In June 2014, a salvage excavation was conducted at Khirbat el-Bira, in Shoham’s northern industrial zone of (Permit No. A-7151; map ref. 196489–97/658476–88; Fig. 1). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by A. Yahav, was directed by Y. Elisha, with the assistance of Y. Amrani (administration), R. Mishayev and R. Liran (surveying and drafting), C. Ben-Ari (GPS), A. Peretz (field photography), P. Gendelman (pottery), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing), V. Eshed (physical anthropology) and G. Yitah and A. ‘Azab.
The quarry (L100; 6 × 8 m, depth 1.5 m; Fig. 3) bore rock-cutting marks and severance channels of stones (stone dimensions: c. 1 × 2 m). Pottery sherds found in the quarry included a jar from the Early Roman period (Fig. 4:3), an LRC bowl from the fifth century CE (Fig. 4:4) and jars (Fig. 4:7–9) dating to the Byzantine period (fifth–sixth century CE).
An opening (0.5 × 0.6 m) to a burial cave was hewn in the western, vertical bedrock wall of the quarry. The opening led to a burial chamber with a central rock-cut standing pit (L101; 2.0 × 2.7 m, depth 0.7 m) and four hewn loculi
in each of its northern, southern and western walls (L102–L113; average dimensions 0.5 × 1.8 m; Figs. 5–8); the loculi
in the western wall were damaged by mechanical equipment. The cave was plundered in the past and had filled up with dark alluvium over the years. To hasten the excavation and avoid demonstrations by the ultra-religious, only the western loculi
and part of the standing pit were excavated. On the basis of its resemblance to other loculi
caves (Levy 1990
), it is thought that steps led into the standing pit. Fragments of soft limestone ossuaries decorated with rosettes (Fig. 9:1–4), pottery sherds and human bones were discovered in the standing pit. Similar limestone ossuaries adorned with rosettes were dated to the Early Roman period (Vitto 2000
). The ceramic finds include jar fragments from the Early Roman period (first century BCE – first century CE; Fig. 4:1, 2), as well as an LRC bowl (Fig. 4:5) and an LRC krater (Fig 4:6), both dating to the fifth century CE. The human bones included lower limbs and fragments of skull bones belonging to at least two adults.
Both the quarry and the burial cave yielded pottery dating to the Early Roman and Byzantine periods, in addition to ossuary fragments ascribed to the Early Roman period that were found in the burial cave. It seems that the quarry predates the burial cave. It is impossible to date the beginning of the quarrying; however, it seems the quarry was no longer used in the Early Roman period, when the burial cave was hewn. The ceramic finds from the Byzantine period suggest that the cave was plundered at that time, possibly in the fifth century CE.
Levy Y. 1990. Gedera. ESI 7–8:60.
Vitto F. 2000. Burial Caves from the Second Period in Jerusalem (Mount Scopus, Giv‘at Hamivtar, Neveh Ya‘aqov). ‘Atiqot 40:65–121.