Horbat Patum (c. 30 dunams) stretches across the summit of a limestone hill in the center of the Judean Shephelah within the ‘Adulam Caves Park, to the northeast of Horbat Burgin. The hill is surrounded by wide valleys that were cultivated in antiquity and continue to be farmed today. The site contains remains of an abandoned Ottoman village that appears on the British survey map (Kh. Fattum) as well as other architectural remains, including a large public building, stone lintels, cisterns, rock-hewn caves and ashlars.
The current excavation was the first to be conducted at the site, and it took place one day a week over a five-month period. Two excavation areas were opened (1 and 3; Fig. 2), where a large building and a columbarium cave were excavated.
The Building (Fig. 3)
Remains of a large building, some of whose walls are visible on the surface, were uncovered in Area 3; three construction phases were discerned (Phases 1–3). The excavation yielded Early Roman, Byzantine, and Early Islamic pottery; however, since no floors were uncovered, it was difficult to date the various construction phases.
Phase 1. The foundations of three walls (W331, W332, W333) placed on bedrock were attributed to the early phase. The walls were built of one or two rows of large, roughly dressed stones. A short section of another wall (W330) in the southern part of the area was built of large ashlars (0.7 × 1.5 m, 1 × 1 m); it was probably an exterior wall of the building. Two rooms identified in the building probably continued beyond the limits of the excavation area.
Phase 2. Two rooms added to the north of the building were enclosed by three walls (W334, W335, W336) that abutted the walls from the earlier phase. The walls were built using a different construction method from the earlier phase, with smaller stones, some undressed.
Phase 3. In the latest phase, a square room was built (5 × 5 m) on the upper courses of Walls 332 and 336 and by adding another wall (W337). The room’s walls were built using a different method of construction from that used in the earlier phases: the walls were built of a single row of large stones that were dressed on their outer face and in the corners of the room (Fig. 4).
Columbarium Cave (Fig. 5)
The cave (6.0 × 8.5 m) was hewn into the soft limestone rock. A flight of steps leads into the cave from the southeast, descending into an arched underground corridor (Fig. 6). Gabled niches (c. 0.25 × 0.25 m, height 0.3 m; Figs. 7, 8) arranged in rows were hewn in all the cave walls. A round shaft (diam. c. 1.5 m) hewn in the cave roof was probably made for the pigeons to come and go. A thick layer of colluvial material inside the columbarium contained modern finds, as well as coins from the British Mandate and rifle bullets. A layer of soil (L104) beneath the colluvium yielded fragments of Early Roman jars.
This type of columbarium cave is typical of the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods and has been found at other sites nearby, such as Horbat Burgin. (Shor 2019).
Further underground cavities were documented in the vicinity of the excavation, although they were not excavated. They comprise a rock-hewn cavity a few meters to the east of the building; two round openings cut in the rock (cisterns?) to the south of the building; another columbarium cave c. 30 m southwest of the building; and a cave opening to the northeast of the cave excavated in the current excavation. Ottoman pottery was also collected on the surface near the excavation area.
The excavation revealed the remains of a settlement that existed at the site during the Early Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic, and Ottoman periods. The columbarium cave was probably hewn in the Early Roman period, as possibly also the other cavities nearby.