In February 2019, a salvage excavation was conducted on the western fringes of Khirbat Zubalah, near Kibbutz Shoval (Permit No. A-8484; map ref. 175752–80/591006–24; Fig. 1), prior to widening the road. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Netivei Israel Company, was directed by A. Levi-Hevroni, with the assistance of Y. Alamor (administration), E. Aladjem (surveying and drafting), D. Eisenberg-Degen (field photography), V. Eshed and G. Sameora-Cohen (physical anthropology), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass) and C. Amit (beads photography).
Development surveys conducted previously on the fringes of Khirbat Zubalah documented building remains and a scattering of pottery from the Roman and Byzantine periods (License Nos. S-580/2015, S-798/2017; M. Oron and H. Mamalya, pers. comm.). Trial trenches dug with mechanical equipment on both sides of Route 264 encountered over 50 cist graves, most of them to the north of the road and a few to its south. The graves were regularly spaced in rows and dug in the ground in an east–west alignment. While digging the trenches, jar remains were found placed above the western end of several of the graves.
Two of the graves were excavated (100, 102). Graves 100 and 102 were dug in the ground and lined with roughly dressed chalk stones; they were covered with capping slabs that were partially preserved. The graves contained a fill of soil that could not be sifted.
Grave 100 (outer dimensions 0.98 × 1.95 m, depth 0.6 m; Fig. 2) had been damaged in the past, probably when the road was made, and the capping slabs on its west side were missing. A groove for the cover slabs was cut around the upper part of some of the grave’s lining stones. The grave contained remains of an adult individual placed in a supine position with the head in the west (Fig. 3); its sex could not be determined. Body fragments of several unidentified pottery vessels were found in the soil fill above the burial surface; it is unclear whether they are the remains of grave goods or were intended to mark the location of the grave, or whether they had some other purpose.
Grave 102 (outer dimensions 0.5 × 1.2 m, depth 0.6 m; Fig. 4) was covered with two very large, partly dressed stones. The grave contained sparse remains of a young individual of unknown sex. Two barrel-shaped beads made of vitreous material were found in the pelvic area (Fig. 5:1, 2). The first bead is made of a yellowish clay-like material with patches of greenish blue glaze, and the second bead is made of an unevenly glazed material of a light blue tint that has three attached round discs of a darker hue, resembling 'eye beads'. The beads are simple and do not reflect luxury or imported products.
The excavated graves belong to a large cemetery on the western fringes of Khirbat Zubalah, on both sides of Road 264. Based on the construction of the graves and the few finds discovered in them and on the surface, they can be assumed to date from the Late Roman period. The placement of a jar on top of or next to a burial as a grave marker or gravestone is a familiar phenomenon from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine periods (Israel 2009).
Israel Y. 2009. Be’er Sheva‘, Shazar Boulevard. HA-ESI 121.