Cave A, located in the northwestern part of the excavation, features a large open entrance and a hewn cavity. The fill of the chamber (L100) contained earth mixed with stones and modern garbage, and was devoid of archeological artifacts, with the exception of a single yellow-glazed Mamluk-period ceramic sherd. Once the cave was cleared, and its leveled bedrock floor exposed, a rectangular plan became apparent (Fig. 3). At the northeast corner of the chamber two cupmarks (diam. 0.2 m) were hewn into the bedrock floor (Fig. 4). It cannot be determined whether the cupmarks were part of the original cave plan or a later alteration.
Cave B. Immediately to the south of Cave A, angular carvings in the bedrock turned out to be a rectangular trough-shaped pit (L101; 0.7 × 2.8 m, depth 1 m). The pit was roughly hewn on three sides and closed on the north by a row of unworked hard limestone slabs, standing upright (Fig. 5). The slabs sealed the pit and separated it from the attached side burial niche (0.75 × 1.50 m, height 0.6 m). Once the earth that had washed into the niche was cleared (L102; Fig. 6), a fairly rich assemblage of artifacts was found: remains of a partially restorable base and lower body of jug on the western side of the niche and a cache of bronze artifacts, including two mirrors, on of them complete (Fig.7), a kohl stick and an unidentified object that lay on the bedrock floor in the eastern side.
The jug (Fig. 8:1) was made of a pinkish fabric with small white inclusions, and is similar to Hellenistic-period vessels from the excavation at Giv‘ati Parking Lot (end of the second century BCE; D. Ben-Ami, pers. comm.). The upper part of the jug bore striation marks on the edges, presumably caused by rodent gnawing.
The complete mirror (Fig 8:2) is simply decorated with multiple concentric groove circles. The broken mirror (Fig. 8:3) comprises the disc-shaped body with shallow concentric depressed rings and a central elaborate decoration: a centrally placed rosette with six almond-shaped petals surounded by a band of dots. This decoration can be dated stylistically to the Hellenistic period (G. Stiebel, pers. comm.).
The Kohl stick (Fig. 8:4) is well preserved: it is nearly complete, with only a small break on the spoon. It is long and thin, with a circular section, and has a small, flat, oval spoon. A segment of the rod just below the spoon was twisted, creating a simple decorative effect. Kohl sticks are common from the Hellenistic to the Islamic periods and are often found in burial contexts.
The small, unidentified object (Fig. 8:5) has a semi-perforated hourglass-shaped head and a short shaft with round section. It may be a rivet, perhaps used to attach a handle to one of the mirrors.
Cave C is located to the east of Caves A and B. It is similar stylistically to Cave B, with a rectangular hewn trough-shaped pit slightly larger than the one in Cave B (L103; 1.2 × 2.5 m, depth 1.3 m). The pit was completely filled with earth and large stones, and to its west and north stone slabs standing upright formed a partition wall (Fig. 9) that blocked the side burial niche (L104; Fig. 10). The niche was filled with earth that had washed in and contained no artifacts, but a cluster of worn and fragmented human skeletal remains lay directly on the bedrock floor in the center of the niche. Due to their poor preservation it was not possible to identify age, gender, or even the number of individuals represented, and they can only serve as definite evidence for the usage of the cave for burial.
Of the three excavated caves, Caves B and C were found sealed and were undoubtedly burial caves. Cave A, which had been looted and thus devoid of finds, was probably sealed by a row of stone slabs, similar to those of Caves B and C, and similarly functioned as a burial cave. The caves, with a shaft-type chamber, probably served for the internment of a single individual, in clear distinction from other caves in the immediate region that were documented in surveys and during trenching, and which consist of multiple burial niches.
Although shaft-type tombs are fairly uncommon in Jerusalem, a similar burial cave was found at Mamila (Cave 64; Reich 1993
). The cave at Mamila, which shows a considerably higher degree of craftsmanship, was dated to the Hellenistic period. Farther south, in East Talpiyot, two similar shaft tombs were excavated (Kloner and Zissu 2003
: Site 12–6) and dated to the Second Temple period, although they may have been in use until the Bar Kochba Revolt. According to Reich, this style of shaft tomb may be a pre-kokh-
These tombs are similar to, but should not be confused with, tombs uncovered at Karem el-Sheikh (Baramki 1932
) and Beit S
afafa (Kloner and Zissu 2003
: Site13-[40-89]), which can be dated to the Late Roman period. Since the initial soundings at Beit S
afafa, additional tombs of the this type were uncovered there (Nagar 2015
; Permit Nos. A-6704, A-7187), further confirming the dating of these tombs to the Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE). The tombs at Sheikh Jarrah
, however, can be dated by the jug from Cave B and by certain stylistic similarities to Mamlila Cave 64 to the end of the second and the first centuries BCE, well within the Hellenistic period.