A trial excavation was conducted during October 2000 and two seasons of excavation were carried out during January and May 2001 at Mazor (West), c. 180 m west of the mausoleum and east of the hill where a Muslim cemetery is located (Permit Nos. A-3321, A-3364; map ref. NIG 194866/661586; OIG 144866/161586), in the wake of work on the Cross Israel Highway. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by I. Milevski, with the assistance of I. Rahamim, E. Lavi and R. Abu-Halaf (administration), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), D. Sklar and Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), R. Lupu (pottery reading) and C. Hersch (pottery drawing). Laborers of Project 500, from Rahat and Umm el-Fahm, participated in the excavation.
Following the damage caused to the cemetery on the hill by mechanical equipment, as well as the trial excavation and the finds recovered from surface, three areas were opened.
Four squares (4 × 4 m) were opened 10 m west of the cemetery hill; three were partially excavated. A thin tamped layer of light brown soil that included potsherds from the Chalcolithic period and a disarrayed concentration of small and medium-sized stones were exposed on the chalk bedrock.
A trial excavation (1.5 × 3.3 m) at the end of the cemetery hill’s slope, c. 30 m northwest of Area A, revealed numerous dark brown jar sherds and fragments of ossuaries from the Chalcolithic period. During the earthmoving work, four caves (B1–B4) that seemed to have been damaged by the heavy equipment were exposed.
Cave B1 was a shaft (1.5 × 2.0 m, depth 0.75 m) covered with dark brown alluvium and devoid of any archaeological finds. Potsherds dating to the Chalcolithic period were found on surface around the shaft.
Cave B2 (5 × 9 m, depth c. 2.5 m; Fig. 1), c. 3 m north of Cave B1, comprised several phases of the Chalcolithic period and several later phases with finds from Early Bronze Age I were discovered. The ancient finds on bedrock included fragments of ossuaries and small V-shaped bowls. Overlaying them was a phase of several floor levels that consisted of crushed chalk and layers of soil. The cave was probably used as a dwelling in this phase. The later phases indicate that the cave was used for burial. The finds included many large V-shaped bowls, deep bowls or kraters with vestigial ledge handles (Fig. 2), burial jars from the Chalcolithic period and human bones that were scattered over the cave, as well as a number of animal bones, beads, bone tools, flint, stone implements and the remains of carbonized wood. It appears that some of the interments took place in pits that severed the earlier floor.
Several Canaanean sickle blades and a fragment of a gray-burnished bowl, dating to Early Bronze Age I, attest to the use of the cave at this period.
Cave B3, c. 3 m north of Cave B2, was a shaft covered with small stones (1.0 × 1.5 m, depth c. 1 m) that contained fragments of jars from the Chalcolithic period. The shaft, connected to Cave B2 in the south, was probably part of a larger cave that postdated Cave B2.
Cave B4 (2.5 × 5.0 m, depth c. 1.7 m; Fig. 3), located c. 30 m south of Cave B2, contained some fifty intact and restorable pottery vessels (Fig. 4), including jars, bowls, jugs and juglets, one of which originated in Cyprus. Other finds included metal tools, flint items, as well as human and animal bones. An examination of the human bones revealed five individuals. The cave was used for interment during Middle Bronze Age II. Next to the cave and below it were several bell-shaped pits that contained fragments of Chalcolithic pottery. These probably belonged to the Chalcolithic-period occupation phase that was also detected in Caves B2 and B3.
A rectangular area (2 × 4 m), some 15 m east of Area B. A dark brown earth layer mixed with small stones and gravel was excavated. It contained fragments of pottery vessels and ossuaries from the Chalcolithic period, as well as potsherds from the Roman–Byzantine periods.