Area A1 (250 sq m; Fig. 3)
Phase 1. In this, the latest burial phase, approximately five secondary burials were uncovered. They had been removed from their original place of interment to make room for new burials. A skull, long bones and ribs were found in the pit of one of the burials (diam. 0.5 m, depth 0.2 m; Fig. 4). The secondary burials were dug into an ancient road from Phase 4 (below) and negated it.
Phase 2. A large rectangular burial (0.8 × 2.0 m, depth c. 1 m; Figs. 3: Section 1–1, 5) built of dressed stone slabs and fieldstones on a northeast–southwest axis was found. The grave was treated with gray-black plaster and its ceiling was probably vaulted. Inside the grave was a single individual placed on its right side, head in the west and face toward the south, in the typical Muslim burial position. The burial severs burials from Phase 3. Two additional burials, similar to this one, were exposed in Area B.
Phase 3. A built rectangular burial was exposed that utilized the wall of the large burial from Phase 2. The burial was covered with stone slabs and contained the remains of five individuals placed in the traditional Muslim funerary position. Five other similar graves were also discovered.
Phase 4. During this phase, the area was first used as a cemetery. A section of a road (width c. 2 m) was exposed in the area’s south. The road, aligned east–west, was built of two rows of stones and a small stone fill, to level the space between the rows. Shallow pit graves (0.5 × 1.8 m, depth 0.2 m) built on a northeast–southwest axis were exposed throughout the excavation area alongside the road. The tombs were enclosed by small stones and covered with thin stone slabs (thickness 0.1 m). The bodies of the deceased lay in the traditional Muslim funerary position. In general, no funerary offerings were discovered in the tombs; however, glass bracelets were found in several of them. In some of the tombs, a coin was placed as an offering near the head of the deceased. Directly above the pit graves were pit graves containing the remains of children. The childrens’ graves were close together, neatly arrange, and caused no damage to the graves beneath them. Some 100 graves, belonging to children and adults, were excavated.
Phase 5. A building (5 × 6 m, inner width 3 m) was exposed whose walls (width 1 m) were constructed of large fieldstones and preserved to a height of one or two courses. The building continued northwest, beyond the limits of the excavation. Its floor did not survive. Soil fill was discovered inside the building, mixed with numerous pottery sherds from the seventh–sixth centuries BCE and the Hellenistic period (third–second centuries BCE), including a jar handle bearing a stamped Rhodian seal impression. The building apparently served as a farmhouse or guard tower.
Area A2 (225 sq m; Fig. 6)
The western part of Area A2 was completely excavated. A trial square was excavated down to bedrock. The rest of the area was only partially excavated.
Phase 1. Fourteen secondary burials were exposed from the latest phase, some of them dug between the graves from Phase 2 (below).
Phase 2. Approximately seventeen rectangular graves consisting of two types were uncovered, built on a northeast–southwest axis into dark gray soil. The walls of the burials of one type were built of ashlars with small stones inserted in between and the walls of the other type were constructed of fieldstones and no small stones were added. The graves were empty and it seems that they were intended for future interments.
Phase 3. Graves dug in red terra rossa soil were discovered. Two burial phases were discerned. The later phase included the burials of children, built on a northeast-southwest axis, and the graves of adults, oriented east–west. About nineteen graves of children were discovered, some unmarked or lacking a covering and others covered with small stone slabs. Three graves of adult also lacked markings or a covering. The bodies of all of the deceased—children and adults—were arranged in the traditional Muslim funerary position. Some 80 cist tombs (0.6 × 2.0 m), 57 of which were excavated, are ascribed to the early phase. The graves were arranged in rows on a northeast–southwest axis. All the graves were covered with stone slabs (0.35 × 0.50 m). Some of the graves had a stone wall built on the northern side. Three types of graves were discerned in this secondary phase: single interments, pairs of interments and a family tomb. The bodies of all of the deceased were laid out in the traditional Muslim funerary position (Fig. 7).
One of the graves in Phase 3 was of exceptional construction and the deceased was placed in an unusual funerary position. The walls of the grave were built of ashlars to a height of three courses and were covered with stone slabs. This grave contained the remains of a female who had been laid out in a supine position, with her face up and hands placed on her chest. This grave is reminiscent of the Christian funerary style and position.
