Fourteen circular tombs (e.g., L503, L504, L522–524, L526; diam. 1.5–2.5; Fig. 6) were exposed, primarily in Area B3. A pavement of small kurkar stones, which abutted a few tombs (e.g., L503, L504; Fig. 7) particularly in the northern part of Area B3, was uncovered. This pavement was probably the continuation of the one discovered in 2005. Kurkar ossuaries of two types, known from the previous excavation (piriform and barrel-shaped ossuaries), were exposed in several circular tombs. A total of six ossuaries, four of which were intact, including two sealed ones, were uncovered. Two ossuaries were discovered in some tombs (e.g., L514; Fig. 8). The intact ossuaries were taken to the Israel Antiquities Authority for conservation. Like the tombs revealed in the previous season, mazzevot attached to the inside eastern part of the tomb’s wall were exposed in the tombs of Area B. Most of the mazzevot were smooth, save one mazzeva from this season that has engraved stripes along its entire length (L402; Fig. 9). Two ossuaries were discovered in one of the tombs (L526) and one mazzevā was positioned opposite each ossuary. An unusual burial was discovered in one of the tombs (L523). It consisted of a barrel-shaped ossuary (0.55×0.65 m, height 0.24 m), which contained an intact holemouth jar (max. diam. 0.35 m, height 0.5 m; Figs. 10, 11), in which a broken juglet was found. The ossuary and the holemouth were transferred as a single unit to the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority for further treatment (Fig. 12, 13).
Another type burial was revealed, particularly in the southern part of Area B2. It is a ‘chain-type
burial’, comprising a series of up to five small rectangular burial cells (0.3×0.4 m) arranged in a line and every two cells share a common wall (e.g., L497, L499; Figs. 14–18). The tombs were hewn in bedrock and sometimes lined with stone slabs. This form of burial also includes individual cells (e.g., L416, L462) that were not attached to other cells. In total, more than thirty cells were excavated; these were mostly arranged in rows, generally oriented north–south, which seems to have been intentional. It appears that this part of the cemetery was specifically dedicated to the chain-type burials. Many of the burial cells were discovered sealed, and all were excavated with great precision and caution. The contents of the cells were carefully sifted; nevertheless, the finds were meager and included flint implements, shells and bones. Two types of shells, all similar in size, were discovered; it seems they were sorted and placed in the tombs (Figs. 19, 20). The bone remains were scarce, mostly including fragments of bones and teeth. Based on the discovery of teeth in the western part of the tombs and long bones in the eastern part of the tombs, it seems that the remains of the deceased were interred in secondary burial, whereby the head was placed in the west of the tomb. The burial position and plan of the tombs are consistent with a similar burial complex discovered in excavations at Ashqelon (HA-ESI 117(
, although the chronological identification of these finds has not yet been fully ascertained.
A large smooth, well-worked stone slab (L457; 0.2×0.7×1.0 m: Figs. 21, 22) was exposed in the south of Area B2. The slab, placed on the kurkar bedrock, was bounded on the north and south by a line of three stones. It could have been used in activities conducted in the cemetery, for example a surface for treating the deceased, for placing the ossuaries, or it might have been used as a cultic altar. No other similar slab is known from sites of the Chalcolithic period. Remains indicative of ritual activity in the cemetery were discovered in the 2005 excavation, including remains of a hearth near one of the mazzevot and a vessel that contained burnt material and was placed in a niche next to one of the tombs. The cemetery is dated to the Chalcolithic period (fifth–four millennia BCE), based on the flint implements, the ossuaries and the small number of potsherds, which included a holemouth jar and a fragment of a cornet.
The excavation results substantiate the conclusions of the first excavation season in 2005. An organized cemetery, with several kinds of burial very different from each other, was exposed. Both excavation seasons uncovered c. 3 dunams of the cemetery. This is a unique graveyard, dating to the Ghassulian phase of the Chalcolithic period, which has no comparisons in the region. It was customary to think that burials in the Shephelah and coastal plain during the Chalcolithic period occurred in caves, such as those excavated in the Palmahim Quarry (Gophna R. 1968. Palmahim. IEJ 18:132–133; ‘Atiqot 14:1–8), located c. 500 south of the excavation area, whereas the round tombs are characteristic of the Negev, Sinai and Transjordan. This assumption is no longer valid in light of the discovery of this cemetery at the site. The southern boundary of the cemetery was identified in this season. A stone slab that might be associated with the funerary activity (ritual?) was exposed, as well as finds that indicate the position of the burial and offerings.
Several questions still remain unanswered, including the origin of the deceased at the site and the location of their settlement; the relationship, if there was one, between this cemetery and the burial cave, replete with finds, which were discovered nearby; were they contemporary and what do the differences between the burial customs indicate? It is hoped that further excavations and new discoveries will shed light on the questions raised above.