservation made it difficult to fully reconstruct all the anthropological data. The finds included fragments of a skull vault and postcranial bones in articulation, indicating a primary burial.
Tomb 102 (0.35 × 1.60 m; Fig. 7) was a pit dug in the loess; it was devoid of building stones, bones or other finds. The tomb was probably never used.
The excavation yielded part of a cemetery containing cist tombs characteristic of the Byzantine period and common in the Negev. The pottery vessels recovered from the excavation date to the sixth–seventh centuries CE. The empty pit grave had evidently been prepared in advance but was not used. The proximity of the cemetery to Horbat Ma‘on (Nirim) suggests that the cemetery was utilized by its inhabitants during the Byzantine period.
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Nahshoni P. and Seriy G. 2014. A Byzantine Monastery and Islamic-Period Settlement Remains at Horbat Ma‘on. ‘Atiqot 78:13*–62* (Hebrew; English summary, pp. 162–163).