On the night of January 18, 2009, a rock-hewn burial cave was hastily documented in thwe Qiryat Shemuel neighborhood of Jerusalem (Permit No. A-5621; map ref. 219543/630017), in the wake of its discovery during work that preceded construction in a building’s courtyard. The documentation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was carried out by Y. Baruch and D. Levy (surveying and photography), assisted by I. Berin (final plan).
The hurried process and poor lighting conditions in the cave precluded a proper examination and description of the cave’s contents. Artifacts were not removed from the cave and once its documentation was done, it was sealed and covered with soil. The burial cave, hewn in qirton bedrock, consisted of a square central chamber (2.1×2.1 m, height 1.2 m; Fig. 1) and six arched kokhim were hewn in its sides (A–F; 0.50–0.55×2.00–2.10 m).
The cave was carefully hewn with a serrated mallet that left diagonal stone dressing marks on its sides, which are mostly upright and slightly curved toward the top. The entrance to the cave (0.47×0.60 m, height 0.4 m), set in the center of the northern side, was sealed with a square stone that had a central boss and fitted the dimensions of the opening. A rectangular standing pit (1.20×1.65 m) that left broad stone benches on its southern, eastern and western sides was hewn in the middle of the central chamber. The upper part of the southern, eastern and western sides terminates in a broad strip that is a kind of frieze (width c. 0.25 m), which protrudes c. 5–10 cm from the wall. The kokhim were hewn in the cave’s eastern, southern and western sides. The beginning of hewing another kokh was discerned in the northern side, east of the opening. A stepped frame was hewn around the openings of the kokhim, adapted for a sealing stone that was found in situ in Kokhim A, B and F; it had a boss in its center and was sealed with mortar mixed with small fieldstones; these kokhim were not opened. The sealing stones of the other open kokhim were lying off to the side and a few bones were noted in them. Triangular niches (width of base c. 7 cm, height c. 0.12 m; Fig. 2) for placing lamps were hewn between Kokhim B and C and Kokhim D and E.
Seven complete ossuaries, at least eight lids and numerous ossuary fragments were discovered in the cave; no other artifacts were found. The ossuaries were concentrated on the western and eastern stone benches (Fig. 3). All the ossuaries were made of soft limestone, except for a single ossuary of hard limestone. Two of the ossuaries were closed with a lid; one of the lids was attached to the ossuary with a bronze nail. Due to the haste, only two complete ossuaries and several decorated fragments were documented (Figs. 4, 5). A two-line Hebrew inscription (length of inscription 0.37 m; Figs. 6, 7) was incised on the hard-limestone ossuary. The letters were clearly engraved, separated from each other and painted blue. The inscription reads: “Alexa bar Shalom barat Alexa/Cursed is the one who casts me from my place”. Careless engravings or traces of faded paint were noted on other ossuaries; these may also be inscriptions that require further research for decipherment. Some of the ossuary fragments were consolidated together with bone fragments in the corners of the chamber and it seems that these ossuaries had been shattered by grave robbers who damaged the cave; the robbers had apparently penetrated into the cave via the entrance, which was later blocked.
The plan of the cave and the ossuaries it contained indicate that it should be dated to the first century CE, most likely close to the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 CE. It seems that primary burials were interred in the kokhim and later on, the bones were collected into ossuaries that were placed on the stone benches. Other burial kokhim caves of similar types, dating to the time of the Second Temple period, had been discovered in the past near the current cave (HA 67-68:45 [Hebrew]).