A Rock-Hewn Burial Complex (1; Figs. 2, 3). Four steps on the southern side led to the complex (L603; width 1.5 m), which included two courtyards (L601, L605). At the bottom of each was a hewn opening that led to an underground burial chamber, which was not excavated. The entrance to the underground chamber in the southern courtyard was a square opening, whose southern part was covered with a stone (0.8 × 0.8 m), engraved with a herringbone pattern, which was discovered in situ. The northern part of the entrance had no covering stones and was opened, which may indicate that the chamber had been plundered in the past. The eastern side of the southern courtyard was damaged as a result of later quarries and bedrock erosion. A square dressed stone, engraved with lines within a frame, was discovered, ex situ, near the bottom step in the southern courtyard (Fig. 4). The stone may have been used as a bodeda or as part of the ornamentation in the courtyard of the burial complex. A dressed frame delineated the square entrance (L607) to the underground chamber in the northern courtyard. One side of the chamber was visible through the opening; three hewn convex burial kokhim and a hewn cornice above them, decorated with arches in relief (Fig. 5), were discerned. The closure stones that sealed the kokhim were lying on the ground in front of them. Fragments of a limestone ossuary rested on one of the closure stones; one of them was decorated with a rosette design and another with incised parallel lines. The burial chamber had apparently been plundered in the past. It was not possible to see the other bedrock sides of the chamber from the opening; yet, based on a comparison with similar burial complexes, it seems that kokhim were hewn in all four sides. Bones were scattered throughout the entire chamber. The beginning of another rock-cutting was visible at the bottom of the northern courtyard, close to the northern side; it may have been an opening to a different underground burial complex, or possibly another rock-cutting that was not completed. It seems that this magnificent burial complex belonged to a wealthy population in the Second Temple period (first century BCE–first century CE). Similar burial complexes in the vicinity were discovered in Ben Shemen, Modi‘in, al-Khirbah and within the precincts of the Nesher factory in Ramla. Several rock-cuttings in the area of the complex could be the remains of a stone quarry that operated in the area once the complex was no longer in use.
A Rock-Hewn Surface and Building Remains (2; Fig. 6). A rectangular, rock-hewn surface (L301) was exposed. Two small round depressions, into which rods that supported a shed may have been inserted, were cut in the surface. Remains of a plaster floor or mosaic bedding that covered the bedrock surface were visible on its southern part. A cluster of different size tesserae, possibly the remains of a floor that covered Surface 301, was discovered a few meters to its south. South and west of the surface’s southern corner was another rock-cut surface, in which a rectangular cavity (L303) that may be a collecting vat was hewn. The remains of a crushed chalk floor whose bedding consisted of wadi pebbles and small fieldstones (L309) were located west of Vat 303.A square pit (L300; depth 0.4 m) that was hewn in a raised bedrock surface, which had grooves formed by erosion, was exposed east of Surface 301.
Leaning up against the southeastern side of the rock-hewn surfaces was a room delineated by three walls (W315–W317), which were founded on a straight bedrock surface and on large stones, interspaced with small stones. Wall 316 was preserved three courses high; its two bottom courses were built of small fieldstones in two rows, whereas the upper course consisted of medium-sized fieldstones with a core of smaller fieldstones. Wall 315, preserved a single course high, was built in two rows of medium and large fieldstones in the exterior face and small fieldstones composed the interior. Wall 317 was built of three large rocks with various size stones between them. A foundation of crushed chalk, mixed with small stones, was exposed inside the room (L314; thickness c. 6 cm). It was founded directly on bedrock and abutted the three walls. A circular concentration of ash (L313) that may have been the remains of a hearth was discovered in the western part of the room.A modern pit (L312) in the northeastern part of the room damaged the ancient remains.
It is possible that the bedrock surfaces and the rock-cuttings were part of an industrial installation, which may have been associated with liquids. Pit 300 could have been used to secure a beam that supported a roof or a system of beams that was connected to the installation. The room and the surfaces adjacent to it probably belonged to a building, which was used as a dwelling or for some other purpose; bedrock served as a floor in its northern part and the walls were not preserved.
