During February 1998 a salvage excavation was conducted in two burial caves close to H. Zakkur (Permit No. A-2815*; map ref. NIG 1980–90/6720–30; OIG 1480–90/1720–30), after ancient remains were exposed and damaged during development work for the expansion of the settlement at Nirit. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by D. Wineberger and Y. Paz, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), M. Shuiskaya-Arnov (pottery drawing), Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), T. Sagiv (photography), E. Tsarfaty (pottery restoration) and R. Badhi, K. Sari, M. Ajami, A. Glick and T. Lahud.
The caves are located c. 500 northwest of H. Zakkur, which was documented during the Emergency Survey of 1968 and where remains, dating from the Iron Age to the Ottoman period, were recorded. The two caves are hewn in the nari bedrock and their entries face west. The excavation of the caves was not completed due to danger of collapse.
Cave 1 (Fig. 1). An arched opening (width 1.55 m, height 1.65 m) led into an entrance chamber (height 2 m, length 1 m), which accessed an elliptical-shaped cave (max. diam. 2 m) via an entrance (height 0.6 m, length 0.52 m). The cave contained remains from the Early Bronze Age IB and the Byzantine period.
The EB IB level consisted of an accumulation (c. 0.2 m thick) on the floor of the cave, mainly in its northwestern part. Fragments of human bones that included the limbs and teeth of two adult individuals of undetermined gender were exposed. One of the individuals was 20–30 years of age. The ceramic finds included a fragment of a hemispherical bowl, red-slipped amphoriskoi with lug handles and the neck of the same amphoriskos type (Fig. 3:1–4).
The Byzantine level comprised a layer of remains (c. 0.5 m thick) that was found above the earlier level and scattered throughout the cave. The ceramic finds included mostly jar fragments (Fig. 3:8–10).
Cave 2 (Fig. 2). The arched entrance to the cave (width 0.75–1.00 m, height 1.25 m) was reached by way of a bedrock-hewn step (depth 0.5 m). The elliptical chamber (max. diam. c. 2.5 m) branched off via a southward passage to another chamber that was blocked with collapse. The disturbed finds in the cave, possibly by grave robbers, included human bones and teeth of two individuals of undetermined gender, one of whom was 30–40 years of age. The ceramic finds consisted of lamps from the Herodian period (Fig. 3:5–7) and jar fragments from the Byzantine period (Fig. –16).