During February 2003 a salvage excavation was conducted at ‘Ein el-Lauza in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem (Permit No. A-3824; map ref. NIG 22246/63028; OIG 17246/13028), after two natural caves were damaged during the paving of a street. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Moriya Company, was directed by Z. Adawi, with the assistance of B. Touri, T. De‘adle, Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), V. Pirsky (surveying and drafting) and D. Weiss (GPS).
The two caves, located at the bottom of one of the spurs descending to Nahal Qidron, c. 1 km south of the Dung Gate, are 50 m apart (Fig. 1).
Cave A has two chambers (Fig. 2), a round one (diam. 8 m) and a rectangular one to its southeast. A substantial part of the ceiling collapsed. An excavation square was opened in the rectangular chamber. A dark gray layer that yielded a very large quantity of potsherds from Iron Age II was discovered beneath a layer of alluvium that contained modern material. Poorly preserved bones that were left in the cave represented at least five individuals, including a newly-born infant, a child, 2–4 years of age, two young people, 15–19 years of age and an adult, 30–40 years of age.
Cave B (5.5 × 15.0 m; 1 m high above the fill; Fig. 3) had three chambers, a square one in the south (5.5 × 7.0 m), an oval one in the center (4.0 × 5.2 m) and a round one in the north (diam. c. 3 m). The original rectangular entry (width 0.75 m), set in the cave’s eastern wall, was outlined by a frame (width 0.75 m; 0.5 m high above the base of the fill). The enclosing bedrock on the northeastern side of the cave was missing. A sounding was excavated widthwise across the southeastern part of the cave that had been damaged during the development work. The finds included fragments of pottery vessels from Iron Age II and scattered human bones in a poor state of preservation.
Cave C, next to Cave A, was not excavated (Fig. 4). It consisted of a rectangular chamber (c. 2.3 × 3.0 m; 0.85 m high above the fill) whose entry (0.47 × 0.53 m; 0.48 m high above the fill) was in the eastern side. A rolling stone was lying in situ, perpendicular to the entry. An opening in the southern wall (width 0.55 m, depth 1.45 m) was probably a passage to another chamber or niche. Pottery vessels from the Early Roman period were found; skulls and bones of at least thirteen individuals were identified.