The Pool and the Water Cistern (Figs. 3, 4). The pool (L303; length 3.1 m, preserved width 0.65–2.00 m, preserved height 2.1 m; Fig. 5) was rock-hewn and rectangular; its northern wall did not survive. It was treated with cream-colored plaster (thickness 2.5–4.0 cm) containing limestone and minute gravel inclusions. Based on its location and plaster, which was identical to that in the pool, an installation above the pool (L302; Fig. 4:1–1, 2–2) exposed in the previous season was apparently part of the complex. No datable artifacts were discovered inside the pool.
A square rock-hewn cistern (L300; length 8.15 m, width 5.35 m, depth 4 m; Fig. 6) was excavated c. 1.5 m west of Pool 303. A square shaft (L300A; width 1.15 m, depth 1.25 m) leading to the cistern was blocked by large hewn stone slabs, and its northern side was not preserved. The quarrying of the cistern was not completed because of the boulders that were in the center of its floor. No plaster was discovered on the walls and the floor. Animal bones were found in the cistern, including those of a jackal, a pig, sheep and goats, a horse/donkey and a rat, as well as pottery sherds ranging in date from the Iron Age II to the Early Roman period. The sherds ascribed to the Iron Age II included bowls (Fig. 7:1, 2), cooking pots (Fig. 7:3, 4) and jars (Fig. 7:5–7); from the Persian period were bowls (Fig. 8:1–7), kraters (Fig. 8:8–11)—two with basket handles (Fig. 8:10, 11), jars (Fig. 8:12–15) and jugs (Fig. 8:16–18); from the Hellenistic period were jars (Fig. 9:1, 2); and from the Early Roman period were a bowl (Fig. 9:3), cooking pots (Fig. 9:4–9) and jars (Fig. 9:10–14). Based on the ceramic finds, it seems that the hewing of the cistern, which was not completed, dates to the late first century BCE.
Five Hewn Pit Graves (L400–L404; length 1.45–2.60 m, width 0.55–0.85 m, depth 0.60–1.25 m; Figs. 10–17) were revealed c. 20 m southwest of the cistern. The graves were rectangular and not oriented in the same direction: four were aligned along a general north–south axis and one was aligned along an approximate east–west axis. The graves were found covered with large, dressed stone slabs. Two types of graves were discerned:
Type 1—a grave (L403) covered with horizontal stone slabs set in place on the hewn edges of the upper part of the pit, the burial chamber at the bottom of the pit.
Type 2 represents most of the graves (L400–L402) and is characterized by a rectangular pit with a burial cavity enlarged toward one side. On the opposite side was a hewn shelf with covering slabs leaning diagonally on the shelf. The shelf in Grave 402 was rock-cut and built. Although the burial cavity was not always widened in the same direction, the shelf in the grave was always on the opposite side of the cavity.
Human bones were exposed in all the graves except for Grave 400. Three of the graves (401–403) contained only one individual, whereas Grave 404 contained two individuals. Artifacts were discovered only in two of the graves (402, 403; see Table 1).
Table 1. The Graves
Locus No.
Interred Individuals
Child 7–8 years
Olive pit and 16 beads made of semi-precious stones (Fig. 18)
Adult male > 20 years
Two iron nails with remains of wood on them
Two adult males 20–30 and 30–40 years
Two Loculi Caves (A, B; each 2.75 m wide) c. 1.1 m apart were found c. 95 m southwest of the water cistern. They were severely damaged when a private parking space was prepared in the area, and only their southern part survived; this part was deliberately blocked with fill in the modern era. Five loculi were identified in Cave A (three in the southern wall and two in the eastern wall) and four loculi were distinguished in Cave B (three in the southern wall and one in the western wall). Based on their plan, the quarrying of the caves can be dated to the Second Temple period.
The most significant finds are the five rock-hewn pit graves, part of a large burial ground excavated in the past. The burial ground extends over an area of ​​at least 4.5 dunams and contains 88 graves. The cemetery was first dated to the Second Temple period by Zissu and Moyal, mainly based on an ossuary fragment that was discovered in one of the pit graves. The deceased were believed to have been members of the Essene sect because of the similarity of the graves of Beit Safafa and those at Horbat Qumran and two other sites in the Judean Desert (Zissu 1996). In 2014, it was possible to date the graves with certainty after other rock-hewn pit graves of the same type as those first discovered by Zissu and Moyal were exposed (Nagar 2015; Permit No. A-7187). The graves, discovered sealed, yielded an abundance of artifacts dating to the Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE), such as clay lamps, glass vessels and a coin from 312 CE dating to the time of Maximinus Daia. It is reasonable to suppose that the ossuary, which served as the linchpin for attributing the date of the graves to the Second Temple period, was ex situ, since ossuaries are a distinctive characteristic of the material culture of the Second Temple period and typical of loculi burial caves. Therefore, presumably the ossuary was originally in one of the two loculi caves documented in the excavation that was located to the south, near the pit graves. There is no way of determining why the ossuary was reused in the pit grave in which it was discovered.