During August 1999, an excavation was conducted in a burial complex from the Roman period in ‘Ar‘ara (Permit No. A-3103*; map ref. NIG 208214/714775, OIG 158214/214775), in the wake of damage caused by a pit for an electric pole. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by A. Massarwa, with the assistance of V. Pirsky (surveying), E. Belashov (drafting), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), A. Pikovski (drawing of glass vessels), E. Altmark (metallurgical laboratory), Y. Nagar (anthropology), D.T. Ariel (numismatics) and M. Shuiskaya-Arnov (pottery drawing).
The burial complex (Fig. 1) was hewn in chalk bedrock on the northwestern slope of the village hill. Two steps descended into a central chamber (L100, 2.5 × 3.0 m; Fig. 2) from the cave’s entrance, which was on the northern side. Four burial loculi were hewn in the chamber: two in the southern wall (L104, 0.7 × 1.9 m; L105, 0.6 × 1.9 m), the third in the western wall (L103, 0.7× 1.8 m) and the fourth, in the northwestern wall (L102), was not entirely excavated due to the possible collapse of its ceiling. Remains of wax candles in the cave indicated it was plundered in recent times.
Scant ceramic finds, glass vessels, human bones, a basalt bowl, three coins and metal artifacts were discovered in the cave. The pottery included an intact clay lamp (Fig. 3), four fragments of clay lamps and fragments of jars and jugs that dated to the Late Roman period, as well as fragments of a jar from the Mamluk period. It is noteworthy that no bases of pottery vessels were found. The anthropological analysis ascribed the human bones to at least nine individuals of both genders, spanning a broad range of ages. The basalt bowl has a triple-legged pedestal (Fig. 4). The coins included a bronze imperial coin dating to the last quarter of the third century CE (IAA No. 95926) and two illegible coins. The metal artifacts were composed of a ring (Fig. 5), a nail, a teaspoon, an earring (Fig. 6), the base of a vessel and spatulae (Fig. 7).
The finds in the cave show it was used during the Roman period. The meager ceramic finds from the Mamluk period indicate that the cave was either reused or plundered at that time.
The Glass Finds
Eight glass vessels, a bracelet and sixty beads were recovered from the burial cave. The glass finds were scattered all over the cave and they present a long period of use from the first until the fourth centuries CE.
Fig. 8:1 is a bowl of light green glass. The rim is hollow and folded-out and the base is a tooled out, tubular ring base. The shape of the bowl, as well as its fabric, is attributed to the end of the first and beginning of the second centuries CE. Bowls of this type continued to the fourth century CE.
Fig. 8:2 is a bottle of very pale green, almost colorless. The rim is infolded with a short neck that is constricted at the joint to a pear-shaped body. Unlike similar bottles of this type that are mainly dated to the first–second centuries CE, the applied trail base of our bottle is rare, yet it is nonetheless dated to the same period.
Fig. 8:3, 4 are bottles of colorless glass, probably of the candlestick type that is dated from the end of the first to the third centuries CE.
Fig. 8:5 is a small bottle of bluish green glass, characterized by asymmetrical body and uneven in-folded rim. It was carelessly made and is probably a product of local industry, used also as burial offerings.
Fig. 8:6 are fragments of probably a lentoid flask, mold blown with a floral pattern. This type of flask belongs to a group of glass vessels known as ‘Sidonian’, dated to the first century CE. The fragments, as well as comparative vases in various collections, enable us to reconstruct the complete shape and decoration. A similar flask in the Eretz-Israel Museum (Israeli Y. 1964. Sidonian Mold-Blown Glass Vessels in the Museum Haaretz. Journal of Glass Studies 6:41, Fig. 16) has a pattern of a four-petaled flower, each having a raised middle rib. The center of the flower has a raised dot within a circle. The area between the petals is filled with leaves and tendrils that decorate the sides of the vase. The vase’s narrow side is adorned with vertical circles. It was made of uneven purplish green glass that has green, blue and colorless veins.
Fig. 8:7 is a rim fragment of a jar, made of colorless glass. Based on its fabric and color, the jar is attributed to the early period.
Fig. 8:8 is a cosmetic tube of greenish blue glass, decorated with glass trails drawn from the body up toward the rim, like handles. It is dated to the Late Roman period, third and fourth centuries CE.
Fig. 8:9 is a bracelet of a very simple type with ‘D’ section, made of dark glass and also dating to the Late Roman period.
The sixty beads from the excavation consist of various types, including long and short, with hexagonal, pentagonal or square section, made of green or blue glass; long and short cylindrical beads of the same colors (Fig. 8:10, 11a–g, 12); circular beads, including gold-glass beads, made of two thin glass layers with a thin gold leaf between them (Fig. 8:11f); drawn gold-glass beads still connected to each other (Fig. 8:14); large biconical turquoise bead (Fig. 8:11h), small biconical beads (Fig. 8:13); colorless glass drop-shaped bead and a unique glazed bead (Fig. 8:15), made of faience or frit with a horizontal perforation. In addition, a single rounded carnelian bead with a biconical perforation was retrieved.
The glass finds from this burial cave mainly represent local production, i.e., Fig. 8:3–5, 8, alongside the decorated mold-blown vessel (Fig. 8:6), which was probably manufactured in a central glass workshop, possibly in the region of Sidon.