During November 1995 a salvage excavation was conducted at the Mishmarot site, between the Nahal Barkan and Nahal Mishmarot channels, c. 300 m northeast of the latter and c. 150 m southwest of the Al-Jamma site (50 m above sea level; Permit No. A-2393*; map ref. NIG 19970–20065/71070–140; OIG 14970–15065/21070–140), in the wake of damage caused by mechanical equipment. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by M. Masarwa, with the assistance of R. Lucia (area supervision, surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv and C. Amit (photography), V. Eshed and Y. Nagar (anthropology), E. Altmark (metallurgical laboratory), O. Shorr (pottery restoration), Y. Gorin-Rosen and N. Katsnelson (glass) and M. Miles (glass drawing).
Prior to the excavation, M. Masarwa and D. Lipkonsky conducted a survey at the site, which thereafter was declared an antiquities site. The survey revealed masonry stones and potsherds dating from the Hellenistic until the late Islamic periods.
Seven tombs, five complete (T1–T5) and two severely damaged (T6, T7), were exposed in the excavation area (10 × 10 m; Fig. 1). The tombs, scattered throughout the area, were dug in light colored hamra soil and covered with a layer of tamped dark brown hamra; their outline was rectangular (average dimensions 1.4 × 2.7 m). The tombs, built of well-dressed ashlar stones, were sealed with similar stones set in place alongside each other. Three of the five excavated tombs contained limestone sarcophagi and artifacts (T1–T3) and the other two were devoid of finds (T4, T5).
Tomb T1. The tomb (1.4 × 2.7 m), located in the northern part of the area and oriented east–west (Fig. 2), was built of three ashlar-stone courses (0.35 × 0.60 m), the upper course serving as a cover (0.50 × 1.19 m; Figs. 3, 4) that sealed the grave. The long sides of the limestone sarcophagus (0.6 × 2.2 m, height 0.63 m, wall thickness 7 cm, thickness of lid 8 cm) inside the tomb were decorated with two carefully dressed, adjacent square panels. The gabled sarcophagus lid was adorned with rounded acroteria in its corners (Fig. 5). Three skeletons were laid to rest below the hamra soil that filled the sarcophagus; one was fully articulated, the head in the east, face tilted north and legs extending straight. The two others consisted of bones that had been collected in secondary reposition (V. Eshed and Y. Nagar, below). A complete glass vessel was found between the skeletons (Fig. 14:13).
Tomb T2. The tomb (1.3 × 2.5 m), located in the western part of the area and oriented northwest–southeast, was built of three ashlar-stone courses (0.35 × 0.60 m) and sealed with a fourth course (0.55 × 1.10 m; Fig. 6). A stone sarcophagus (0.6 × 2.2 m, height 0.64 m, wall thickness 7 cm, thickness of lid 8 cm; Fig. 7), damaged on its northeastern side during the earthmoving work that was undertaken prior to the excavation, was found in the tomb. The walls of the sarcophagus were decorated with two delicately dressed, square panels, adjacent to each other. Its gabled lid was adorned with rounded acroteria in the corners (see Figs. 6, 7). Three skeletons were lying in the sarcophagus below a layer of hamra soil; one was articulated, its head in the southeast and the face tilted to the east and the bones of the other two individuals were gathered in secondary reposition.
Tomb T3. The tomb (1.3 × 2.5 m), located in the eastern part of the area and oriented northwest–southeast, was built of three ashlar-stone courses (0.52 × 0.60 m) and sealed with a fourth course (Fig. 8). A stone sarcophagus (0.6 × 2.2 m; height 0.65 m, wall thickness 7 cm, thickness of lid 8 cm; Fig. 9), whose walls were decorated with two adjacent square panels, delicately dressed, was inside the tomb. It contained hamra and fragments of postcranial bones and skulls. The gabled sarcophagus lid has rounded acroteria in its corners (Fig. 10).
Tomb T4. The tomb (1.1 × 2.1 m), located in the western part of the area and oriented east–west, was built of three ashlar courses (0.35 × 0.60 m) and sealed with a fourth course that included six ashlar stones (average dimensions 0.25 × 0.55 m; Fig. 11). The tomb contained a layer of hamra (0.5 m deep) that was devoid of artifacts.
Tomb T5. The tomb, in the southeastern corner of the area, was oriented northwest–southeast. It was relatively smaller than the other tombs (0.80 × 1.65 m), built of two ashlar-stone courses (0.15 × 0.50 m) and sealed with four ashlar stones (0.30 × 0.55 m, Fig. 12). Apart from a hamra layer (0.35 m deep), nothing else was found in the tomb.
Vered Eshed and Yossi Nagar
The human bones inside the sarcophagi that dated to the Roman period were in a poor state of preservation, which precluded gaining maximum information from the osteological finds. The bones, examined in the field, were thereafter turned over to a representative of the Ministry of Religious Affairs for reburial.
