The excavation (Figs. 2, 3) took place on a steep rocky hillside on the northeastern slopes of Mount Azal, between the Jebel Mukkabbir neighborhood and the Armon Ha-Naziv promenade, c. 2.5 km south of the Old City. The land features many rocky outcrops overlain with a thin alluvial soil layer. The rocky terrain, which includes chalk, clayey soil and fossils, is of the Menuha Formation’s Mount Scopus Group. The excavation (Fig. 4) revealed building-stone quarries (L101, L102, L106–L108), simple rock-cut installations (L100, L103), a cave (L104), a plastered natural pit (L105) and a hewn cupmark (L109; diam. 0.3 m, depth 0.2 m; Fig. 5).
A previous survey documented numerous burial caves in the region (Kloner 2000:59*–100*). Excavations conducted during 2005–2007 in the vicinity uncovered installations, agricultural terraces and quarries. Some were dated to the Iron Age, Hellenistic, Early Roman and Byzantine periods (Landes-Nagar 2007; Zilberbod 2012; ‘Adawi 2016, and see background and further references therein).
Quarries 101, 102 and 106–108. Signs of stone extraction, severance channels and quarrying channels were identified in the quarries. In some quarries it is evident that the channels were insufficiently widened to allow stone extraction; suggesting that work there stopped soon after it began. Quarry 101 was in the form of a small, enclosed courtyard (3.1 × 5.1 m; Fig. 7). The quarry’s rock floor level had clearly collapsed, probably into an underground cavity. Quarry 102 was square in plan (7 × 7 m; Fig. 8), and Installation 103 was hewn in its center (below). Several stones had been extracted from Quarries 106 (0.6 × 0.7–0.8 m, depth c. 0.4 m; Fig. 9) and 107 (1.14 × 1.26 m, depth c. 0.4 m). The quarrymen evidently took advantage of the rock’s natural slope to detach the stones. Signs of quarrying were detected in Quarry 108 as well (2.0 × 5.1 m); it was covered with an alluvium accumulation (thickness 0.5–0.8 m).
Installations 100 and 103. Installation 100 was a shallow pit cut into the rock (c. 0.6 × 1.1 m, depth c. 0.35 m; Fig. 10), whose western side was curved. Installation 103 (1.0 × 1.3 m; Fig. 11) was originally hewn in a similar manner to Installation 100. It was located in the center of Quarry 102, and its floor had apparently collapsed into Cave 104. Similar installations were found in previous area excavations (‘Adawi 2016). Known in Samaria, they are found hewn near winepresses and were probably used for planting, in a phenomenon referred to as ‘hewn vineyards’ (Zertal 1999).
Cave 104 (width c. 2.9 m) lay beneath Quarry 102 and Installation 103. It was not excavated due to safety concerns, so it remains unclear whether it is natural or man-made. The east-facing cave entrance (length 2.9 m, height 1 m; Fig. 12) probably resulted from the cave roof’s partial collapse. A large rock boulder in the middle of the entrance divides it into two. Examining the inside of the cave reveals that various parts of its roof had collapsed or were artificially breached, and over time the cave became filled with alluvial soil. This cave may well be part of a broader burial-cave complex in this area. An opening between the cave and Pit 105 suggests that they may have been associated.
Pit 105 (0.7 × 1.2 m, depth c. 0.5 m; Fig. 13). This was a natural pit in the bedrock. It was coated with a thin layer of hard plaster (thickness 1 cm) whose exterior was white and interior was black. The pit’s function is unknown.
Pottery. The excavation yielded a late Iron Age bowl (Fig. 14:1) and holemouth jar (Fig. 14:2); a late Hellenistic–Early Roman bowl (Fig. 14:3) and jar (14:4); and a vessel base with mat marks (Fig. 14:5), which may date as late as the Mamluk or Ottoman periods.
It is difficult to date the excavated remains as there were no finds from sealed contexts. The remains may be related to a farming community that existed here over several periods. However, parallels with the late Iron Age and late Hellenistic–Early Roman pottery have been found in previous excavations in the vicinity, such as the Armon Ha-Naziv promenade and Ramat Rahel (Nagar 2007; Zilberbod 2012; ‘Adawi 2016); attesting to intensive human activity in this area during these periods.