During July 1998 and January 1999 two salvage excavations were conducted at Rosh Zurim, in Gush ‘Ezion (L-813, L-836; map ref. NIG 21150/61975; OIG 16150/11975), prior to enlarging the settlement. The excavations, on behalf of the Archaeological Staff Officer of Judea and Samaria, were directed by Y. Feller, assisted by P. Portnov (surveying and drafting), S. Ammami (photography), Y. Bar-Rashi (drawing) and V. Eshed (physical anthropology).
Three rock-cut burial caves, dating to the 1st century BCE, were excavated on the hill where the settlement is situated. They are part of the cemetery at Khirbat Beit Sakariya, located c. 0.6 km to the south (The Survey in Judea, Site 50, In: Judaea, Samaria and the Golan – Archaeological Survey 1967-1968, 1972).
Cave 1. A single rectangular niche in the bedrock (0.9 × 2.0 m, height 0.9 m; Fig. 1) was examined on the western slope of the hill. Signs of rock cutting for a square frame that was intended for a blocking stone were discerned in the tomb’s entrance. The tomb was devoid of finds.
Cave 2. On the western slope of the hill, c. 40 m north of Cave 1, a burial cave that consisted of a single chamber was excavated (Fig. 2). A short corridor (length 0.56 m, width 1.68 m) led to the burial chamber and a single step descended from the cave’s rectangular entrance (0.95 × 1.10 m) into the burial chamber (3.15 × 3.45 m, height 1.2–1.5 m) that had an arched ceiling. A hewn standing pit (0.80 × 1.35 m, depth 0.5 m) was in the middle of the chamber and three benches (average width 1.3 m) surrounded it. An oval-shaped repository (1.12 × 1.61 m, height 2.15 m) was cut in the chamber’s northeastern corner and in the northwestern corner was a circular rock-cut recess (diam. 0.35 m, depth 0.12 m). Fragments of two fusiform juglets, dating to the 1st century BCE, were recovered from the cave. The repository and standing pit contained human bones that belonged to ten individuals, including eight adults, two of whom were identified as women and one as a man, and two children, 4 and 7–8 years of age.
Cave 3. On the northeastern slope of the hill was the third burial cave that also had a single burial chamber (Fig. 3). A long narrow corridor (length 5.12 m, width 0.83 m) with six steps led to the burial chamber; only its southwestern part near the chamber was roofed (height 0.90–1.25 m). The burial chamber (3.9 × 4.6 m, height 1.7 m) was rectangular and had a flat ceiling and floor. Three loculi were hewn in its walls, two in the northwestern wall and one in the southwestern wall; it seems that the quarrying of the loculi was never completed. A circular recess (diam. 0.5 m, depth 0.3 m) was cut in the western corner of the burial chamber. An opening (0.50 × 1.35 m) was quarried in the northeastern side of the chamber’s ceiling, when the cave was no longer used for interments; it probably happened during the Mamluk period when the cave may have served for dwelling. A few pottery fragments from the 1st century BCE and the Mamluk period (12th–14th centuries CE) were discovered in the cave.