Tomb T1, L508. The finds included fragments of a cranium dome and postcranial bones that are representative of at least three individuals: (1) an individual over 40 years of age, of uncertain gender, (2) a male individual over 30 years of age and (3) a female individual over 40 years of age. At least one of the deceased was in an anatomically articulated position, which indicates primary burial. The bones of the other two individuals were found scattered in the sarcophagus.
Tomb T2, L512. The finds included fragments of a cranium dome and postcranial bones that are representative of at least three individuals: (1) a female 30–40 years of age, (2) a female over 40 years of age and (3) an adult individual of undetermined age and gender. At least one of the deceased was in an anatomically articulated position, which indicates primary burial; the bones of the other two individuals were found scattered in the sarcophagus.
Tomb T3, L517. The finds included fragments of a cranium dome and postcranial bones that are representative of at least two individuals: (1) a female 30–40 years of age and (2) an individual over 40 years of age whose gender could not be determined. At least one of the deceased was found in an anatomically articulated position, indicating primary burial, while the bones of the other individual were scattered in the sarcopha
The Glass Artifacts
Twenty-nine glass vessels, most of them in soil removed by the bulldozer that damaged the sarcophagi, were found (Fig. 13); a single bottle was inside a sarcophagus (Fig. 14:13).
The vessels belong to the candlestick-like bottle group and consist of several sub-types. Most of them were found intact; some were slightly damaged and three were restored (Fig. 15).
The dominant shade of glass ranges from pale green to pale blue or translucent with slight hue variations. The prevailing form of deposits on the vessels was a partial layer of black-silverish weathering that on most vessels was covered with lime deposits; some vessels have pitted weathering. The vessels are usually medium or small in size (8.0–11.3 cm high) and have an everted rim that is frequently folded-in irregularly (Fig. 14:1–6) or a rounded rim (Fig. 14:7–9). The long cylindrical neck is often unbalanced or deformed and the body is globular (Fig. 14:1) or triangular (Fig. 14:2–11). Many of the bases are concave and some are flat (Fig. 14:2, 5, 6). The vessels are mostly constricted at the base of the neck. The bottle in Fig. 14:11 has a deformed rim that is not worked, probably due to a manufacturing error. The bottles in Fig. 14:12, 13 are larger than average. The bottle in Fig. 14:12 is tall (19.1 cm high) and has a flaring rim that is folded inward in the shape of a ledge. Its body is bell-shaped with a thickened wall, particularly near the base, which is concave and irregular. Signs of polishing on the exterior walls of the two bottles form a kind of ridge above the base and two grooves or horizontal depressions on the upper part of the body (3.0 and 4.5 cm above base). The bottle in Fig 14:13 (16.01 cm high) has a long cylindrical neck and a short squat body.
The vessels in Fig. 16:1, 2 are candlestick-like and fashioned as bottles. They are short and wide, having a low body that is either triangular or squat, a concave base, a broad cylindrical neck and an everted rim that is folded inward.
The vessels in Fig. 14:1–8 are of a better quality than those in Fig. 14:9–12, yet no chronological difference exists between them. The vessels are well-known and very common in burial contexts of the Roman period (the latter part of the first century CE until the beginning of the third century CE) in the Land of Israel. Similar vessels were discovered at numerous sites, e.g., the burial cave at Akeldama (IAA Reports 1:96–98, Fig. 5.3–5.5).
The candlestick-like bottles with a broad body and neck are known in Egypt, where they are characterized by thick walls and dark green or olive green hues. Bottles similar to those from Mishmarot occur in Syria and Jordan.
The assemblage contains no vessels that predate, with certainty, the first century CE, as well as no vessels that are later than the third century CE. Hence, it seems reasonable to date the assemblage to the second century CE.
The Metal Artifacts
A poorly preserved square mirror of tin bronze (0.15 × 0.15 m; Fig. 17) was recovered from the debris heap that the mechanical equipment removed. It was meant to be hung on a wall based on the two slots in its upper sides. Mirrors of this type, usually enclosed within a wooden frame, were found at Amathous in Cyprus and are ascribed to the Roman period (L. Nicolaou, Excavations at the Eastern Necropolis of Amathous. RDAC 1985:257–261).
The tombs at Mishmarot were built on a flat area and covered with a layer of tamped earth that created an artificial hill. Since only part of the cemetery was excavated, its size remains unknown. The tombs were reused for secondary burials of gathered bones that occurred alongside primary burials, a phenomenon that appears to have been widespread in the Land of Israel during the Roman period. Probes conducted near the site revealed other tombs that were scattered to the south and east; in other words, the cemetery’s area is larger than the part excavated. The cemetery can be ascribed to several sites in its environs, such as Horbat Bina, Kefar Glickson and Horbat Bavlon, as well as the Mishmarot site (al-Jama), 150 m from the cemetery. It is assumed that the ashlar stones of the tombs originated in the region of Kefar Glickson, 1.5 km northeast of the site, where suitable bedrock is located. Similar tombs in the Land of Israel are known at various sites attributed to the Roman period, e.g., Gesher Ha-Ziv (‘Atiqot XXV:77–93), Or ‘Akiva (ESI 20:37*), 7 km west of the excavation and Akeldama (IAA Reports 1).