Area A. Fifteen rock-cut tomb shafts (width 1.3–1.5 m, depth 1.2–1.5 m) and five deep rock-cut basins were excavated down to their bottom. Many of them had one or two, and in one case a maximum of five, small rock-hewn steps, usually in the corner(s) of the shaft, to facilitate access. Entrances at the bottom of the shafts led into underground burial chambers: seven shafts had only one entrance (Fig. 2), five shafts had two entrances (Fig. 3) and two shafts had three entrances (Fig. 4). The entrances were extremely small (width c. 0.35 m, height 0.5 m), especially as the adjoining burial chamber had to be hewn out via these small entrances, and a corpse and accompanying funerary gifts had to be passed through them for final deposition in the chamber. The entrance facades were usually plain, but sometimes their outlines were offset from the shaft’s smooth wall to create the impression of a doorframe with door jambs and a lintel (Figs. 2, 5). Eight of the entrances were found blocked with their original, large round or square sealing stone slab (Figs. 3, 6). Two of these entrances didn’t lead to a burial chamber but rather to a short, dead-end passage; one (L149) ended after c. 0.3 m, and the other (L144) after c. 0.8 m, and it thus seems that their quarrying was never completed.
Area B. Six rock-hewn tomb shafts and a single deep rock-cut basin were excavated down to their bottom. As in Area A, the number of entrances leading to underground burial chambers at the bottom of the shafts varied from one to three.
To date, 21 rock-cut tomb shafts and their entrances, leading into what seem to be 33 (largely unexplored) subterranean burial chambers have been exposed in Areas A and B, in addition to the three tomb shafts with five burial chambers excavated in Area C. Only a handful of these burial chambers were fully excavated; most of the tombs remain unexcavated due to lack of time and resources and to the interference of representatives of the ultra-Orthodox burial society Atra Kadisha. Areas A and B yielded six rock-cut basins (Fig. 7), and the bedrock around the shafts revealed numerous chisel marks (Fig. 8). It is obvious that these remains are but a segment of a large burial ground, whose boundaries are still unknown and await further exploration. Traces of additional tomb shafts were observed in the bedrock in the area surrounding the site. Several of the excavated tomb shafts are near small rock outcrops, which may have been adapted to function as tomb markers; small rock outcrops that are similar in shape are visible throughout the area surrounding the site, and most likely indicate the presence of additional tomb shafts.
The burial ground was systematically and thoroughly robbed in antiquity. This observation is substantiated by the intentionally broken-through bedrock ceiling of five burial chambers (three in Area A, and one in each of Areas B and C). Another indication is that hardly any datable pottery was retrieved, even though the fills in the chambers were carefully excavated and sieved through 1 × 1 cm screens. Nevertheless, the sparse finds are sufficient to date this burial ground to the Intermediate Bronze Age horizon (2400–2000 BCE). These finds include an almost complete cooking pot with an applied rope decoration, which was found in Passage 144, a base fragment of a pottery jar found in Burial Chamber 142, at the bottom of Shaft 125 (Figs. 2, 9), as well as three bronze items—a rivet, a pin/needle and a fragment of a folded sheet held together by another rivet—also from Burial Chamber 142. The human remains were also scant: Burial Chamber 142 yielded several disturbed human bones of a single adult individual (sex unknown) alongside some animal bones, and a skull fragment of another adult individual was found in the fill of Shaft 127.
Removal of the in situ sealing stones from five of the burial-chamber entrances in Area A revealed that the chambers were filled with red, very compact soil that must have washed in and accumulated over millennia, despite the presence of the blocking stones. Burial Chamber 142, whose entrance was also blocked, and Shaft 125 which led down to it were only partly filled with soil deposits. Nevertheless, as the bedrock ceiling of Chamber 142 was not broken through, it seems that this chamber was accessed by the ancient robbers via the entrance at the bottom of the Shaft 125, and the shaft was back-filled once the grave robbers left the tomb; if so, it seems that the sealing stone was put back in place once the robbery was completed.
Four of the shafts (L112, L113, L301, L309) were twice as deep on average than the others in this burial ground. The entrances at the bottom of these shafts leading into the burial chambers as well as the chambers themselves were larger and higher (Fig. 10) than the burial chambers associated with the other shafts. All four were empty and devoid of even the slightest soil accumulation. A plastic toy gun, a plastic jerrycan and other finds reveal that these subterranean cavities were used as shelters by shepherds in the twentieth century, perhaps until the present. One of these burial chambers had a rock-hewn pillar that supported the ceiling (Fig. 11). Aside from their depth, these four shafts were very similar to the others in both diameter and style, including the presence of small steps. Thus, they were presumably also hewn during the Intermediate Bronze Age, except that their large chambers may have served for multiple burials, in contrast to the smaller chambers, which were probably used for single burials only.
The six deep basins discovered near the shafts could be related to the mortuary rituals practiced at the site. These are not unfinished shafts, as they are wider than the shafts and taper toward the bottom.
The burial ground appears to have been robbed not long after the site went out of use, as the robbers who broke through the bedrock ceiling above the burial chambers must have been familiar with the grounds. The several shafts and passages left unfinished may indicate this as well. The sparse datable material unambiguously places this burial site within the Intermediate Bronze Age horizon (c. 2400–2000 BCE). Apart from the Intermediate Bronze Age settlement remains excavated in the past by K. Covello-Paran at Kefar Veradim (Permit No. A-6633), situated but a few kilometers away from the burial ground excavated here, no contemporaneous settlement remains have been identified near the burial ground, from which this population might have derived originally. A spatial analysis of the distribution of the tombs may reveal how the bedrock was manipulated to form distinct burial plots within the larger burial ground and will hopefully reveal something about the social structure of this mortuary population.