During July 2001 a salvage excavation was conducted in Moshav Massu’ot Yizhaq (Permit No. A-3464*; map ref. NIG 17048/62346; OIG 12048/12346). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the moshav, was directed by O. Segal, with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), T. Kornfeld (drafting), T. Sagiv (photography), A. Dudin (drawing) and Y. Huster (inspection).
During the course of an antiquities inspection, Y. Huster identified ancient remains in a pit (c. 500 sq m) that was dug while development work was carried out along the northwestern fringes of the Rasm esh-Sha‘f site. Three small areas, revealing ancient remains, were examined (Fig. 1).
Mosaic Sections. Two ruinous sections of a mosaic floor (0.30 ª 0.45 m, 0.5 ª 1.5 m) were exposed east (L104) and west of Wall 109 in Square 3 (Fig. 2). The western section (L107) had a white mosaic decorated with a pattern of small squares made of blue tesserae, in which white and red tesserae were embedded (Fig.3). In the eastern mosaic section (L104) the white tesserae were arranged in circles, adjoining each other and forming a kind of wreath (Fig. 4). The outer perimeter of the circles was decorated with blue and red tesserae. Another mosaic section was exposed in Square 1 (0.5 ª 0.8 m), c. 30 m to the north. The white mosaic was adorned with an X pattern made of red and blue tesserae (Fig. 5). Next to it, other circular decorations or perhaps squares that were consisted of blue and red tesserae, were discerned. Three alternating rows of blue and white tesserae bordered the decoration on its southern side. Local residents claimed that another polychrome mosaic was destroyed when the public shelter was constructed next to the excavation. Thus it seems that buildings with mosaic floors extended across an area of c. 40 m in diameter.
Built Tomb. The tomb was built into the natural ground, of small undressed stones bonded with cement and plastered on the interior (Fig. 6). It was only partiallyexcavated, as stipulated by the Ministry for Religious Affairs (exposed length 3.1 m,height 2.0 m,width 1.5 m). The tomb had an elongated main chamber, oriented north–south and topped by a barrel vault (L108), and a square chamber (L105), accessed by steps in the eastern wall that led, via a rectangular entrance (0.5 ª 0.7 m) to the small chamber (0.85 ª 1.0 m; height 0.9 m; Fig. 7), also covered with a barrel vault. A kind of step, 0.6 m higher than the floor, was installed in the rear part of the chamber, which contained a few fragments of pottery vessels, yet no bones were found. Therefore, it was probably not used for interments but was a passage to an above-ground burial chamber that was not preserved. Nevertheless, it is possible that the entrance to the tomb was probably fixed in its southern side that was not excavated, and Chamber 105 served as a burial chamber and was plundered in antiquity. Bones and ceramic fragments, dating to the end of the Byzantine period, were discovered in the fill of the main chamber, including imported Late Roman C bowls (Fig. 8:1, 2), Cypriot bowls (Fig. 8:3), a Byzantine bag-shaped jar (Fig. 8:4), Gaza jars (Fig. 8:5–14), a jar base (Fig. 8:15) and roof tiles (Fig. 8:16, 17). The Rasm esh-Sha‘f site was surveyed in the early 1950s by J. Ory (Antiquities Authority Archive, Inspection Report) who found a marble chancel screen (0.90 ª 1.18 m; Fig. 9) of a church, south of the moshav’s water tower, c. 80 m southeast of the current excavation. The chancel screen was decorated with tendrils of ivy leaves that faced Maltese crosses and emanated from a laurel wreath that enclosed a cross. Ory dated the chancel, which is commonly found in numerous villages throughout the country, to the sixth–seventh centuries CE. The mosaic remains, the chancel screen and roof tiles (Fig. , 18) suggest that a monastery was located here and the built tomb was part of a church crypt.