In June 2018, an excavation was conducted in a cave at the Kukhim Caves site (Permit No. A-8251; map ref. 2180/7761) in Nahal Namer. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Zefat Academic College, was directed by D. Syon (photography) and Y. Shivtiel (photography), with the assistance of B. Langford (Cave Research Center [CRC] team director, installation of rappelling and climbing equipment), G. Finkielsztejn (amphora and stamp identification), S. ‘Ad (pottery drawing), M. Belmaker (microfaunal samples), and E. Boaretto (Carbon 14 analysis). Further assistance was provided by A. Adar, V. Boslov, D. Beilinson, A. Gayer, E. Gaster (Fig. 3 photograph), A. Getzov, D. Shulman, D. Hirschberg (video photography), Y. Zissu, Z. Zakai, R. Zakai (plan), A. Cohen, Y. Negev, Y. Soboliev (plan), E. Peleg and volunteers from Kibbutz Hanita. Thanks to A. Gabai, the IDF coordinator.
The cave (c. 1 × 4 m; Fig. 2) has two entrances, and its floor is divided into two levels. The floor was found covered with a thin layer of dark soil (thickness 0.15–0.40 m) containing thousands of rodent bones, probably the remains of owl pellets. A wooden plank lay widthwise at the entrance to the cave, across the passage leading to the inner area; its purpose has not yet been clarified, but a Carbon 14 analysis dated it to the second century BCE. The pottery assemblage was found scattered across the floor in the inner part of the cave (c. 1 × 3 m) in no apparent order. The vessels, some of which were whole or intact, were found on their sides or upside down and protruding from the soil (Figs. 3, 4). Fragments of additional vessels were found in the soil after the intact vessels were removed. The assemblage contained three imported amphorae, two of which were intact (Fig. 5). The handles of two of these bear seal stamps. Four whole Phoenician jars and fragments of another three similar jars were also retrieved, as were an entire ‘fish bowl’ (Fig. 6), an intact cooking pot and two intact juglets. A metal-detector scan discovered a perforated Ottoman coin.
The amphorae and jars date from the Hellenistic period (second century BCE), and the entire assemblage should probably be dated to the same period of time.
All the vessels were apparently brought to the cave in a single event, probably in an attempt to seek refuge from some form of hostilities in the mid-second century BCE. Most of them are storage vessels, in which food—oil and grain—and water were brought to the site. The cooking pot and bowl hint that the cave was used as a dwelling, but its dimensions make this explanation dubious. It seems more likely that the cave was only used for storage purposes, and that the adjacent, more spacious caves were used for habitation.
Frankel R. and Getzov N. 1997. Map of Akhziv (1), Map of Hanita (2) (Archaeological Survey of Israel). Jerusalem.
Shivtiel Y. 2019. Cliff Shelters and Hiding Complexes: The Jewish Defense Methods in Galilee During the Roman Period—The Speleological and Archaeological Evidence. Göttingen.