During November 2001, an excavation was conducted at ‘Ein el-Lauza (Nahal Azal) in the Silwan quarter of Jerusalem (Permit No. A-3559; map ref. 23220/62960), after the breaching and partial plundering of a cave during infrastructure work. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by A. Ganor (surveying and field photography), R. Kehati and S. Ganor, with the assistance of T. Shipman and S. Dan (inspectors from the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery) and Z. ‘Adawi and T. De‘adle (inspectors from the IAA Jerusalem Region).
The burial cave (Fig. 1) was hewn in limestone bedrock at the bottom part of a spur, c. 20 m above the Nahal Azal channel. An asphalt road, which covered and sealed the cave’s entrance, was paved above the ceiling of the cave many years ago. A hewn rectangular shaft (0.6×0.8 m, depth 1 m; Fig. 2) led to the cave. The opening of the shaft was partially covered with two stone slabs (0.45×0.70 m), found in situ. Two rock-cut steps were in the shaft (0.2×0.3×0.6 m); a third step at the bottom of the shaft consisted of a flat stone (0.2×0.4×0.4 m) that was set above a bed of small fieldstones on the floor of the cave.
The trapezoidal burial chamber (length of bases 1.7–2.7 m, length of sides 1.7 m) is generally oriented north–south and the bedrock floor slopes from north to south. Four trough-shaped burial benches were hewn along the northern, eastern and southern sides; rock-cut partitions separated the benches from the chamber. Two benches (0.5×1.5 m, depth 0.2 m; Figs. 3, 4) were hewn along the eastern side of the chamber; their eastern side had been damaged by mechanical equipment. The rock-cut partition in the southern bench (0.5×1.5 m, depth 0.1 m; Fig. 5) was augmented with the construction of small stones. An arcosolium was formed above the northern bench (0.5×1.9 m, depth 0.4 m; Figs. 6, 7), which was the largest of the four burial benches. The quarrymen left a raised bedrock protrusion (0.3×0.5 m, height 0.1 m) on the floor of the chamber, alongside the eastern burial benches, probably with the intention of hewing additional burial benches in the floor.
No artifacts were discovered on the benches nor any remains of bones, probably due to the high humidity that prevailed in the cave; the contents of the eastern burial benches were emptied prior to the excavation and it is unknown if it contained any artifacts. A few potsherds from the fourth–fifth centuries CE, which dated the use of the cave to the Byzantine period, were found on the floor, as well as a few potsherds dating to Iron Age II–III that were probably swept into the cave by way of the entrance shaft.