. A small, elliptical cave (1.2 × 2.3 m; Figs. 3, 4) hewn in soft chalk bedrock was exposed. Its opening was not located. The cave’s ceiling had been damaged by mechanical equipment. A shallow rock-cutting (0.15 × 0.27 × 0.70 m; Fig. 5) in the hard nari
bedrock was discovered above the ceiling of the cave. This could have been some sort of an identification marker
. A concentration of stones was discovered at the northern end of the cave, beneath the collapsed ceiling (Fig. 6); below it was a burial level (L102). The interment remains included an individual positioned along a northwest–southeast axis, with its head in the northwest, facing northeast, toward Nah
al Kesalon and Nah
al Eshta’ol. Two complete medium-sized jars (Fig. 7:1, 2) were found in situ
, where they were placed beside the deceased’s head, as was a large jar (Fig. 7:3; 8) that was found placed at the individual’s feet. The vessels are characteristic of the Intermediate Bronze Age, and similar ones were discovered in cave dwellings and burial caves at Jebel Qa‘aqir (Dever 2014
: Chapter 2).
Brown soil fill mixed with small and medium-sized fieldstones, and surrounded by boulders (L104; Fig. 9), was exposed c. 2 m north of Cave 1. This fill, which was not excavated, could be the blocking of an opening that led to burial cave.
Cave 2. An elliptical burial cave (2.0 × 2.8 m) was hewn in the soft chalk bedrock (Figs. 10, 11). The cave opening faced north; it was damaged by mechanical equipment. Following its exposure and prior to the excavation, a large jar (Fig. 12) and a flat base of another jar were removed from the cave. These jars, like the jars discovered in Cave 1, are characteristic of the Intermediate Bronze Age. The ceiling of the cave was removed as a safety precaution (Fig. 13). After clearing the debris from the ceiling, a layer of reddish-brown soil (L202) was exposed; it was not excavated. The pottery vessels removed from the cave were found in the upper part of this layer of soil, thus it seems that the soil was part of the burial level.
Field Wall. A field wall (W103; length 10.6 m, width 1.3 m; Figs. 3, 14) was exposed c. 1 m north of Cave 1. It was founded on the nari bedrock; where the bedrock was uneven, stones were placed to level the area. The wall was built of dry construction, consisting of two rows of medium- and large-sized fieldstones with small and medium-sized stones in between; it was preserved to a height of two courses.
It seems that the burial caves discovered in the excavation are part of a burial site belonging to the settlement revealed at Eshta’ol Junction, near the confluence of streams north of the excavation. It is also possible that the caves were used for the burial of residents from several settlements, some of them perhaps a little more distant, such as those exposed at Khirbat H
asan and at Tarum, situated near Nah
al Har’el. It is safe to presume that the two caves were part of a larger burial site that extends beneath the modern cemetery and has yet to be exposed.
In the past, the leading paradigm
among researchers was that the Intermediate Bronze Age burial sites represent a nomadic population that remained in the country following the collapse of the urban centers of the Early Bronze Age III (e.g., Dever 1980
:56–58; Kenyon 1966
:33). Over the years, additional settlements from this period were exposed, and new evidence indicated that burial sites were connected to nearby permanent settlements that in many cases were not preserved. In light of this evidence, obtained since the late 1980s, a new paradigm has emerged and gain acceptance: that the population of the period was comprised of both sedentary people and pastoral nomads
(e.g., Palumbo 1990
; Getzov 1995
:16*–17*; Yannai 2011
:251–252). This excavation is important as it further establishes the connection between the burial sites and settlement sites of the period.