Numerous excavations were carried out at the site in the past. The first excavations were conducted by J. Ory in 1941–1942 (Fig. 1:1; Ory J., IAA Archive ATQ 786, 5.2.1942), exposing cist tombs dating to the Roman period. Two excavations were conducted just southeast of the current area, where Mamluk-period graves were discovered (Fig. 1:2; Dayan and Eshed 2012), and two cemeteries dating to the Intermediate Bronze Age and the Mamluk period were exposed (Fig. 1:3; Yannai 2008). Two graves from the Early Roman period were also previously revealed c. 200 m southeast of the excavation area (Fig. 1:4; Peilstöker 2006).
The Roman Period. An Early Roman pit grave (T127; 0.7 × 1.9 m) built along an east–west axis was discovered in the western part of the excavation. The deceased was covered with five flat, gray mud bricks (average size 0.4 × 0.4 m, thickness 7–8 cm; Fig. 3). A primary burial of an individual placed in a supine position in a general east–west direction with the head to the east was discovered in the grave (Fig. 4). The bones were examined only while still in the ground; they were not removed. The morphology of the skull and mandible was typical of a male individual. The advanced dental erosion that was discerned is characteristic of an individual 30–50 years of age (Hillson 1986:176–201). A complete jar was discovered in the western part of the grave, near the lower limbs, where it was probably placed as a funerary offering (Fig. 5). Such offerings, characteristic of the Early Roman period (late first century BCE–first century CE), were discovered at contemporary sites, including Gamla (Berlin 2006:48, Fig. 2.26:2), Jaffa (Kaplan 1964:6, Figs.1.3, 2.5) and Ramat Ha-Nadiv (Silberstein 2000: Pl. I.17). A second molar belonging to a sheep/goat and a fragment of a bovine(?) tooth were found near the jar. This grave joins two other contemporaneous graves that were discovered in an excavation c. 200 m southeast of the area. Together, they are probably part of a cemetery that was in use in the area in the Early Roman period. Another possibility is that during this period, interments were scattered in this area rather than being concentrated and organized in one spot.
The Mamluk Period. Eleven graves dating from the Mamluk period were discovered in the eastern part of the excavation. They were arranged in three rows, equidistant and all aligned in an east–west direction. These graves are part of a Mamluk cemetery that was previously excavated at the site. In the current excavation, three types of graves were exposed: cist tombs, covered pit graves and uncovered pit graves.
Cist tombs. Three rectangular cist tombs were discovered (T206, T213, T221; c. 0.5 × 2.0 m, average depth 0.25 m; Fig. 6). The tombs were slightly wider in the center and somewhat narrow at the ends. They were dug into clay soil and their walls and floor were lined with black, muddy material mixed with worn pottery sherds that range in date from the Persian period to the Byzantine period, indicating that the lining material was prepared after the Byzantine period. The tombs were devoid of bones or finds, and it is therefore possible that they were never actually used for burial. They contained an accumulation of hamra and several worn, non-diagnostic sherds.
Covered pit graves. Two pit graves (T117, T121) dug into the hamra soil were covered with black, muddy material (width 0.15–0.25 m, thickness c. 0.1 m) after the deceased were interred. The bones were well-preserved, probably as a result of having been covered. The bodies in both graves were discovered in primary burial, placed on their right side in an east–west direction, with their head in the west and facing south (Fig. 7; Table 1).
Uncovered pit graves. Six very shallow pit graves (T106, T107, T209, T220, T224, T226; max. depth 0.2 m) were discovered, aligned in an east–west direction; their outline was determined according to the height of the deceased. Bone fragments were discovered in the graves (Table 1). Most of the bones were in an extremely poor state of preservation (T209, T220, T224, T226); only two of the graves (T106, T107) were the bones well preserved. All of the graves contained primary burials, with the head of the deceased placed in the west and the face turned toward the south. It was impossible to determine the position of the bodies except for the deceased in T106, who was placed on its right side.
Three rows of pits dug in hamra soil were discovered. Each row consisted of two or three pits (average diam. 0.8 m, average depth 0.6 m): three pits (L119, L217, L229) were found in the western row, two pits (L111, L216) in the middle row and two pits (L120, L215) in the eastern row. The pits contained accumulations of black soil mixed with a meager amount of worn body sherds dating from the Intermediate Bronze Age, Persian–Early Islamic and Ottoman periods as well as from the British Mandate. Sandy soil devoid of finds was exposed below the levels of the pit accumulations. The layout of the pits indicates that the activity conducted in the area was intentional. We suggest that the pits were dug at the end of the Ottoman period or during the British Mandate for planting trees; a similar orchard configuration was discovered in an adjacent excavation at the site (E. Yannai, pers. comm.).
Worn pottery sherds dating to the Intermediate Bronze Age, without any funerary remains from that period, were discovered in the excavation. Thus, it seems that the large Intermediate Bronze Age cemetery previously discovered to the southeast of the current excavation area did not extend to the northwest. On the basis of this excavation and past excavations, it seems that the site was used for burial in the Roman period and again, after a long hiatus, in the Mamluk period. The paucity or absence of accompanying artifacts in the graves from the Mamluk period at this site may reflect a low socio-economic level of those interred in the cemetery. Primary burials oriented along a general east–west axis were discovered in most of the graves. The deceased were placed on their right side with their head in the west and face turned toward the south. This manner of burial is typical of Muslim interments (Gorzalczany 2007:71). The bones discovered in the Mamluk graves represent a minimum of seven individuals, including an infant, two children and adults spanning a wide range of ages; both sexes are represented. This data reflects the heterogeneity of the cemetery and represents a typical civilian population, as was found in the previous excavations in this cemetery.
Table 1. Age and Sex Estimates of the Deceased in the Mamluk-Period Tombs
Age (years)
Child of uncertain age