A Rectangular Rock-Cutting (3; Fig. 7), oriented east–west, was exposed; its eastern side, which was deeper than the western part, terminated in a semicircle in the west. The bedrock sides on either side of the rock-cutting rose up and slanted inward. A shallow cupmark (diam. 0.2 m, depth c. 5 cm) was hewn at the bottom of the deep rock-cutting’s southwestern side and hewn channels (width c. 5 cm) were discerned along the bedrock sides. It is possible that this rock-cutting was used for either hewing stone slabs to seal the nearby tombs, or as some kind of installation involved in extracting liquids.
Cistern (4; Fig. 8). A rock-hewn cistern (L100), whose interior had collapsed, was discovered in the southern part of the area. It was not excavated due to the danger of caving-in. It appears to have been a bell-shaped cistern (width c. 4.5 m, depth 2.5–3.0 m), which had a circular opening (diam. 0.7 m) and a vertical shaft (length c. 1 m). Yellowish brown plaster was preserved on the sides of the cistern, near the opening.
Cistern (5; Fig. 9). A rock-hewn rectangular cistern (L200; c. 3.0 × 4.5 m), accessed by a round shaft (diam. c. 1 m, excavated depth 1.5 m), was discovered in the center of the area. The cistern’s upper part was wider than the bottom due to bedrock collapse. The excavation in the cistern did not reach its bottom, although most of it was exposed and alluvium from the outside had accumulated on the bottom of the cistern. Much of the cistern’s side was coated with reddish brown plaster, which had a gray cross-section and was mixed with white and red inclusions; this plaster is characteristic of the Byzantine period. The cistern contained several potsherds that dated from the Byzantine (?) to the Late Ottoman periods and two metal artifacts, probably bronze and modern.
A narrow rock-hewn channel (L201; 0.2 × 0. 8 m) that was covered with a few fieldstones led to the cistern’s opening. The channel ascended to the opening and could not have been used to convey runoff into the cistern.
Quarry (6; Fig. 10). A quarry (L400) was exposed on a bedrock surface in the center of the area. Signs of three large quarried stone blocks were discerned (dimensions of two 0.8 × 1.0 m). Another stone block may also have been quarried, but this is unclear, owing to bedrock erosion. The similar dimensions of the extracted rock blocks indicate that this was apparently a quarry for building stones.
Field Wall (7; Fig. 11). A wall (W500), built of medium and large fieldstones and preserved a single course high, was exposed; its orientation was perpendicular to the direction of the slope. A layer of wadi pebbles (L502) abutted the northern side of the wall and not its southern side. The wall was probably built in an agricultural area and was meant to prevent soil and stones from rolling down the slope. A few potsherds from different periods were discovered.
The ceramic finds were mixed and dated from the Roman until the Ottoman periods. The potsherds included a rim and a handle of a bag-shaped jar from the Late Roman period (Fig. 12: 1, 2); a bowl, a bag-shaped jar and a base of an imported amphora from the Byzantine period (Fig. 12:3–5); a glazed bowl from the Abbasid period (Fig. 12:6); a glazed bowl and a fragment of a combed jug from the end of the thirteenth century CE (Fig. 12:7, 8), as well as a jug, a hand-decorated body fragment and a pipe that were dated from the end of the Mamluk until the Ottoman periods (Fig. 12:9–11). The Roman-period pottery is significant, as no similar finds were discovered in the previous excavation on the hill (‘Atiqot 51)and consistent with the exposure of the burial complex from this period.
Numerous flints, including tools, flakes, cores, lumps and chips were discovered at the site, mixed with later material. Most likely, a prehistoric site had apparently existed at the top of the hill and was swept downhill. An examination of the flint items shows that the flakes constituted the dominant component in the assemblage. The flint tools included awls (Fig. 13:1–3), notched tools (Fig. 13:4), retouched blades (Fig. 13:5), as well as denticulated blades, scrapers, burins and micro burin debitage. Cores with multiple striking platforms and bladelet cores (Fig. 13:6) that have one or two striking platforms were also discovered. Signs of burning were noted on some of the items. The assemblage did not contain any unequivocal indicative items and its date spanned the Neolithic period until the Middle Bronze Age.
A few fragments of glass vessels and beads, mostly modern, except for two fragments that dated to the Byzantine and Mamluk periods, were discovered.