During October–November 2000 a development survey was conducted at Bet Guvrin (G-22/01
*; map ref. NIG 1894–7/6123–6; OIG 1394–7/1123–6). The survey, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by Qibbuz Bet Guvrin, was carried out by Y. Lender and D. Varga.
The survey area (c. 200 dunam) extended across a gentle, elongated hill, c. 300 m southwest of the ancient city of Bet Guvrin (Eleutheropolis), south of Highway 35. The hill’s bedrock is soft kirton that is easily quarried and covered with a layer of hard nari (thickness 1–2 m). Fruit trees are planted on the hill; buildings stood on it prior to 1948, three of them survived to date.
The survey recorded 112 locations with antiquities that included hewn caves and bell-shaped water cisterns, rock cuttings and several installations. Other underground cavities may exist in the area, though they could not be documented because they were either concealed by vegetation or their openings were blocked with alluvium. No building remains, other than terrace walls, were noted in the survey. It seems the hill was used for agriculture, as well as for quarrying caves, cisterns and installations. The ceramic finds were meager and non-diagnostic. The principal surveyed sites are described below.
(1) Map ref. NIG 18970/61265; OIG 13970/11265. A rock-cut cave, oval shaped (3.5 × 5.0; max. height 2.2 m). The entrance (1.0 ×
1.9 m) had doorjambs and an arched lintel built of dressed stones; the preserved iron hinges indicated that the entrance was probably built sometime during the past 150 years. Elongated niches (0.4 × 2.0 m; 0.3 × 1.6 m) were hewn in the cave’s southern and western walls; a hewn partition (height 0.10–0.15 m) separated them from the chamber of the cave. It is unclear what purpose the niches served.
11250. An oval-shaped cave (diam. c. 5 m, height c. 2 m), whose ceiling had partially collapsed. In the modern era, dressed stone doorjambs and a small arch above them were installed in the cave’s entrance (0.8 × 1.7 m).
(2) Map ref. NIG 18975/61263; OIG 13975/11263. Two bell-shaped water cistern complexes (height 5 m), whose ceiling collapsed. Two bell-shaped cisterns were observed in the northern complex. Oval-shaped building remains (diam. c. 4 m) that probably belonged to a lime pit were located on the northern edge of the cisterns.
(3) Map ref. NIG 18962/61250; OIG 13962/
11255. Elliptical openings (diam. c. 3 m) of two bell-shaped cisterns, which were not measured.
(4) Map ref. NIG 18968/61255; OIG 13968/
11244. A square-shaped cave (c. 6 × 6 m, height c. 2 m), whose ceiling was mostly collapsed. The cave was accessed via a hewn corridor (length c. 6 m, width 1.1 m) at the inner end of which was an entrance (1.1 × 1.7 m). Rock-cut steps probably existed in the corridor that descended into the cave.
(5) Map ref. NIG 18970/61244; OIG 13970/
61232; OIG 13966/11232) that probably belonged to a collapsed water cistern (diam. c. 10 m) observed nearby, to the south.
(6) Map ref. NIG 18965/61232; OIG 13965/11232. A hewn conduit (length c. 2 m, width 0.10–0.13 m) that extended from an oval-shaped rock cutting (diam. c. 2.5 m, depth c. 0.5 m). A rock cutting with a straight wall (length c. 3 m) was discerned to its north. South of the rock cuttings was a hewn oval-shaped opening (1.0 × 1.3 m, depth c. 1 m; map ref. NIG 18966/
× 10 m, height c. 1.5 m) with two entrances. One entrance was hewn (c. 0.8 × 1.5 m) and next to it was a hewn cupmark (diam. c. 0.5 m). The other entrance was irregular and may have been breached at a later point in time.
(7) Map ref. NIG 18949/61235; OIG 13949/11235. A rock-cut installation (c. 6 × 6 m) of unclear function. Some 5 m southwest of it a depression in the ground was noted, possibly indicative of an opening to an underground cavern. Five meters south of the depression was an oval-shaped rock cutting (1 × 2 m) that may be an opening to an underground cavern.
(8) Map ref. NIG 18945/61240; OIG 13945/11240. A hewn oval-shaped cave (c. 5
11239. A rock-cut installation, probably a winepress that consisted of a treading surface of unclear dimensions and an adjacent rectangular vat (c. 1 × 2 m). It seems the vat was subsequently used to descend into an underground cavern.
(9) Map ref. NIG 18943/61239; OIG 13943/