A stone wall built of large fieldstones was exposed on the northwestern boundary of the excavation area. The graves from Phase 3 abutted the wall while those from Phases 1 and 2 were situated above it. This was apparently the southern wall that delimited the road, revealed in Area A, which continued toward the east.
Phase 4. Twenty-two graves consisting of single burials and pairs of burials were discovered. The construction of the graves, their organization and close proximity to one another were similar to those of the 80 graves from Phase 3. The stone slabs covering the tombs from this phase were thicker than those from Phase 3.
Phase 5. Red terra rossa soil was exposed, containing pieces of limestone and several non-diagnostic pottery sherds, apparently erosion that had accumulated above the bedrock.
Area A3 (50 sq m)
Phase 1. This, the latest phase, consisted of one secondary burial that had been dug into Phase 2.
Phase 2. Three rectangular graves built of fieldstones were discovered. No deceased were found in the graves, and it seems that they were intended for future interments, similarly to those from Phase 2 in Area A2.
Phase 3. Two walls (each 0.8 m wide) that formed the corner of a building were discovered. They were constructed of two rows of fieldstones with small stone fill in between. No floor was found in the building and the date and use of the structure cannot be determined.
Phase 4. A section of a road oriented north-northwest–south-southeast (length c. 6 m, width c. 2 m) was discovered, part of the road revealed in Phase 4 in Area A1. The road was delimiting by two walls built of large fieldstones with a leveled fill of small fieldstones in between. More than twenty graves covered with stone slabs (0.5 × 1.8 m; Fig. 8) built on a northeast–southwest axis were adjacent to the road. At a slightly higher level, west of these graves, was a cluster of small graves, possibly of infants. None of the graves from this phase were excavated because the work in the area was suspended.
Phase 5. In the southwestern part of the area were several graves covered with stone slabs similar in construction and orientation to those from Phase 4. They were built on a lower level than those from Phase 4, and it therefore seems that they belong to an earlier phase.
Area B (500 sq m; Fig. 9)
The work in this area was halted and thus the area was not completely excavated.
Phase 1. In this latest phase, some 30 secondary burials were discovered, containing skulls, limb bones, a pelvis and ribs. The burials were found directly above the slab graves from Phase 3, and apparently penetrated from the upper part of the area.
Phase 2. Rectangular graves constructed on a northeast–southwest axis were discovered in the northeastern part of the area. The walls of some of the graves were built of fieldstones and others were constructed of small ashlars. Remains of a deceased individual were found only in one grave, whereas the rest of the graves uncovered were empty, suggesting that they were intended for future burials similar to those from Phase 2 found in Areas A2 and A3.
Phase 3. Most of the graves discovered in the area are ascribed to this phase. Three types were found (Fig. 10), all built on a northeast–southwest axis: slab graves, pit graves and cist tombs. The slab graves consisted of pits dug in the ground (depth 0.2 m) covered with stone slabs. Some 80 slab graves arranged in rows were exposed. About ten pit graves were discovered, dug in the ground and without covering stones. The bodies of the deceased in the slab and pit graves were arranged in the traditional Muslim funerary position. The cist tombs were rectangular; their walls were built of fieldstones to a height of two–three courses and were covered with stone slabs. Numerous architectural elements in secondary use were incorporated in the construction of the graves, including ancient tombstones converted to serve as covering slabs. Judging by the stone dressing and the stonemason’s mark, the graves date to the Crusader period. Although about twenty cist tombs were exposed, only a few were completely excavated. Clusters of bones were discovered between and above the covering slabs. These were probably buried there as secondary burials. The graves were extremely narrow and only allowed for the burial of one individual. The three types of graves may indicate differences in the ethnicity, social class or gender of the deceased.
Phase 4. An aqueduct (expose length 16 m; Fig. 11) built in a general north–south direction was revealed in the western part of the area; there was a slight bend in the section that was exposed. The northern part of the aqueduct was constructed of two stone walls, plastered on the inside, while the southern part was rock-hewn and plastered. Two phases were discerned. In the early phase, the aqueduct was treated with plaster mixed with many small sherds, and in the later phase, its level was raised 0.3 m by adding a small stone fill, and it was filled with gray plaster mixed with numerous dense remains of charcoal. Similar plaster was discovered in the large grave in Phase 2 in Area A1 and in an ashlar-built grave in Phase 2 in Area A2. Apparently, the aqueduct was built in the Late Roman–Byzantine periods, when the Mamilla Pool was constructed, and changes were made to it at the beginning of the Early Islamic period. The aqueduct was probably part of the upper aqueduct that conveyed water from Solomon’s Pools near the village of Al-Khadar. The graves from Phase 3 severed the aqueduct, leading to the cessation of its use.
