In March 2017, an excavation was conducted in the neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-7954; map ref. 222872–80/636690–97; Fig. 1), prior to preparing a park. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Moriah Company, was directed by Y. Billig, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography), D. Tanami (metal detection), Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), N. Zak (plan), I. Lidsky-Reznikov (finds drawing) and I. Reznitsky (metallurgical laboratory). L. Oz inspected the trial trenches at the site prior to the excavation.
A cave was uncovered while digging trial trenches prior to the excavation. The soil fill in the northern part of the cave was disturbed by the backhoe while digging the trial trench; the dug-out soil was then returned to the cave. The natural rock surface above the cave bore signs of an ancient quarry.
The excavated cave was rock-hewn and circular in shape (diam. c. 4.6 m, height 1.6–2.3 m; Figs. 2–4). The central band of the cave’s roof was hewn into the hard chalk and retained clear marks of quarrying. No chisel marks were evident on the east and west sides of the roof, possibly due to damage caused when the cave was enlarged on either side at a later stage, or because the rock had eroded. The natural rock surface serves as the cave’s floor. A small section of paving (L4; 0.88 × 1.30 m; Figs. 5, 6), carefully made of stone slabs of assorted sizes, was discovered in the southern part of the cave floor; the gaps between the paving slabs were filled with small stones. No finds were retrieved from under the paving stones. Two small niches (width 0.17 m, height 0.11–0.14 m, depth 0.1–0.2 m) were hewn in the upper part of the southern wall of the cave.
Accumulations of soil, stones and rock collapses from the walls and ceiling were found on the cave floor, overlain by an alluvium deposit. The soil accumulation in the southern part of the cave was not disturbed, but no finds were discovered in the lower part of this accumulation (0.1 m thick), directly above the cave floor and the paving. However, mixed finds, including potsherds, an iron object and human and animal bones, were retrieved from the upper part of the soil accumulation (L2; 0.1–0.5 m above the floor). The pottery included bowls (Fig. 7:1, 2) and a jar (Fig. 7:3) from the late Iron Age, as well as a jar (Fig. 7:4) from the Late Roman–Byzantine periods. The iron object is slightly rounded and has a connecting pin at both ends (Fig. 7:5); it may have served as a handle. The human bones included fragments of long bones and a small piece of a cranial vault, representing an adult of unidentified gender, over 16 years old.
The finds seem to point to several phases of ancient activity in the cave. However, it is not clear what these activities were or during what period they took place, as the finds were mixed and meager. During its most recent period of use, the cave was probably enlarged, and a small section of it was paved with stone slabs. In this later phase, the cave may have been used for either habitation or storage. The cave may be associated with Kh. Ras Abu Ma‘aruf, which lies c. 300 m to its south.
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