During March 2007, a trial excavation was conducted in Ramat Yishay (Permit No. A-5067; map ref. 215985–6019/734463–503), prior to the construction of residential buildings. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the contractor, S. Barazni, was directed by L. Porat, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), A. Hajian (surveying) and H. Smithline (field photography).
The excavation was carried out along the northwestern slope of the hill where the oldest part of Ramat Yishay is situated. Archaeological remains dating from the Roman to the Ottoman periods were documented in a survey of this region, conducted by A. Raban (Map of Nahalal , Site 48). Previous excavations in different parts of the site had confirmed these conclusions.
Two squares were opened c. 6.5 m apart. Fourteen pit graves (length 1.5–3.0 m, width c. 0.5 m; Figs. 1, 2) were discovered. Some of the tombs, hewn in the soft chalk bedrock and oriented east–west, were covered with a row of limestone fieldstones, partially roughly hewn (Figs. 2, 3). Although all the graves were aligned in a uniform direction, they were dug in disarray; some were adjacent to each other and others were situated partly on top of each other. The exposed human bones were not buried, but rather scattered between the covering stones of the tombs and their surroundings. A few potsherds from the Byzantine and Abbasid periods were found in the alluvium soil (thickness 0.5–0.9 m) that covered the tombs.
The findings from the excavation indicate that the northwestern slope of Ramat Yishay served as the settlement’s cemetery, which extended across the hill to the north and east. The direction of the graves probably indicates Muslim burials, in which the head of the deceased is customarily placed in the west so that the face could be turned southward, toward Mecca. It seems that the state of the cemetery—with bones outside of tombs, which are partly built one atop the other—attests to the very long period of use. Based on the ceramic finds, the cemetery should be attributed to the Abbasid period (eighth–tenth centuries CE).