In March 2016, a trial excavation was conducted in Moshav She’ar Yashuv (Permit No. A-7675; map ref. 260687-737/792725-75; Fig. 1), prior to construction on a private lot. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by R. Assis (photography), with the assistance of A. Kleiner (preliminary inspections), U. Berger and A. Shapiro (GPS), D. Porotsky (surveying and drafting), D. Syon (numismatics), R. Liran (plans), L. Regev (dendrochronology) and a group of soldiers awaiting discharge from the military.
Two excavation areas (A, B; each 4 × 6 m; Fig. 2), situated 10 m apart, were opened on a moderate spur crossed by small tributaries. Remains of four built tombs that probably belonged to a Muslim cemetery were discovered in the areas, which were opened west and east of a large, ancient oak tree standing in the center of the lot. A dendrochronological dating of the tree determined it to be about 150 years old. The tree prevented development of the land surrounding it and protected the ancient remains from destruction. Two sheikh’s tombs—those of Sheikh Muhammad and Sheikh adh-Dhahir—are marked on a map from the time of the British Mandate (1935) in the location of the excavation. These graves do not appear on the British survey map (PEF) from 1880. Approximately 1.5 km southeast of the current excavation is Horbat ʽOmrit, where settlement remains from the Roman and Byzantine periods were discovered.
The two excavation areas were damaged by modern activity and thus some of the tombs are poorly preserved. A layer of soil (thickness c. 0.2 m) that had been brought from another ruin was discerned above the tombs and was mixed with worn potsherds and other artifacts that date mainly to the Roman and Byzantine periods. In addition, scattered human bones were discovered in the excavation areas; they were subsequently buried next to the tombs.
Area A. After removing the layer of soil that had been brought to the site from a ruin, a rectangular tomb (L101) oriented east–west was exposed in the southern part of the excavation area. The tomb was dug in travertine bedrock and built of a single, leveled course of large ashlar stones (Fig. 3). A concentration of fieldstones—the remains of a destroyed tomb (L102)—and a few human bones were found in the northern part of the area. The eastern part of the area was damaged in recent years. The ceramic finds included worn pottery sherds from the Byzantine period (fourth–sixth centuries CE), a single abraded glazed sherd from the Crusader period (twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE), pottery sherds from the Mamluk (thirteenth–sixteenth centuries CE) and the Ottoman periods (sixteenth–twentieth centuries CE) and modern roof tiles. Bedrock (travertine) was revealed at a depth of 0.5 m in a sounding excavated between the two tombs in the center of the area; no ancient remains were discovered.
Area B (Fig. 4). After removing the layer of soil that had been brought to the site from a ruin, remains of two stone-built tombs aligned east–west (L201, L202) were exposed. Only the northeastern corner of Tomb 201 was uncovered, the rest of the tomb extended west, beyond the limits of the excavation. Tomb 202 was damaged by modern construction and only its western part was preserved; a skull and human bones were discovered inside it; all the bones were reburied on site. A copper coin from the Late Roman period (335–341 CE, IAA 102602), worn pottery sherds from the Byzantine period (fourth–sixth centuries CE), fragments of Rashaya el-Fukhar pottery from the end of the Ottoman period (eighteenth–twentieth centuries CE) and fragments of modern roof tiles and paving stones were uncovered between and above the tombs.
Three of the tombs discovered in the excavation (L101, L201, L202) were built along an east–west axis, as is customary in Muslim burials. Judging by the fragments of Rashaya el-Fukhar ware discovered in Area B, these tombs were probably part of a Muslim cemetery from the end of the Ottoman period (eighteenth–twentieth centuries CE). The appearance of the sheikh’s tombs on the British Mandate map from 1935 and their absence from the British survey map of 1880, as well as the results of the tree-ring dating of the oak (150 years), indicate that the cemetery was established in the late nineteenth–early twentieth century CE. Based on the British Mandate map from 1935, the excavation area was not near a settlement but was close to a secondary road that connected Tell el-Qadi (Tel Dan) to El-Mansoura, east of H
orshat Tal. Apparently, the soil containing the worn pottery sherds and the copper coin, predating the Ottoman period, was brought from other antiquities site to improve the indigenous soil for agricultural purposes (Tepper 2007