During August 2004, a salvage excavation was conducted in a burial cave in Baqa el-Gharbiya (Permit No. A-4244; map ref. NIG 20396/70403; OIG 15396/20403), which was severely damaged when the area was prepared for construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by J. Sharvit, with the assistance of M. Masarwa and M.A. Tabar (antiquities inspectors), N. Distenfeld (inspector with the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery), L. Yihye (GPS), C. Amit (studio photography), R. Vinitsky (metallurgical laboratory), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), O. Shorr (glass restoration), and C. Hersch and S. Ben-Yehuda (drawing).
The burial cave was hewn in the northern slope of a spur, which extends in an east–west direction and overlooks a valley, through which a northern tributary of Nahal Hadera passes. The remains of eight individuals and their funerary offerings were discovered in the cave. The excavation in the cave lasted only six hours and once the bones of the deceased were exposed they were handed over to a representative of the Ministry of Religious Affairs; consequently, no anthropological analysis was performed. The finds in the cave are dated to the end of the Byzantine and the beginning of the Umayyad periods. Winepresses, bodedot and other burial caves were discerned in the vicinity of the cave and a similar burial cave was excavated in 1956, in nearby Qibbuz Ma‘anit (Map of Ma‘anit , Site 24).
The cave was hewn in thin, hard nari that superposes soft chalk of the Senonian Formation. All that was preserved of the cave is an arched cavity (c. 1.5 × 5.0, max. height c. 1.5 m; Figs. 1, 2) that was filled with modern debris and masses of stone that collapsed into it. Following the removal of modern debris (L100), a layer of clean soil (L101), which had a different color, was exposed. Upon it were large pieces of chalk bedrock that had collapsed from the ceiling. Standing stones, which formed partitions (W1, W2) that divided the space of the cave into two parts, were discovered in the eastern side of the cave.
The remains of six deceased (H1–H5, H8) were exposed on the floor in the western part of the cave (L102), with funerary offerings alongside them. Individual H1 was placed with his head to the west and his face turning to the south; he was survived by the skull and long bones. The offerings next to this individual included a bronze ring (B1013), a glass bead threaded on a copper wire (B1014), an intact glass flask (B1009; Fig. 3) and two finger copper cymbals (B1018). The skull and long bones of Individual H2 were preserved but their location was disturbed. The offerings next to this deceased included a pair of copper earrings (B1011), a copper pendant in the shape of a cross (B1012; Fig. 4), a bronze bracelet (B1010) and a copper bracelet (B1015). The bone fragments of Individuals H3 and H4 were consolidated together, without any offerings. Bone fragments and parts of the skull of Individual H5 were preserved and concentrated in the western part of the cave, between the side of the cave and another stone partition (W3). Next to the deceased were fragments of cosmetic artifacts and a round lid with a perforation in its center for a kohl stick; both were made of faience (B1002, B1003; Fig. 5). At the beginning of the excavation, the removal of soil debris and pieces of rock from this part of the cave exposed an intact glass vessel (B998) and a fragment of a green-glazed faience cosmetic jar (Basket 999) on the floor. A preliminary examination has suggested that all the pieces of faience belong to the same cosmetic jar. It can also be assumed that this jar, as well as the glass vessel, belongs to Individual H5. Bone fragments and parts of the skull were preserved from Individual H8, to whom two finger cymbals (B1018, B1019) were ascribed.
The remains of two individuals (H6, H7) were exposed in the eastern part of the cave (L103), which was delimited by Walls 1 and 2. Individual H6 was placed in an articulated position, with his head in the south, his face turning to the east and his legs folded at the northern side. Four matching copper finger cymbals (B1008, B1022; Fig. 6) and a copper bracelet (B1007) were ascribed to the deceased. Individual H7 was discovered next to W1 and his skull and long bones were preserved.
After the dismantling of W1, a complete glass flask (B1023; Fig. 7), a complete glass amphoriskos (B1024; Fig. 8), the upper part of a pale green-blue bottle (B1025) and a copper ring (B1026), were discovered beneath it.
It seems that the cave was entered from the north, by way of a square, leveled courtyard, from which one descended a short staircase to an elliptical cavity (diam. c. 6 m). Remains of the courtyard were preserved on the eastern side of the site. The poorly preserved remains of eight individuals were uncovered in the limited excavated area. Two individuals in primary burial, an adult and a child, were exposed in the eastern part of the cave. Six individuals were exposed in the western part of the cave; however, judging by the skeletons’ state of preservation it is unclear whether they were interred in primary or secondary burial. Finger cymbals were discovered next to four of the deceased. The jewelry discovered in the cave was simple and decorated with plain geometric designs; some of it could have been worn by either men or women. The offerings seem to indicate that both men and women were interred in the cave, which could have belonged to a Christian family that was somehow engaged in dance or music, possibly in a religious context. The glass vessels recovered from the tomb are unique to the site and were probably blown by an artisan who was employed at a local workshop. No comparisons to these vessels have been published to date, but their form and quality of the material indicate that they can be dated to the end of the Byzantine and the beginning of the Umayyad periods (sixth–seventh centuries CE).