Area A
This area was located on the northern gentle spur of the hill. The tombs at the top of the hill were found close to surface level, whereas the tombs along the northern slope were exposed beneath a thick layer of hamra soil. The latter was devoid of archaeological finds and probably deposited in modern times, prior to the planting of an olive grove that covered the area.
Thirteen tombs of three main types, which were oriented east–west and constituted part of a large burial field, were exposed. Since the tombs were not excavated, it was impossible to draw any demographic conclusions or ascribe the interred to a specific gender, age or social rank.
Type A. Single-burial graves, built of undressed stones and covered with ceramic jars filled with earth. Stones were positioned at the edges of the tomb; in one instance, an especially conspicuous stone was probably a burial marker. The Type A tombs were divided into two subtypes.
Subtype A1. The jars were lying perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the tomb. The jar rims alternately faced north and south and the jar bodies were set in a fitting arrangement to cover the tomb, e.g., L105 (Figs. 2, 3). It was covered with six jars of three different types, the easternmost jar lacked handles. A skull and a few neck vertebrae were found beneath two broken jars in one of the tombs.
Subtype A2. The covering jars were alternately standing upright and upside-down. The only tomb of this subtype was L113 (Figs. 4, 5), which included three jars. A stone placed on its narrow side at the eastern end of the tomb was probably a burial marker.
Type B (Fig. 6). The most common tomb type was a simple cist tomb, oriented east–west and covered with stone slabs (0.2 × 0.3 × 0.5 m).
Type C (Fig. 7). A skeleton placed in a pit dug in the ground, without any construction or covering. A single tomb of this type was found. The skeleton was anatomically articulated and several jars were placed nearby, although their connection to the tomb is unclear.
It should be noted that tombs of Types B and C were located on a higher level than Type A tombs. The cemetery was probably used over a long period of time; Type A tombs may be representative of an early phase (Mamluk?) while Type B and C tombs may belong to a later phase (Ottoman?).
Sixteen jars from the Mamluk period were discovered above the various tombs. The jars belong to three main types: bag-shaped jars (N=10), jars that were used as beehives (N=4; Levant 38:203–212) and saqiye jars (N=2). The bag-shaped jars are made of light colored fabric with delicate ribbing and have round handles on the shoulder. Some have a thickened rim or a ridge on the neck of the vessel. This jar is particularly characteristic of the latter part of the Mamluk and the beginning of the Ottoman periods. Similar jars were found in tombs at Azor (HA-ESI 113:66*–67*, Fig. 151:3–5). Other finds included a bead (glass?) and a bone comb fragment of the type known from the end of the Byzantine period and throughout all the Islamic periods ('Atiqot 46:37–47).
Remains that attested to an earlier phase of the cemetery were found in the northern part of Area A. A pavement of square flagstones was exposed in the northwestern corner of the area. The ceramic finds included ribbed jars, some of which were Gaza-type jars that dated to the third–fourth centuries CE. A rectangular burial structure (L132) built of stone was exposed in another square. The occupation level that abutted the tomb included potsherds from the same period. However, since the tomb was not excavated, its date is not certain.
Area B
A cist tomb (L220; 0.8 × 1.9 m; wall thickness 0.3 m; Figs. 8, 9) built of ashlar stones (average dimensions 0.20 × 0.25 × 0.60 m) and oriented northwest-southeast was exposed. No covering above the tomb was found and no similar tombs were detected in Area A, except perhaps for the tomb in the section of one of the squares.
The burial site at Ge’alya represents a new type of cemetery from the end of the Mamluk or the beginning of the Ottoman periods (fifteenth century CE). The use of intact pottery vessels to cover the tombs has not been fully documented in the literature. Similar tombs were discovered at Azor, Kafr ‘Ana (Or Yehuda) and in the vicinity of Ramla (TAU Salvage Excavation Reports 4; Permit No. A-4854). This apparently is a phenomenon characteristic of the central Coastal Plain in the Late Islamic period. The results of the excavations at Ge’alya contribute important data to the study of funerary customs in the Late Islamic period.