In November 2015, a salvage excavation was conducted on Elie Tavin Street in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-7553; map ref. 222893/635976; Fig. 1), following damage to burial caves during development work in 2012. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Hakam Group, was directed by S. Mizrahi, with the assistance of N. Nehama and R. Abu Halaf (administration), A. Peretz (field photography), M. Kahan and V. Essman (surveying and drafting), I.E. Delerson(plans), Y. Bukengolts (pottery restoration), I. Lidsky-Reznikov (find drawing), A. Wiegmann (supervision) and D. Ben-Ami (consultation).
The excavation took place in two rock-cut caves (1, 2), c. 3.5 m apart, on a hill where four rock-cut burial caves from the Middle Bronze Age had been identified in the past. Remains of a settlement from the Middle Bronze Age were identified at the site of Wadi Zimra (Meitlis 1992), at Tell el-Ful (Gibson 1996) and at Khirbat ‘Addasa (Greenhut and Adawi 2010; for additional references, see Billig 2019). Shaft tombs from the Intermediate Bronze Age were excavated near Wadi Zimra (Seligman 1995). The caves were badly damaged by the time they excavated.
The ceiling of the cave had collapsed prior to the excavation. The cave was irregular in shape, and its floor was deeply concave (Fig. 2). The cave’s floor was covered by a layer of fine-grained light brown soil (L303) with stones and sherds dated to the MB IIB (see below: Figs. 8, 9). Above Layer 303 was an accumulation of fine-grained light brown soil containing sherds and stones (L300). A roughly hewn rounded boulder (L307; Fig. 3) found southwest of the cave may have served to block the entrance shaft.
was only partially excavated due to safety restrictions, and its ceiling was removed with a mechanical tool (Figs. 4, 5). A carelessly hewn ovoid shaft (L302), apparently the entrance to the cave, was found in its eastern part. The cave’s floor was deeply concave. Covering it was a layer of fine-grained light brown soil (L306; Fig. 5: Section 1–1) containing stones and resembling Layer 303 in Cave 1. Above it was a layer of gray alluvial soil (L304, L305). A step cut into the northwestern rock wall of the cave (Fig. 7) may have served to place pottery vessels interred with the deceased. A layer of brown alluvial soil (L301) was excavated above the cave. The ceramic finds from the cave (see below, Fig. 10) are dated to the MB IIB.
Pottery from Cave 1
Bowls (Fig. 8:1–7). Bowl 1 has a rounded, inverted rim, resembling bowls found at Shekhem (Cole 1984: Pl. 1:d). Bowl 2 is carinated (for parallels, see Edelstein 1998: Fig. 4.3:8G; Gonen 2001:56, Fig. 35:1). Bowl 3 has a short, everted rim, a short neck and a globular body (for a parallel, see Yadin 2009:121, Fig. 7.1:3). Bowls 4 and 5 are medium-sized and plain, with an infolded rim; similar bowls were found at Manahat (Edelstein 1998: Fig. 4.2:13). Bowl 6 is of medium size and resembles bowls 4 and 5, with a rounded, inverted rim; a similar bowl was found in Shekhem (Cole 1984: Pl. 2:d). Bowl 7 has a thick, somewhat inverted rim (for a parallel, see Cole 1984: Pl. 2:m)
Jars and a pithos. A few pottery sherds were from the Intermediate Bronze Age, including the fragment of a jar (Fig. 9:1) with a thin simple rim and a shortflaring neck with a thin groove where it joins the body; a similar jar was found in a shaft tomb in Wadi Zimra (Seligman 1995: Fig. 4:4). Most of the assemblage was dated to the Middle Bronze Age (Fig. 9:2–11). Jar 2 has a plain, slightly everted rim and a flaring neck. Another type of jar has a thickened rim (Fig. 9:3–6; for parallels, see Greenhut and Adawi 2010:9*, Fig. 5:10, 13, 16). Other jars have either a rectangular-sectioned rim (Fig. 9:7, 8) or a molded rim (Fig. 9:9, 10), with parallels found at Manahat (Edelstein 1998: Fig. 4.6:5, 13, 14, 16, 17). A fragment of a pithos (Fig. 9:11) with a thickened everted rim and a concave neck was also found.
Pottery from Cave 2
The finds include a bowl with thin and nearly straight walls and a simple rim (Fig. 10:1); a similar bowl was found at Yesodot (Ben-Ari and Ilan 2012:29, Fig. 3.2:11). Near the bowl was a fragment of a handmade cooking pot (Fig. 10:2) with straight walls bearing a rope decoration and perforations below the rim; a similar vessel was found at Yesodot (Ben-Ari and Ilan 2012:35, Fig. 3.5:2). Two jar fragments were also discovered; one has a slightly thickened everted rim (Fig. 10:3, and the other has a rectangular-sectioned rim (Fig. 4:10; for a parallel, see Edelstein 1998: Fig. 4.6:13, 14, 16).
Due to the poor state of preservation of the two burial caves, no intact vessels or anthropological remains were found. Most of the pottery in the caves is dated to the MB IIB; however, Intermediate Bronze Age pottery was also discovered, suggesting that the caves were hewn during that period and reused in the MB IIB. It may be posited that the two caves were part of a large cemetery stretching to the south of the excavation area, which served the inhabitants of settlements nearby—Wadi Zimra, dated to both of the abovementioned periods (Meitlis 1992), and Tell el-Ful (Gibson 1996) and Kh. ‘Addasa (Greenhut and Adawi 2010), dated to the MB IIB.
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