In June and November 2012, an excavation was conducted in Lot 33 in the Be’er Sheva‘ Civic Center (Permit No. A-6524; map ref. 180888–928/572578–628), prior to construction. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Carasso Real Estate Company, was directed by I. Peretz (photography and Area E supervision), with the assistance of Y. Al-‘Amor (administration), Y. Baumgarten (antiquities inspection), V. Carmel (antiquities inspection, exposing the tombs’ location before the excavation and Area C supervision), T. Erikson-Gini (Area A supervision), D. Varga (Area B supervision), S. Ganor and Y. Haimi (Area D supervision), Y. Israel, F. Sontag, V. Essman, Y. Shmidov, A. Hajian, M. Kunin, S. Itkis and N. Zak (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography) and laborers from Qiryat Gat, Kuseife and Rahat.
The site (c. 3 dunams; Fig. 1) is located on a moderate hill, 271 m asl, just south
of the government building in Be’er Sheva‘. In 1994, five graves were exposed when trial trenches were dug along the edges of the lot. In 1995 and 1996, six graves were revealed in the area of the courthouse northwest of the current excavation. Three graves were excavated on Ben Zvi Street to the south (Sontag 1999
), and 21 graves dating to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods were discovered in Rasko Center, north of the excavation (Varga 1999
In the current excavation, five areas (A–E) were opened, and a large portion of an ancient cemetery was exposed. The graves were dug in brown loess with limestone concretions.
Seventy-eight cist tombs (outer length 0.6–2.2 m, width 0.44–0.80 m; Figs. 2, 3) arranged along a southeast–northwest axis were exposed. The tombs, which were not excavated, were on different levels, but apparently were not superimposed. Most of them were well preserved and included most or all of their covering slabs. Nearly all of the tombs were built of roughly hewn chalkstone, and some were constructed of limestone and flint fieldstones. Infants, children and adults were buried in the cemetery.
Several of the tombs are noteworthy. A mother and child were probably interred in Tombs 58 and 84 at the southeastern end of the cemetery (Fig. 4). Upright slabs that might have been gravestones were set in the northern part of T79 (Fig. 5); however, no inscriptions or decorations were found on the tombs.
The artifacts included a meager amount of cooking pot sherds, jar fragments and fragments of glass vessels, all dating to the Byzantine period.
The site is part of the cemetery of the Byzantine city of Be’er Sheva‘.
Dwelling remains and storerooms from this period were exposed in excavations conducted southwest of Lot 33 (Varga and Nikolsky 2013
; Permit No. A-6350), in the central bus station. It is likely the cemetery was used by its inhabitants. Tombs were revealed northwest of the central bus station during an antiquities inspection of infrastructure work on Balfour Street (Abadi-Reiss and Eisenberg-Dagan 2013
). These tombs were not excavated.
Abadi-Reiss Y. and Eisenberg-Dagan D.
2013. Be’er Sheva‘, Balfour Street. HA-ESI 125
Sontag F. 1999. Be’er Sheva‘, the Courthouse (B). HA-ESI 109:90*.
Varga D. 1999. Be’er Sheva‘, the Civic Center. ESI 19:90*–91*.
Varga D. and Nikolsky V. 2013. Be’er Sheva‘ (Central Bus Station). HA-ESI 125