In April 2013, a salvage excavation was conducted in a burial cave on the northwestern slope of Tell el-Ful (Permit No. A-6762; map ref. 636837–49/221898–910). The cave had been damaged during the course of development work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by Bassam Abu Assad, was directed by A. Wiegmann (photography), with the assistance of B. Touri (antiquities inspection) and A. Hajian (surveying and drafting).
The northwestern part of the cave was destroyed and its ceiling removed during development work prior to the excavation (Fig. 1). The cave was hewn in soft limestone; diagonal and curved quarrying marks were visible on all of its walls. The cave consisted of a burial chamber (L100; width 3.2 m; Fig. 2) with a standing pit (L107; width 1.06 m, depth 0.85 m) in its center, which was partly destroyed in the development work. A square bone repository (L108; 0.85 × 0.87 m, depth 0.8 m) was hewn in the chamber’s eastern corner. Light brown alluvium that originated on the slope above the cave was discovered in the standing pit and bone repository. It was mixed with several non-diagnostic pottery sherds and small to medium-sized fieldstones, some of which had probably fallen from the cave’s ceiling. A folded rim of a bowl dating to Iron Age II–III was found in the alluvium in the standing pit. Several bones were recovered from near the bottom of the repository. Modern refuse was discovered only in the upper portion of the fill in the two pits; thus, it seems they were filled up with alluvium long ago. The high bedrock surface around the walls of the standing pit was smoothed; the alluvium (max. thickness 0.2 m) above it was mixed with a few non-diagnostic pottery sherds, small stones and modern debris. Six rectangular loculi (L101–106; Figs. 3, 4) with slightly-arched rectangular openings were preserved in the cave. All of the loculi were the same length (2.2 m), but varied in width. Their floors were covered with silt that yielded several non-diagnostic sherds, small stones and modern refuse. Loculus 101 (opening: 0.52 × 0.80 m) was wider and lower at the rear (width 0.72 m, height 0.35 m). A square closing stone (0.48 × 0.50 m, thickness 0.18 m; Fig. 5:1) was found inside the loculus. The cross-section at the rear of Loculus 102 (opening: 0.49 × 0.90 m) was trapezoid (bottom width 0.35, ceiling width 0.25, height 0.8 m; Fig. 6). The height and width of Loculus 103 (opening: 0.46 × 0.76 m) were uniformly hewn for its entire length. The width of Loculus 104 (opening: 0.50 × 0.82 m) was uniformly hewn along its entire length, but the height decreased to 0.72 m at the rear. A single bone, a body fragment of an ossuary and two medium-sized stones that may be fragments of the closing stone (Fig. 5:2, 3) were discovered inside the loculus. The cross-section at the rear of Loculus 105 (opening: 0.50 × 0.76 m) was trapezoid (bottom width 0.6 m, ceiling width 0.48 m, height 0.72 m). The cross-section at the rear of Loculus 106 (opening: 0.48 × 0.84) was also a trapezoid (bottom width 0.55 m, ceiling width 0.43 m, height 0.68 m).
The cave’s plan is characteristic of Jewish burial caves of the Late Second Temple period. The ossuary fragment discovered in Loculus 104 allows us to assume that there were ossuaries in the cave, but they were robbed. Modern debris that was discovered only in the upper part of the alluvial fill inside the standing pit and bone repository indicates that the pits were filled with alluvium a long time ago and had been plundered prior to that.
To date, only scant settlement remains from the Second Temple period have been discovered at Tell el-Ful. The burial cave exposed in this excavation and other burial caves of this period discovered at the site might have belonged to the Jewish settlement from the period between the Great Revolt and the Bar-Kokhba Revolt uncovered in Shu‘fat (Sklar-Parnes 2005
; Sklar-Parnes 2006
; Bar-Natan and Sklar-Parnes 2007
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