Four natural caves, two of which were used as dwellings in the Hellenistic period, were discovered, as well as a limekiln that was a source of building material in the Ottoman period. It seems that these remains were also part of the agricultural hinterland of Khirbat Ras et-Tawil.
Caves 1, 2 (Fig. 3). Two natural caves whose roofs collapsed were excavated (Figs. 4, 5). Cave 1 consisted of a single chamber and Cave 2 had a chamber with a small natural niche. A small amount of non-diagnostic potsherds was collected in both. Presumably the potsherds were swept into the caves after the ceilings collapsed and the caves were hardly ever used.
Cave 3 (L106). A natural elliptical cave that had a single chamber (4×8 m, height 1.8 m, dimensions of opening 1.5×3.6 m; Figs. 6, 7). The floor sloped south toward the opening. Jar fragments dating to the Hellenistic period were found above the floor. There were no signs of rock-cutting or other traces of human activity.
Cave 4 (L119). A natural elliptical cave that had a single chamber (3.5×7.8 m, height 1.6 m, dimensions of the opening 0.9×5.0 m; Figs. 8, 9). Cooking pot and jar fragments dating to the Hellenistic period and a coin of Alexander Jannaeus minted in Jerusalem in 80/79 BCE (IAA 141814) were found above the floor. No other evidence of human activity was discerned.
Limekiln. The kiln, which had previously been surveyed (Survey of Jerusalem, The Northeastern Sector, Site 19), was built on the northern bank of Wadi el-Khafi, opposite a high bedrock terrace that was hewn straight (inner diam. 3.0–3.4 m, outer diam. 6–7 m; Figs. 10–12). Adjoining the high terrace, which was hewn in the northern part of the kiln, was a circumferential wall (W10; width at base 2.8 m) built of two rows of large fieldstones on the outside and a row of smaller stones on the inside. The core of the wall consisted of thick fill of brown terra rossa soil that was meant to insulate the firing chamber. A channel that used to stoke the kiln (length c. 3.9 m, width 0.33–0.50 m, become narrower toward the opening) crossed the southwestern side of the wall. It was built of large fieldstones and covered with stone slabs. A small limestone mortar was found above the floor of the channel (Fig. 13). The kiln’s opening (width 0.33 m, height c. 0.5 m) was well-constructed of three courses of flat stones that supported a large stone lintel (Fig. 14). The floor of the kiln was founded on soft chalk bedrock.
The kiln was designed to produce lime,
for whichprocess limestone and chalk were collected for burning in the installation’s inner chamber. The floor was covered with a deep layer of lime, evidence of its last firing. Egg-shaped chunks of lime (Fig. 15) and hard burnt limestone with iron oxide in it were found in the fill that accumulated above the floor (Fig. 16).
The lime was presumably used as a component in cement, used for sealing and for disinfecting. Similar limekilns were excavated at Khirbat Ras et-Tawil (HA-ESI 120) and Pisgat Ze’ev East (HA-ESI 123). Another limekiln, dating to the Iron Age, was excavated north of Khirbat Ras et-Tawil (HA 78-79:60 [Hebrew]).
Two caves that were used in the Hellenistic period were probably temporary encampment sites for shepherds or farmers who cultivated their land in the agricultural hinterland of Khirbat Ras et-Tawil. The paucity of finds on the floor of the caves and their composition attest to this. The limekiln served as a source of building material in the Ottoman period. The kiln and the limekilns that were discovered in the vicinity probably constituted a secondary source of income for the farmers in the summer season, after collecting fruit and harvesting the produce.