J. Kaplan and H. Ritter-Kaplan excavated a number of caves in Ha-Qirya compound during the 1970s, which indicated the existence of a cemetery on the eastern slope of a calcareous sandstone (kurkar) ridge. At that time, most of the ridge was occupied with modern buildings and only its extreme east end was exposed. Road construction in the spring of 2002 removed a number of these modern buildings and the cleared area was subject to inspection by D. Barkan of the IAA, who suspended work when bulldozers cut through several burial caves on the lowermost level of the ridge. An area on the ridge surface (c. 45 × 75 m) was mechanically stripped of modern building remains, exposing numerous cavities, mostly burial caves and other man-made features. Sixty-one features were discerned and subsequently excavated.
Early Bronze Age Burial Caves
Five caves on the lower reaches of the ridge’s eastern slope were dated to the late phases of Early Bronze I, while one cave may have continued in use during the early EB II. The caves were badly damaged by modern construction that occurred several decades ago, as well as by bulldozing prior to the excavation. The remains pointed to either roughly cylindrical or bell-shaped cavities, hewn into the crumbly bedrock. The caves contained numerous burials, usually in secondary deposition (Fig 1). It appears that each of these tombs was used over spans of time and their contents represent chronological ranges. Associated grave goods included numerous small ceramic vessels (bowls and amphoriskoi), stone, shell and bone beads, a stone mace head, small copper tools, one (copper?) dagger and flint tools. Some of the skeletons showed evidence of charring, others of complete incineration. However, this treatment was limited to selected bones in only three caves. One cave was reused in the Intermediate Bronze Age.
Intermediate Bronze Age Burials
More than 50 cavities from this period, located slightly higher up on the kurkar slope, were in various states of preservation––from complete to virtually non-existent. These tombs consisted of two cavity types: a large, bell-shaped space with adjacent, vertical shaft (2–3 examples) and small, domed chambers of roughly cylindrical or elliptical shape; some were entered from adjacent, smaller, vertical, cylindrical shafts (Fig. 2). Osteological remains from this cemetery were at a far worse state of preservation than those from the EB cemetery. When interments were discernible, 1–4 primary burials were observed in these tombs. The grave goods included ceramic vessels, often medium-sized storage jars, and occasionally copper daggers.
Middle Bronze Age Burials
One tomb of the smallest type yielded two small scarabs, dated to the early twelfth Dynasty. Another tomb was associated with this period on account of the socketed spearheads it contained.
Miscellaneous Later Finds
Several additional cavities produced evidence for activity in the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman periods. The finds included a well-preserved, elaborately decorated metal lamp and a small, cylindrical, three-legged bowl, as well as small quantities of potsherds scattered in fills of this same horizon.
After the completion of the excavation, a local storage jar handle incised with Greek letters that indicated a date corresponding to 155–154 BCE, was found in a bulldozer's debris near the ancient cemetery. Modern occupation of the site was represented by deep-lying foundations of houses that belonged to the nineteenth–twentieth century German colony of Sarona. Debris in numerous pits and channels was associated with even more modern structures.