In January 2015, a salvage excavation was conducted in the Beit Safafa neighborhood of Jerusalem (Permit No. A-7298; map ref. 218485–505/628040–050; Fig. 1), after mechanical equipment damaged two burial caves. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by K. Alian, was directed by Z. ʽAdawi, with the assistance of A. Hajian and M. Kunin (surveying), D. Levi (GPS), A. Peretz (photography), D. Tanami (metal detection) and N. Zak (drafting).
Cave A (Fig. 3). The northern end of the cave had been completely destroyed by mechanical equipment during the course of earthmoving work, making it impossible to reconstruct its plan in its entirety. The entrance to the cave was fixed in the northern wall and led to a central rectangular space (L101; width c. 2.5 m, preserved length 2.75 m, height 1 m) with a flat ceiling and a rectangular standing pit (L107; 0.95 × 1.30 m, over 0.3 m deep) in its center; the pit was filled with alluvium. Three loculi (L102–L104; 0.4–0.5 × 2.0 m, height 1 m; Fig. 4) were hewn in the southern wall, whereas only one loculus (L105; 0.75 × 1.05 m, height 1 m; Fig. 5) was hewn in the eastern wall. The ceilings in the four loculi were all vaulted. An irregularly shaped hollow (L106; 0.95 × 1.05 m, height 1 m) north of a loculus in the southern wall may have been a loculus whose quarrying was incomplete.
Cave B (Fig. 3), which also sustained some damage caused by mechanical equipment, survived almost in its entirety: only its northern wall and parts of the main chamber were demolished. Nevertheless, the complete plan of the burial cave could not be reconstructed. The entrance to this cave was similarly set in its northern wall, and it led into a central space (L111; width c. 1.75 m, preserved length 2.75 m, height 1 m) with a rectangular standing pit (L115; 0.80 × 1.05 m, depth down to top of the alluvium 0.25 m) in its center. Three loculi with vaulted ceilings (L112–L114; 0.4–0.5 × 2.0 m, height 1 m; Fig. 6) were hewn in the cave’s southern wall.
No datable artifacts were found in the caves; however, based on their plan, the caves should probably be attributed to the Early Roman period (Second Temple period). These and similar caves previously discovered in the immediate vicinity evidently belonged to the burial grounds of one of the sites that existed nearby at that time (Kloner 2000
:49, Site 87
, and references cited therein).
Kloner A. 2000. Survey of Jerusalem: The Southern Sector
(Archaeological Survey of Israel). Jerusalem.
Kloner A. and Zissu B. 2003. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. Jerusalem (Hebrew).
Nagar A. 2015a. Jerusalem, Beit S
afafa (West). HA-ESI 127
Nagar A. 2015b. Jerusalem, Beit S
afafa. HA-ESI 127
Zissu B. and Moyal H. 1998. Jerusalem, Beit Safafa (West). ESI 18:94–95.