In 1989, a salvage excavation was conducted at the site of esh-Sheikh Munis (South) in Ramat Aviv, along the road that leads from Tel Aviv University to the train station (Permit No. A-1638; map ref. 1814–20/6677–86; Fig. 1). The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by Y. Levi, with the assistance of I. Vatkin and P. Gertopsky (surveying and drafting). The excavation files and some of the finds were lost when the IAA offices were flooded and suffered a fire. This report was written based on personal communication and a few finds that were found at the IAA storehouse, with the assistance of N. Popovich (National Treasures Department), Y. Barshak (photo archive) and D. Strauss (advice and translation).
The site lies on a hill, part of the central ridge of the three kurkar
ridges that run the length of the coastal plain. Up to 1948, it was the site of the Arab village of esh-Sheikh Munis. Past excavation in the vicinity uncovered remains dated to the Chalcolithic through the Middle Bronze Age IIA, as well as the Crusader, the Mamluk and the Ottoman periods (Dayan, Ajami and Nagar 2012
, and see references therein; Fig. 1: A-6273).
The excavation, on the eastern slope of the hill, uncovered a burial cave hewn in the kurkar rock; only two of its loculi survived (Fig. 2). Its plan is typical of burial caves from the Roman–Byzantine periods.
The cave yielded intact glass vessels, which were dated by the excavator to the Byzantine period (not drawn; Y. Levi, pers. comm.). Several pieces of jewelry were also found: a finger ring (ext. diam. 19–20 mm, int. diam. 13.5 mm; Fig. 3:1), apparently made of black glass, with an ovoid bezel (diam. 8.5–10.0 mm); and two beads made of black glass, rounded and slightly squat in shape (Fig. 3:2—ext. diam. 13.5 mm, height 11 mm, string hole diam. 4 mm; Fig. 3:3—ext. diam. 18 mm, height 10 mm, string hole diam. 6 mm).
Plain beads of the type found in the cave are a common find in excavations; nevertheless, they are “seldom illustrated in excavation reports” (Winter 1996:113), or “are often published in small-scale photographs” and schematic drawings, thus “preventing detailed examinations” (Winter 2015:92). Similar plain beads were found in the Late Roman-period graves on Nablus Road in Jerusalem (Hamilton and Husseini 1935:172, Pl. LXXXI), in Jabaliyah necropolis in Gaza, dated to the Late Roman and early Byzantine periods (Sadek 1999:48), as well as at Khirbat el-Ni‘ana (Gorin-Rosen and Katsnelson 2007:118–121, Fig. 23:1–7) and in Ashqelon (Gorin-Rosen 2002:107, Fig. 136:22) in contexts dated to the fourth–fifth centuries CE. Several similar beads also came from burials dated to the Late Roman and early Byzantine periods at Moza ‘Illit (Gudovitch 1996:67*, Fig. 3:3, 4), at Khirbat Yajuz in Jordan (Eger and Khalil 2013:166–167, Pl. 3), as well as at Tel Barukh and Khirbat el-Ḥadra (Jackson-Tal 2015a:109–110, Fig. 1.74; 2015b:165–167, Fig. 2.20, with further parallels therein).
A more precise date can be ascribed to the glass finger ring, whose close parallels, from the western provinces of the Late Roman Empire, are of the later part of the third to the fourth centuries CE (Riha 1990:29, 48, 66, Pl. 14:288–289). This is in line with the appearance of two similar finger rings in a burial cave discovered on Jebel Jofeh in Amman, dated to the third and fourth centuries CE (Harding 1950:91, Nos. 361–362, Pl. XXIX:361, 362). Arm bracelets and finger rings manufactured of black glass were produced to imitate similar artefacts made of jet, to which healing and magical qualities were ascribed in Roman world (Giesler 1981:69–70; Riha 1990:29).
The plan of the burial cave and the finds found in it point to a date in the Late Roman and early Byzantine periods. This cave is an addition to the burial caves of these periods already known in the vicinity. Several Roman- and Byzantine-period burial caves were unearthed to its west, around Tel Qasile (Taxel 2009:120–124). To its northwest, Samaritan burial caves from the Byzantine period are known at Khirbat el-‘Ura, and a burial ground with burial caves from the Roman and Byzantine periods was unearthed at Tel Barukh (Taxel 2009:115–120).
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Eger Ch. and Khalil L. 2013. Bead Jewelry of Late-Roman and Byzantine Time in the Province of Arabia: The Beads and Pendants of Glass, Stone, and Organic Materials from the Rock Chamber Necropolis at Khirbat Yajuz. Zeitschrift für Orient-Archäologie 6:156–181.
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Jackson-Tal R.E. 2015a. Beads, Pendants and Inlays. In O. Tal and I. Taxel. Samaritan Cemeteries and Tombs in the Central Coastal Plain: Archaeology and History of the Samaritan Settlement outside Samaria (ca. 300–700 CE) (Ägypten und Altes Testament 82). Münster. Pp. 108–116.
Jackson-Tal R.E. 2015b. Beads. In O. Tal and I. Taxel. Samaritan Cemeteries and Tombs in the Central Coastal Plain: Archaeology and History of the Samaritan Settlement outside Samaria (ca. 300–700 CE) (Ägypten und Altes Testament 82). Münster. Pp. 161–169.
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Taxel I. 2009. Between Yafo and Apollonia – The Tel Aviv Region during the Late Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. In E. Ayalon ed. The Secret History of Tel Aviv: What Happened Here during 20,000 Years? Tel Aviv. Pp. 113–139 (Hebrew).
Winter T. 1996. Jewelry and Miscellaneous Objects. In G. Avni and Z. Greenhut. The Akeldama Tombs: Three Burial Caves in the Kidron Valley, Jerusalem (IAA Reports 1). Jerusalem. Pp. 109–116.
Winter T. 2015. Late Roman Funerary Customs in Light of the Grave Goods from the Cemetery on Ṣallaḥ ed-Din Street, Jerusalem. ῾Atiqot 80:81–123.