During August 2005, a salvage excavation was conducted in a burial cave of the Intermediate Bronze Age at the site of Esh-Sheikh Dawud (Permit No. A-4577*; map ref. NIG 2143/7667; OIG 1643/2667), in the wake of damage to the cave caused while installing a road infrastructure. The information on the discovery of the cave, as well as the pottery vessels recovered from it, were handed over to the Antiquities Authority by K. Ngib Halabi and A. Zagir. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by N. Getzov, with the assistance of Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), Y. Lerer (antiquities inspection) and H. Tahan (pottery drawing).
Esh-Sheikh Dawud is an ancient site atop a chalk hill covered with a nari layer, in the northern part of the Sheikh Danon village, along the eastern fringes of the ‘Akko Valley. Potsherds dating to the Byzantine and Ottoman periods were collected at the site in the survey of the Western Galilee.
The cave, which was hewn in the northern slope of the site, had a shaft (L2; Fig. 1) that led to two burial chambers arranged in a row. Only the southern side of the shaft had remained after it was damaged by the bulldozer (Fig. 2). The opening that led from the bottom of the shaft to the cave was sealed with a flat, hard limestone block.
The chambers were meticulously hewn and a scale-like pattern from the adze blade that was used in quarrying (width c. 4 cm) was discerned on the walls.
The First Burial Chamber (L1; Fig. 3) was trapezoidal; in its southern wall, opposite the entrance, was a narrow opening to the second burial chamber and in its western wall, to the right of the opening, was a small hewn niche (L4; Fig. 4) that may indicate the beginning of quarrying another burial chamber, which was never completed. The floor was covered with a layer of soil (thickness 0.5 m), which contained pottery vessels, including a bowl (Fig. 5:1) and a jug (Fig. 5:4), as well as the bones of two individuals: an adolescent boy or girl and a young man. The tibia of the man was deformed as a result of a fracture or illness.
The Second Burial Chamber (L3), which was not excavated, had a rectangular shape. Its floor, c. 0.4 m higher than that of the first chamber, was covered with a soil accumulation (thickness c. 0.2 m).
Prior to the excavation, four other pottery vessels were retrieved from the cave, including two cooking pots (Fig. 5:2, 3) and two jugs (Fig. 5:5, 6) whose original location inside the cave is unknown.
The bowl from the first chamber was red slipped and similar to the unslipped bowls that came from the Intermediate Bronze Age strata at Horbat ‘Uza. The cooking pots belonged to the type common at most of the contemporary sites in the northern part of the country and the jugs, which have a handle with a round cross-section, are of a type that is unique to the northern part of the Western Galilee, resembling the juglets from Rosh Ha-Niqra (Eretz Israel 11: 288), Hanita (Qadmoniot HaGalil HaMa’aravi:64) and Kabri (‘Atiqot 27:4*).
A survey of the slope where the cave was found revealed other caves, some of which may have been used for burial during this period. On the premises of the Western Galilee High School, c. 3 km north of Sheikh Danon, tombs that dated to the Intermediate Bronze Age (‘Atiqot 27:1*–18*) were excavated. No settlement remains from this period were discovered in the area of Esh-Sheikh Dawad and Kabri; however, an examination of a map with the remains from this period in the Western Galilee shows a series of settlements and cemeteries on the hills between the ‘Akko Valley and the Galilee mountains (Fig. 6).