During October 2002 a salvage excavation was conducted in a burial cave at Na
hal Refa’im (A-3707; map ref. NIG 21635/62785; OIG 16635/12785) that was damaged when work on the Tel Aviv–Jerusalem railroad track was undertaken. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by S. Weksler-Bdolah and L. Gershuny (pottery and small finds), with the assistance of T. Kornfeld (surveying and drafting), Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), R. Abu Khalaf (administration), and also K. Ben-Or, A. Eirikh-Rose, D. Dag, T. Da‘adlah, Z. Adawy, G. Solimany, Z. Greenhut and J. Seligman.
The burial cave was hewn into the northern bank of Nah
al Refa’im, c.
20 m above the wadi bed. Two phases of use were discerned in the cave. The early phase dated to the Intermediate Bronze Age and the late phase to Middle Bronze Age II. It seems that the burials in the cave were associated with settlements of these periods, whose remains had previously been excavated nearby (ESI
The Intermediate Bronze Age
. The cave, which is roughly oval in shape (max. diam. c.
4 m), was hewn in the marl bedrock of the Moz
a formation. The entrance shaft collapsed in the past and was blocked, but its upper opening was still discernable. A roll stone of hard dolomite was discovered in the entrance to the cave. A layer of marl (average thickness 0.15 m), devoid of finds, overlaid the cave’s floor and was sealed with a beaten marl floor. On the floor were three four-spouted type lamps, one intact and two broken, as well as several fragments of other pottery vessels from the Intermediate Bronze Age. Animal bones, mainly sheep and goat, were also retrieved from the cave.
An oval pit (max. dimensions 1.1 × 1.8 m) was dug into the floor, close to the entrance of the cave. Six identical jars from the Intermediate Bronze Age were found inside the pit. The jars were arranged very close to each other; two of them were intact––one stood on its base and the other was positioned on its neck––and four were broken (Fig. 1). Fragments of another jar were located nearby; the jars were empty. In addition to the pottery jars, several fragments of human bones that belonged to a single individual, and animal bones, mainly sheep and goat, were recovered from the pit. The pit was covered with terra rosa soil and was sealed up with medium and large stones. The pit seems to have been used for the secondary burial of a single individual, to whom the funerary offerings in the pit belonged. Similar phenomena are known from other tombs of the Intermediate Bronze Age, e.g., Tomb 12 at Efrata, which is delineated by a row of stones (IAA Reports 12:24). A fill, consisting of clean marl and bedrock blocks that collapsed from the cave’s ceiling, sealed up the finds of the Intermediate Bronze Age.
The Middle Bronze Age II.
The center of the cave was cleaned in this period and the large stone blocks were pushed aside. Burial remains from this period, including human bones, animal bones and numerous vessels were uncovered in the middle and along the edges of the cavern, attesting to the continuous and protracted use of the cave. An oval surface of medium-sized stones (1.2 × 1.8 m), whose upper side was flat, was in the center of the cave. Ten vessels, mainly piriform juglets and carinated and globular bowls, together with a few human and animal bones between and above the stones were exposed. Similar stone surfaces were found in the Middle Bronze Age burial caves at Efrata (Caves 5, 7, 11; IAA Reports
12:49, 54, 67); it is usually assumed that they served as a platform for the bones of the deceased. Surrounding the stone surface were numerous fragments of human bones that belonged to c.
12 individuals and many animal bones, mainly sheep and goat, as well as intact and broken pottery vessels, including piriform juglets, a Tell el-Yahudiyah juglet, carinated and globular bowls, a Canaanite scarab, a bronze toggle pin, a grinding stone and a limestone pommel.
Along the margins of the cave, the bones of seven individuals and animal bones, mainly sheep and goat were unearthed, together with many intact and broken pottery vessels, among them rare vessels such as an intact black-burnished bull-shaped rhyton with a strainer on its back (body diam. 5.7–6.2 cm, length 37.2 cm; Fig. 2), a Tell el-Yahudiyah type juglet with an unusual decoration and a tubular flask, as well as jars, jugs, open, carinated and globular bowls, and piriform juglets. The metal artifacts in the cave included two bronze daggers, three toggle pins and a bronze ring and earring.