The area (c. 750 m north of the spring square) was surveyed prior to the excavation and about twelve points of interest were identified (Fig. 2, 3). Eight of these were excavated, four of them (Points 3, 4, 5, 8) caves that could not be excavated because of the collapse of their roofs.
Six excavation areas (A–F) were opened, exposing the following antiquities: a cave containing installations used to extract liquids for domestic or industrial purposes (Area A; Points 1, 2); an ashlar quarry and rock-hewn pit (Area B; Points 6, 7); a plastered rock-hewn basin, possibly a ritual bath (miqwe),located in an open space (Area C; Point 9); caves (Areas D and E; Points 10, 11); and a winepress (Area F; Point 12).
Azmon Ridge is composed of several kinds of rock, including dolomite, chalk, marl and nari. Below surface level, inside the caves that were excavated, is whitish–very light gray colored chalk with shades of yellow and pink containing a few pebbles of hard limestone mixed with marl. The chalk belongs to the Rosh Ha-Niqra member of the Deir Hanna Formation and dates to the Cenomanian period.
Area A. A natural cave equipped with extraction installations in its floor was exposed on the southern slope of the hill (Figs. 4, 5). After the installations ceased use, very soft yellow marl accumulated above them (max. thickness 0.5 m), as a result of the chalk that ‘trickled’ from the cave’s ceiling; the new floor was revealed in the course of the current excavation.
A rock-hewn courtyard (L101; 3 × 3 m) was located at the entrance to the cave. On the northwestern corner on the roof of the cave an ashlar quarry consisting of one quarried step (L106) was exposed. It was possible to reconstruct the size of the stones produced there (length c. 0.5 m, width 0.7 m, height 20–30 cm) based on the severance channels (width c. 5–15 cm). Two shafts were exposed slightly east of the quarry and two other shafts were also identified in the eastern side of the cave’s ceiling. Between the rock-cut entrance and the cave were the remains of a fieldstone-built wall (W9) and a fieldstone step that led to the floor of the cave.
The extraction installations in the floor of the cave constituted a complex including a circular installation (L112; diam. 0.5 m) equipped with a treading floor and a square sump (10 × 10 cm) in its northeastern corner; three round installations (L113, L116, L118; diam. 0.5–0.6 m), each with a treading floor and a sump on the floor’s bottom; an installation (L117), including a row of four small sumps (average diam. c. 10 cm); and an installation made up of two hewn adjacent sumps (L119; diam. 10 cm), not connected. Additional sumps were revealed northeast of the extraction complex, but the relation between them and the other sumps was unclear. In situ organic matter, which was not analyzed, was found in some of the installations.
In the northwestern part of the cave was a poorly preserved rock-cut pit (L115; diam. 0.4 m). Another pit (L107), of unknown purpose, was discovered in the southeastern corner of the hewn entrance; it contained a fragment of a burial cave door adorned with geometric decorations (Fig. 6). A hearth (L108) was discovered adjacent to the eastern wall of the entrance. Both the pit and the hearth yielded faunal remains of an adult goat, sheep and cattle.
The ceramic artifacts recovered from inside the cave date mainly to the Mamluk period (fourteenth-fifteenth centuries CE).
Area B. A rock-hewn pit (L200; diam. 0.4 m, depth c. 0.6 m; Figs. 7, 8) and an ashlar quarry (L201; 2 × 3 m; Fig. 9) were discovered. Owing to the quarry’s poor state of preservation, the severance channels could not be identified nor was it possible to estimate the size of the stones that were produced there.
. A rock-cut plastered elliptical basin (L301; 1.0 × 1.5 m; depth 0.32 m) was found in a small underground cavity that was adapted for storing surface runoff (Figs. 10, 11). A hewn water channel that conveyed the runoff to the plastered basin were exposed at the entrance to the cavity (L300). A staircase with three wide steps connected the area at the entrance to the basin. The installation has architectural features reminiscent of a ritual bath (miqwe
;D. Syon, pers. comm.; Reich 2013
:61); yet, the amount of water did not meet the amount required according to customary interpretation (40 seah
, c. 300 liters; Miqweʽot
1 7) and its height was such that it was impossible to stand (R. Reich, pers. comm.). Therefore, it may have belonged to the group of ritual baths that were situated in open areas (Reich 2013
Areas D, E. Two cave dwellings, used by shepherds from Kafr Manda until the 1980s, were discovered (Figs. 12, 13). Fronting the caves, which face south, were rock-cuttings hewn as part of the preparation of the entrances to the dwellings.
Area F. A poorly preserved simple winepress was exposed; it consisted of a treading floor (L600; 2.0 × 2.6 m; Figs. 14, 15) founded on sloping natural bedrock that had not been smoothed or worked, and a collecting vat (L601; 1.2 × 1.8 m, depth c. 0.3 m). A bedrock partition (width 0.4 m) was preserved to the north, between the treading floor and the collecting vat. Due to the general condition of the installation and the particular point where the treading floor connected to the collecting vat, it was impossible to determine with certainty if the connection between them was based simply on the natural slope of the bedrock or if this was a more complex type of winepress.
Pottery. The ceramic finds found in Area A date to three periods: the Early Bronze Age—a bowl adorned with rope ornamentation (Fig. 16:1), a V-shaped bowl (Fig. 16:2) and a hole-mouth (Fig. 16:3); the Roman period—a casserole (Fig. 17:1), cooking pots (Fig. 17: 2, 3) and jugs (Fig. 17:4, 5); and the Mamluk period—glazed bowls (Fig. 17:6–9).
Other artifacts uncovered during the excavation include a half fals of Maurice dated to 586/7–590/1 CE (IAA 144625), discovered in the entrance to the cave in Area D (L400); glass fragments, including a bottle rim and a slightly thickened strap handle, probably from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, discovered in Area A; and a perforated whetstone of slate found inside the cave in Area D (Fig. 18).
It impossible to distinguish between the archaeological layers following the geomorphological processes that transpired inside the cave in Area A. Most of the pottery assemblage collected in the cave is from the Mamluk period; vessels from the Roman and Early Bronze Age were also found. These assemblages were sealed due to the collapse of the ceiling, and therefore, the activity that took place in the cave should be ascribed to these periods. In the open areas that were excavated, some of them used until the present, no finds were discovered that can indicate when they were in use.