The cave (Fig. 1), whose ceiling was mostly removed when damaged by mechanical equipment, was hewn in marl bedrock. It was found filled with a layer of soil and rock debris from the damaged ceiling; hence, it was difficult to determine its original height. The entrance to the cave, blocked with soil, was set in the eastern side of a central rectangular chamber that had round corners (2.5 × 4.0 m, min. height 1.5 m). Four arcosolia were hewn in the sides of the chamber, each containing a single burial trough (length c. 1.6 m, width 0.8–1.0 m), enclosed by a parapet (thickness c. 0.2 m). One arcosolium was cut in the northern side (No. 1; Fig. 2), two in the western side (Nos. 2, 3; Fig. 3) and one in the southern side (No. 4; Fig. 4). A small niche (No. 5; length 0.5 m, width c. 0.25 m; Fig. 5) that probably served as a bone repository was hewn in the eastern side, next to the southeastern corner of the chamber. Five small recesses for oil lamps were hewn between the arcosolia; between Arcosolia 2 and 3 were two arched recesses and a triangular one, arranged in a triangle. The other two were in the western corners of the chamber, close to the ceiling.
Three intact sandal lamps (Fig. 6) that dated from the Late Roman period until the end of the Byzantine period–beginning of the Early Islamic period and a Gaza jar from the Byzantine period (Fig. 7) were found in the cave, as well as a glass jar and bottle that dated to the fifth century CE (Fig 8; see below). It seems that the finds, which were removed from the cave when it was initially exposed and their original locations are unknown, indicate that the burial in the cave should be dated to the Byzantine period. The cave was covered over once the documentation had ended and the course of the sewer line was changed. This burial cave joins the complex of tombs from the Byzantine settlement at the site.
The Glass Finds
Natalya Katsnelson
The central chamber of a burial cave yielded two glass vessels, made of low-quality bluish green glass that contained impurities and bubbles and was stained with lime incrustations. The complete (mended) large cylindrical jar (Fig. 8:1) was carelessly fashioned, with an irregular rounded rim and a wide open fold below it. It has a wide neck and its rim diameter is almost equal to the diameter of the body. Jars of this shape were prevalent in tombs of the late fourth–early fifth centuries CE, e.g., two similar jars from a tomb at Ashqelon (HA-ESI 114:87*–88*).
The intact decorated bottle (Fig. 8:2) was also carelessly fashioned and its rim was roughly rounded by fire. The body was blown into a mold with four rows of small, shallow, closely spaced ovals and dots. The shape of the bottle is typical of the Byzantine type, yet the decoration is less frequent. Similar bottles with a tall funnel-shaped mouth, a narrow cylindrical neck and a squat bulbous or cylindrical body are known in Israel from contexts of the fifth–sixth centuries CE.
As the tomb was not excavated, the vessels came from an uncertain context. Nevertheless, common features of their fabric and workmanship may assign both vessels to the fifth century CE.