Three excavation areas were opened (A–C). Area A yielded a rock-hewn system of steps, as well as a cave, traces of an agricultural installation, building remains, a cistern and a columbarium cave; in Area B, the entrance to a cave was excavated; and in Area C, a cave complex, part of which served as a columbarium, was excavated.
Area A (Fig. 2). Three segments of a rock-hewn system of steps (L112) was found in the southern part of the area. Only the two lower segments were excavated: the middle segment, comprising four steps (width 3 m, tread 1 m), was roughly hewn; the bottom segment comprised six steps (width 1.0–3.0 m, tread 0.2 m, riser 0.2 m; Fig. 3). To the north of the middle segment, adjacent to it, is a cave (L108; Fig. 4) with at least five rock-hewn steps (width 1.3–1.5 m, tread 0.35–0.50 m, riser 0.15–0.20 m) descending into it. A nearby columbarium cave (L124) was documented but not excavated. The remains of a building found to the northwest of the caves were only partially excavated, and hence the building’s plan is incomplete. The building includes an outer eastern wall (W104; length 6.8 m, width 0.8 m, height 0.35 m; Fig. 5) and two walls that form a corner of an inner room (W106—length 1.7 m, width 0.6 m, height 0.3 m; W107—length 3.7 m, width 0.6 m, height 0.3 m). A conical stone vessel (L105; 0.6 × 0.7 m, 0.4 m high) found to the north of W106 was probably used to store liquids. As no floor was preserved, this vessel may indicate the level of the floor; however, it might have been placed in secondary use in W107, in which case it cannot point to the floor level. As the pottery finds are mixed—dating from the Late Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic, Mamluk and Ottoman periods—it is impossible to attribute any pottery to the installations and architectural remains. To the north of these remains, two additional walls were identified and cleaned (W115, W116), and the area around them was excavated (L118, L121, L123). This part of the excavation was not completed, and no diagnostic finds were recovered.
Area B (Figs. 6, 7). A cave (L201) with an stone-built arched entrance (L204; length 1.1 m, width 0.3 m) was located to the east of Area A. The open area in front of the cave entrance was excavated, yielding pottery from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods.
Area C (Fig. 8), to the north of Area A, comprises a cave complex; only the eastern cave—the southern part of which served as a columbarium (L300; Fig. 9)—was excavated. A wall (W303; length 2.9 m, width 0.3 m, height 0.4 m) leads to the southern doorpost of the cave’s entrance, which was hewn as an arch. A staircase, which was only partially excavated, led into the cave. The cave is rectangular in shape (4.3 × 8.8 m) and has two chambers: a north chamber (3.30 × 3.53 m, height 1.9 m), which has several steps and a raised area; and a south chamber (3.9 × 4.3 m, height 1.56 m), where more than 40 niches for rearing pigeon were hewn in the rock walls. Due to the limited excavation area, it is difficult to date the columbarium’s use. At some stage, the south wall of the cave was breached, linking it with a cave to its south. This change, which rendered the columbarium obsolete, cannot be dated either. Three niches of unknown use were hewn in the north wall of the cave. The pottery from the surface level dates from the Ottoman period.
The excavation at Maʻalot Burgin is part of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s educational program aimed at inspiring an interest in archaeology among youngsters. Although the rate of progress when working with young people who arrive for a brief time is slow, the program has tremendous value.The excavation yielded several installations and archaeological finds, but excavations must continue across the entire area in order to fully understand the archaeology of Horbat Burgin.