In May 2020, a salvage excavation was conducted in a private lot in Jerusalem’s Shuʽfat neighborhood (Permit No. A-8757; map ref. 222430–50/635200–25; Fig. 1) following damage to antiquities. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by O. Chalaf, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), S. Halevi (field photography and photogrammetry), O. Rose (plans) and B. Touri, IAA East Jerusalem district archaeologist.
The excavation took place in the southern part of the Shuʽfat neighborhood, near the French Hill neighborhood. Several excavations were conducted in the region in recent years, the largest of which uncovered the remains of an Early Roman settlement (Bar-Natan and Sklar-Parnes 2007:57).
The current excavation uncovered a rock-hewn burial cave, which had been damaged by mechanical machinery during the initial development work on the plot. A military outpost was evidently stationed in the cave during the years when Shuʽfat was under Jordanian rule; the cave was filled with colluvium and modern debris, including Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) missiles.
The cave had a square opening (width 0.5 m, height 0.6 m) and two square burial chambers (L100, L101; Fig. 2). The cave entrance led eastward, directly into L101 (2.5 × 2.9 m, height 0.9 m; Fig. 3), which had a standing pit (0.9 × 1.2 m, depth 0.7 m) hewn in its center. A bone repository (L103; 0.6 × 1.0 m, depth 0.8 m) was hewn in the chamber’s northeastern corner; it was found filled with quarrying debris. A hewn passage (L102; length 2.2 m, width 0.5 m, depth 0.7 m; Fig. 4) cut into the standing pit’s eastern wall, indicating that it was hewn after the quarrying of the burial cave was completed. The passage, which was not completed, may have been part of a plan to enlarge the cave. An arched entrance (width 0.5 m, height 0.6 m; Fig. 5) led from Chamber 101 to Chamber 100 (2.3 × 2.4 m, height 1 m; Fig. 6), in the center of which a standing pit (0.7 × 1.4 m, depth 0.8 m) was also hewn.
As the burial cave was filled with modern colluvial soil, it could not be dated based on pottery recovered from this soil. The plan of the cave fits the intermediate stage between Iron Age burial caves and Early Roman burial caves (Kloner and Zissu 2003:41–42), and thus may have been hewn in the Hasmonean period (Kloner and Zelinger 2007).
Bar-Natan R. and Sklar-Parnes D.A. 2007. A Jewish Settlement in Orine between the Two Revolts. In J. Patrich and D. Amit eds. New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region: Collected Papers I. Jerusalem. Pp. 57–64 (Hebrew).
Kloner A. and Zelinger Y. 2007. Evolution of Tombs from the Iron Age Through the Second Temple Period. In S.W. Crawford ed. “Up to the Gates of Ekron”: Essays on the Archaeology and History of the Eastern Mediterranean in Honor of Seymour Gitin. Jerusalem. Pp. 209–220.
Kloner A. and Zissu B. 2003. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. Jerusalem (Hebrew).