During February–March 2003, a salvage excavation was conducted along Highway 9, parallel to Highway 1 (Permit No. A-3842*; map ref. NIG 21714/63428; OIG 16714/13428). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by O. Sion, with the assistance of V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), C. Amit (photography), E. Belashov (drafting), R. Bar-Natan (pottery reading) and I. Lidski (pottery drawing).
Seven caves were excavated; a burial cave (6) and a water cistern were documented (Figs. 1, 2). The caves were hewn in a layer of soft limestone. Caves 1–5 were located on the same level. The ceilings of the caves had collapsed, except for Cave 5. Numerous large rock chunks were found in front of the caves.
Cave 1 (length 6.3 m, width 2.85–3.60 m, height 1.7 m). Two hewn niches (0.15 × 0.15 m, height 0.2 m) in the northern wall of the cave contained lamps.
Cave 2 (length 3.8 m, width 3.7 m, height 2.2 m).
Cave 3 (length 4.5 m, width 2.6 m, height 3.1 m).
Cave 4 (length 5.6 m, width 2.4 m, height 2.25 m).
Cave 5 (length 6.3 m, width 4.4 m, height 2.5 m).
Cave 6, to the northeast of Cave 3, was surveyed and documented. The cave’s entrance (0.4 × 0.6 m) led to a narrow passage and a step and then, to a square chamber (2.4 × 2.5 m) and a rock-hewn corridor (length 2.4 m, width 0.6 m, height 1.3 m). Three hewn kokhim with arched ceilings were cut in the southern and western walls of the cave: Kokh 1 (length 1.1 m, width 0.6 m), Kokh 2 (length 2.0 m, width 0.65 m) and Kokh 3 (length 1.2 m, width 0.5 m). The facades of the kokhim (height 0.65 m) were decorated with rock-hewn rectangular frames. An opening (width 0.6 m) in the eastern wall of the cave led to a circular chamber (diam. 2.1 m, height 1.2 m).
Cave 7 (Fig. 3) was located in the center of a precipitous slope, 25 m west of Caves 1–6. The cave was discovered filled with soil; three hewn steps led from its entrance (L10) to a chamber (3.0 × 3.5 m). A natural niche that tapered inward was in the northern wall of the cave. The longitudinal probe (Loci 11, 12; width 1 m) excavated in the cave revealed a soil fill that had been piled up arbitrarily on the floor of the cave.
The Water Cistern (Fig. 4) was located on the slope, 65 m north of Caves 1–6. The cistern was bell-shaped (diam. 4.6 m, depth 3.6 m), its ceiling had collapsed inward and its walls were coated with a single layer of light brown plaster.
Fragments of pottery vessels from the Hellenistic period, including bowls (Fig. 5:1, 2), jugs (Fig. 5:3–5) and flasks (Fig. 5:6, 7), were found in front of Caves 1 and 2. The fill in Cave 7 contained pottery fragments from the Hellenistic period, including bowls (Fig. 6:1–6), jars (Fig. 6:7–14) and from the Early Roman period until the first century CE––jars (Fig. 6:15–17) and a jug (Fig. 6:18).