In February 2012, a salvage excavation was conducted at 3 Ma‘aleh Ha-Erez Street in Moza ‘Illit (Permit No. A-6417; map ref. 215302–7/633382–6), prior to the installation of a sewer pipe. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Mate Yehuda Regional Council, was directed by L. Oz, with the assistance of N. Nahama (administration), A. Wiegmann (cave documentation), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), D. Levy (GPS surveying) and A. Peretz (photography).
The excavation area was located on an eastward-descending steep slope. A rock-hewn collecting vat belonging to a winepress was exposed on a bedrock terrace, and three rock-cut caves were documented (1–3; Fig. 1).
Collecting Vat (Figs. 2, 3). A rectangular vat (c. 1.70 × 1.98 m, depth 1.73 m) was exposed. Diagonal chisel marks were visible on its walls, and its floor was leveled. A round settling pit (diam. 0.5 m, depth 0.3 m) was hewn in its northern corner. A rock-cut channel (width 0.46 m, depth 0.2 m; Fig. 4) led to the top of the northeastern wall, probably from an adjacent treading floor. Five small rectangular niches arranged in a row were hewn carelessly in this wall, c. 0.1 m above the bottom of the vat; another niche was discerned in the vat’s southeastern wall (Fig. 5). The bedrock at the top of the southern and western walls of the vat was leveled, with a slight difference of c. 4 cm. Mud mixed with several non-diagnostic pottery sherds and modern debris was found inside the vat.
Rock-hewn Caves. Caves 1 and 2 are located beneath a dwelling and are currently used for storage (Figs. 6–8); Cave 3 is in the rear courtyard of a nearby residence and is empty (see Fig. 2). Cave 1 is rectangular (c. 4.2 × 4.5 m, height c. 2.1 m); arcosolia (0.5 × 2.4 m, height 1.9 m) were hewn in its northern, western and eastern walls. The western arcosolium was preserved in its entirety, while the other two were damaged when the cave was enlarged to the north. The opening was in the southern part of the cave. A stone wall was constructed at a later phase (Fig. 8). This is evidently a burial cave from the Roman and Byzantine periods. In a subsequent period changes were made to it and the cave was adapted for use as storage.
Cave 2 (c. 3.5 × 6.0 m, height c. 2.0 m), which currently holds water, was hewn in an irregular shape. Its ceiling was flat. An elliptical entrance shaft (1.0 × 1.2 m, height 1.1 m; Fig. 9) was cut in the northwestern corner of its ceiling; the shaft’s opening was sealed with concrete. Steps were built in the southern part of the cave in the modern era. Cave 3 is half elliptical in plan and has a wide opening (3.4 m; Figs. 10, 11). A round niche was hewn at the northwestern end of the cave.
Agricultural activity related to wine production was conducted in the vicinity of the site, as indicated by the collecting vat. Cave 1 was used for burial in the Roman and Byzantine periods, but was later adapted for storage. Cave 3 might have been associated with the nearby winepress and used for storage or industry.