During August 2000 a burial cave was documented in the ‘Issawiya neighborhood, near Jerusalem, (map ref. NIG 22347/63416; OIG 17347/13416) in the wake of its discovery during development work. The documentation was performed by A. Re’em and R. Abu Raya, with the assistance of L. Di Segni (inscription reading).
The eastern side of the cave was breached by a bulldozer. Local residents said that the cave was discovered and plundered in 1963. The ossuaries removed from the cave had eventually found their way to the Rockefeller Museum, but we could not trace them. The cave was indeed devoid of finds.
The cave (A; Fig. 1) was hewn in soft chalk bedrock and consisted of an almost square burial chamber (2.3 × 2.5 m) whose walls were plastered, owing to the poor condition of the bedrock. Ground potsherds, gravel and lime were mixed with the light gray plaster (c. 4 mm thick), which was applied to the ceiling of the cave only where bedrock crumbled.
The entrance (width 0.5 m, thickness 0.4, height 0.65 m) was in the southern wall and had a vaulted top. Rock-hewn steps, which were not preserved, descended from the entrance to the burial chamber. A hole borne in the ceiling of the burial chamber next to the entrance was probably part of a closing mechanism; a pivoted door had possibly shut the entrance.
Burial kokhim were hewn in all the walls of the chamber, save the western wall. Two kokhim (length 2.5 m, width 0.5 m, height 0.6 m) were in the southern wall. The eastern one of these kokhim (Kokh 2) had two levels. The bottom level was trough-like and covered with stone slabs, two of which were preserved (width 0.7 m, length 0.5 m, average width 0.15 m). Three kokhim (length 2 m, width 0.5 m, average height 0.6 m) were in the eastern wall. Kokh 3 had two levels, similar to Kokh 2, and a single stone slab that covered the burial trough was found. Two kokhim (length 1.5 m, width 0.5 m, average height 0.6 m) were in the northern wall.
The kokhim were sealed with stone slabs (0.5 × 0.5 m) whose inside edges were carved to fit the size of the opening (Fig. 2). The space between the stone slab and the kokh’s entry was plastered and plaster remains were noted around the entry to Kokh 7.
The entries to the 2-leveled kokhim (Nos. 2, 3) were completely sealed and plastered over as part of the plaster that was applied to the cave. It was probably done in an attempt to camouflage them, since the heads of the family or other important people were interred there.
A four-line Greek inscription was engraved in cursive script on the plaster of the southern wall, above Kokh 2, ascribing the tomb to the Kyros family:
(daughters) of Kyros
The cave’s eastern wall had probably been damaged in antiquity when another burial cave (B; Fig. 1) was quarried. The breach was sealed with ashlar stones located nearby, not in situ. Cave B apparently consisted of a rectangular chamber (1.7 × 2.4 m) that was not preserved due to the bulldozer’s damage. The entrance to the chamber was on the south and sealed with a stone, found in situ (Figs. 3, 4).
No datable finds were recovered; however, based on the method of burial that is known from burial caves nearby (HA-ESI 111:85–86), Cave A should be dated to the latter part of the Second Temple period.