During July 2012, a salvage excavation was conducted at Bet Ha-Hayyal (The Soldier’s Home) near Binyene Ha-Umma in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-6548; map ref. 219579–90/632274–80; Fig. 1), after three burial caves and wall remains were discovered during an antiquities inspection prior to enlarging the soldier’s home. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers, was directed by R. Avner, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), A. Wiegman and A. Kelaf (preliminary inspections), V. Essman and Y. Shmidov (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography), J. Bukengolts (pottery restoration), Y. Rapuano (ceramics), T. Winter (glass), C. Hersch (pottery and glass drawings), L. Lieberman (metallurgical laboratory) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).
Area 1. Remains of three walls (W10–W12), built of partially dressed medium and large stones in dry construction, in a region where the natural bedrock level is low, were exposed. Wall 10 (length 4.2 m, width 0.8–1.2 m; Figs. 3–5) was parallel to W11 (length c. 6.8 m, width 0.8–1.2 m) and W12 (length 2.2 m, width 0.7–0.8 m), situated in between, apparently postdated them. South of W12 was fill consisting of stone collapse that the wall was presumably built to retain. The eastern ends of Walls 10 and 11 were damaged. An installation (L108; c. 0.45×0.45 m, depth 0.27 m) whose walls and bottom were of similar construction to W12 was exposed adjacent to the western side, south of W12. A floor that consisted of yellowish white chalk that had crumbled from the indigenous bedrock, and some soil, abutted Installation 108 from the west and south. The bedrock level north of W12 was in excess of 1 m lower than that on the south side of the wall; the signs of rock-cutting on the north side suggest that another northern wall, closing off a room (L105; presumed size 1.2×2.2 m), was located there. Several potsherds dating to the Iron Age, Roman and Byzantine periods were discovered in the layers of fill excavated in the area.
Area 2. A burial cave (L200; Fig. 6) whose ceiling was breached during the course of earthmoving work was exposed. A burial bench that was covered with three stone slabs, one of which was in situ, was revealed in the east. A coin (IAA 141910) dating to the fourth century CE and a base of a small candlestick lamp dating to the Byzantine period (second half of the fourth century to the mid sixth century CE; Fig. 7:1; Magness 1993:250–251, Form 1) were found in the fill of the burial bench. A room or another arcosolium was visible in the west (not excavated). The opening of the cave (not excavated) was probably located in the southeast.
Area 3. A burial cave (2.6×3.1 m; Figs. 8, 9) was excavated that had been previously exposed (HA-ESI 120). The cave’s entrance (width 0.6 m) was located in the south, and a roll-stone that fitted it was exposed to the south. The opening led to a standing pit (0.9×1.8 m) that was partly excavated. Bedrock ledges, probably meant for ossuaries, flanked the pit (width of eastern, western and northern ledges: 0.85 m, 0.90 m and 0.95 m respectively). During a prior antiquities inspection, in situ ossuary fragments decorated with architectural motifs and rosettes that dated the cave to the Second Temple period were found (HA-ESI 124). A coin dating to the reign of the Alexander Jannaeus (IAA 141911) was found in fill east of the cave. Signs of rock-cutting that survived from a quarry were discovered around the northern and eastern sides of the cave (Fig. 10). Quarries adjacent to burial caves are a known phenomenon, indicative of efficiency; the rock removed for the quarrying of burial caves was dressed and marketed as building stones. Hence, the quarry operated in the Second Temple period.
Area 4. A burial cave (3.8×3.8 m; Figs. 11, 12) with a curved ceiling was partially excavated. Signs of quarrying were exposed c. 1 m from the western side where a ledge might have been located. Three stone slabs were found one atop the other in the southeastern corner of the cave. These might have blocked the opening of the original cave or were remains of steps. An intact tegula (length 0.53 m, width 0.125–0.210 m, max. height 0.1 m; Fig. 7:4) from the workshop of the Tenth Roman Legion that operated nearby was found in the fill inside the cave. A fragment of a Type C2 lamp with a pared nozzle (Fig. 7:2; Barag and Hershkovitz 1994: 46–48) and a discus lamp (Fig. 7:3) were found in the middle of the cave. The discus lamp is decorated with a man’s head in a medallion surrounded by a flower and an ovolo band divided into three sections by double-axe motifs opposite each other on the sides of the head. On the shoulder and volutes next to the nozzle is a band that terminates with a volute at each end. This type of lamp is a “round lamp with a decorated discus” dating from the second half or last quarter of the first century CE until the end of the second–early third centuries CE. It is common in Greater Syria, including the Land of Israel and Phoenicia (Vitto 2011:47–48, 51–52; Rosenthal and Sivan 1978: 85–90). The lamp from the excavation is presumably decorated with the head of Helios, similar to a lamp from a burial cave on Ha-Horesh Street in Tiv‘on (Vitto 2011: Fig. 24.2) and a lamp in the Schloessinger Collection that was purchased in Beirut (Rosenthal and Sivan 1978:88, No. 357). Three fragments of glass vessels were discovered near the discus lamp, including a bottle with an infolded rim, a long cylindrical neck constricted at its base and a piriform body with several horizontal constrictions (Fig. 13:1). The other two fragments are probably of a single bottle that has an infolded rim, a long cylindrical neck constricted at its base, and a globular or squat body (Fig. 13:2). Bottles of these types were common in Syria-Palestine during the first–second centuries CE.
The exposure of the two burial caves from the Second Temple period shows that the eastern slope of the hill was used as a necropolis for the Jewish settlement. If that is indeed the case, the question then arises as to the identity of the site with the village of Jason (Arubas and Goldfus 2007). Jason’s tomb is far away from the burial caves and if the settlement was the estate of the Jason family, then the family burial plot would presumably be located nearby. Another difficulty with the proposed identification is its basis on a later Christian source,the Gregorian Calendar,which dates to the seventh or eighth centuries CE. The burial cave in Area 4 might have been used in the period between the revolts and perhaps even at the time when the Tenth Roman Legion’s pottery workshop was operating in the vicinity. The finds recovered from the burial cave in Area 2 show that burial continued there in the Byzantine period.