During November 2002 a salvage excavation was conducted along the southern slope of the Refa’im spur, south of the Gillo neighborhood and the Tunnel Road in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-3776*; map ref. NIG 21840/62562; OIG 16840/12562), prior to the construction of the separation fence. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and funded by the Ministry of Defense, was directed by I. Zilberbod, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (photography), I. Pikovski (drawing) and N. Zak (drafting).
Five areas with ancient remains were excavated (Fig. 1): a burial cave (Area A), a winepress (Area B), a cave (Area C), two caves that were not excavated (Area D) and a hewn cavity (Area E).
Area A (Figs. 2, 3)
A burial cave with kokhim was exposed on the eastern slope of the spur. It included a square courtyard (L25; 2.5 × 2.5 m) whose floor had collapsed into a natural void that opened beneath. The cave was accessed by way of a square entrance (L28; 0.5 × 0.6 m), hewn in the middle of the eastern wall, toward the slope. The cave consisted of a trapezoid-shaped central chamber (L1; 2.5–4.0 × 3.0 m), in whose center was a rectangular depression (L2; 1.0 × 1.8 m, depth 0.4 m). Three kokhim of similar dimensions (L3–8, L10–12; average size 0.5 × 2.0 m, height 1 m) were hewn in each of the chamber’s southern, western and northern walls. Another smaller burial kokh (L9; 0.8 × 0.9 m, height 0.6 m) was hewn in the northern corner of the chamber. The cave’s ceiling appears to have been originally arched, judging by its small surviving section. A tiny fragment of hard limestone was found in Kokh 6. It is decorated with three finely carved leafs in relief (Fig. 4:3), which can be reconstructed to form a rosette of 16 petals (diam. 25.5 cm) that probably decorated a stone ossuary. Fragments of two storage jars from the Early Roman period (Fig. 4:1, 2) were found on the floor in the eastern corner of the courtyard.
Area B (Figs. 2, 5)
A winepress was exposed c. 5 m east of the burial cave. It was bedrock-hewn, utilizing natural depressions in the rock and including a shallow oval treading floor (L15; diam. 2 m). A narrow rock-hewn channel (L21; length 0.2 m, depth 0.1 m) in the southern side of the treading floor led to a settling pit, installed in a natural cavity (L17; diam. 0.35 m, depth 0.2 m). The must flowed from a small narrow hewn channel (L22) in the middle of its southern wall to a circular collecting vat that was also set in a natural depression (L18; diam. 1.1 m, depth 0.5 m). No datable artifacts were found. Two rock-hewn rectangular vats (Loci 16, 19; 0.50 × 0.75 m; depth 0.4 m) were discovered to the north and northwest of the treading floor. Vat 16 was connected to the treading floor by way of a narrow bedrock-hewn channel (L20).
Area C (Fig. 6)
An elliptical rock-hewn cave (L23; 3 × 4 m; height 2 m) was uncovered c. 10 m north of Area A. A round aperture (L31; diam. 0.6 m, height 0.75 m) was hewn in the center of its ceiling. A natural karstic depression (depth 0.4 m) was in the floor of the cave. Plaster remains were not traced on the floor and walls of the cave and therefore, it apparently did not serve as a water cistern, but rather and most likely, it was used for storage or as a temporary dwelling. No datable finds were discovered.
A terrace wall, built of a single row of various size fieldstones, was revealed for a distance of 18 m between Areas A and C.
Area E (Fig. 7)
A circular rock-hewn cavity (L30; diam. c. 1 m, height 1 m) was exposed c. 30 m northeast of Area A. It was possibly used to store agricultural produce and was devoid of datable artifacts.