Area C (250 sq m; Fig. 12)
The work in the area was halted and therefore the excavation there was not finished.
Phase 1. In this, the latest phase, approximately 40 secondary burials were uncovered, some delineated with small fieldstones. The burials included the bones of a single interment and all of the major skeletal parts. Some of the burials penetrated Phase 2 or even Phase 3 of the burial ground.
Phase 2. Ashlar-built graves were found in the center and south of the area. The tombs were damaged during the construction of the parking lot and only their base survived. A large burial structure in which two construction phases were discerned was exposed in the southeastern part of the area; no burials were discovered in it. Rectangular and oval graves whose walls were built of fieldstones were found in the west of the area. No deceased were discovered in these graves and it seems that they were intended for future use.
Phase 3. Adjacent graves whose walls were constructed of upright stones were found in the western part of the area. Between and above the walls of the graves was a tamped fill consisting of small stones placed upright, possibly a vaulted ceiling that had collapsed. These graves were probably similar to the large grave from Phase 2 in Area A1.
A concentration of fourteen cist tombs (Fig. 13) built on a northeast–southwest axis was uncovered in the southeast of the area. The walls of the graves were built to a height of two–three courses of fieldstones and bonded with lime-based mortar and ash; some of the graves were treated on the inside with plaster. The graves were covered with roofing slabs, most of them tombstones from earlier graves, in secondary use. The northern part of each grave was wide and the southern part was narrow, thereby accommodating a supine burial position. The graves contained a single interment, with the exception of one grave that contained four individuals—a man, a woman, a child and an infant.
Slab graves aligned northeast–southwest were discovered in the western part of the area. They comprised a pit dug in the ground and stone slabs that covered the deceased, who were placed in the tombs in the traditional Muslim funerary position. Three types of childrens’ graves were discovered above these graves: an excavated pit without a covering, a burial next to the southern side of a stone wall and a burial covered with stone slabs. The childrens’ graves did not damage the graves beneath them.
Phase 4. This layer was excavated only in the western part of the area. Three tombs built in hard tamped soil were discovered that included large stone slabs, without walls.
Area D (375 sq m)
The work in the area was halted and therefore the strata were not completely excavated. Four burial phases were discovered, including graves built of ashlars, rectangular and oval graves constructed of fieldstones that were found empty, secondary burials and slab graves.
The establishment of the cemetery resulted in the cancelation of the late Iron Age building and the aqueduct from the Roman–Byzantine period. Five main burial phases and a road were discovered in the cemetery. In Phase 1, the latest phase of the cemetery, were secondary burials of the major skeletal parts in small shallow pits. In Phase 2, mainly empty built graves were found, perhaps intended for future burials. The Phase 3 graves were built and covered with stone slabs; secondary use of architectural elements and ancient tombstones in these graves was observed. Also discovered in this phase was a variety of grave types. In Phase 4, slab graves consisting of a shallow pit and covering stones placed above the deceased were found. Childrens’ graves were occasionally discovered above them. In Phase 5, the earliest phase, were graves similar to those found in Phase 4 but the stone slabs used as a covering were thicker than those of the earlier phase. The graves contained several funerary offerings, mainly fragments of glass bracelets. In some of the tombs, coins were found near the heads of the deceased, indicating pagan mortuary customs.
Some 20 C14 analyses were made of the deceased from several of the burial phases. The results show that activity in the cemetery began in the eleventh century CE and peaked in the twelfth–fifteenth centuries CE. The dates that appear on the gravestones are from the thirteenth–eighteenth centuries CE. Only several burials from the Ottoman period were preserved, because the graves from this period had been removed during the construction of the parking lot.
The cemetery was in use for a long time and its central planning is clearly evident. While the rows of graves in it are neatly arranged and close together, the graves did not damage each other. The planning is also apparent in the construction of the graves intended for future burials. With the exception of one woman, all of the deceased were placed in the traditional Muslim funerary position. The variety of burial types reflects the diversity of the society. The planning and order that were maintained in the cemetery show the importance and significance of burial in Muslim society throughout the ages.