Cave A1 (Fig. 3). A rock-cut stepped descent led to an underground chamber with three wings. The chamber wings have a vaulted, crumbling ceiling. The chamber was documented but not excavated due to technical difficulties. Based on stylistic and architectural grounds—the trefoil plan of the hall and the vaulted ceiling—the cave was quarried out in the Late Roman or Early Byzantine period.
Cave A2 (Fig. 4) was fully excavated. A rock-cut stepped descent led to an underground chamber with three vaulted wings. Three distinct phases of use were discerned in the cave. In the first phase, a burial cave was hewn in a plan typical of the Late Roman or Byzantine periods (Avni, Dahari and Kloner 2008:109, Subtype 4.2.3). In the second phase, probably during the Byzantine period, the cave floor was lowered for quarrying, as indicated by straight quarrying lines at the bottom of the cave. An abundance of pottery from the Mamluk period as well as Ottoman finds indicate a third phase, during which the cave served as a refuse pit.
Cave A3 (Fig. 5). A curved, rock-hewn staircase led to the cave entrance, which was wider than the other cave entrances, allowing for ventilation and lighting. Remains of a wall blocking access to the cave were exposed at the entrance. The cave had the form of a hewn tunnel (5 m long) that connected at its northern end to an ancient water cistern, which was found filled with collapsed rocks. The cave was documented but not excavated and consequently not dated.
Cave B1 (Fig. 6) was also completely excavated. A stepped descent led to a rectangular burial chamber with a burial alcove opposite the entrance. A recess for a roll-stone was hewn to the left of the opening. Although the cave was found to be devoid of finds, it should be dated to the Late Roman period based on stylistic and architectural grounds.
Burial Complex B2 (Figs. 7, 8) is branched. The courtyard was partially excavated and the burial chambers were only surveyed. The courtyard was large and flanked by three burial chambers arranged in two wings. A roofed entranceway in the north wing was found to have two rock-hewn, framed openings in it leading to two large burial chambers. Each chamber had 17 arched loculi that are arched in section and have a hewn frame for a closing stone slab. An additional burial chamber was found in the south wing. It had four more loculi with rectangular openings. Pottery vessels and ossuary fragments indicate that the complex was installed and used in the Early Roman period.
Winepress B3 (Fig. 9) has a treading floor, a settling pit, and a collecting vat. All the winepress elements had a coarse white mosaic floor. A pit for anchoring a screw press was found in the center of the treading floor, and on the northern side were two small cells for storage and other uses. Winepresses of this type with a screw press are characteristic of the Byzantine period.
Cave C1 (Fig. 10). A rock-hewn stepped descent led to an underground chamber with three wings, each with a vaulted ceiling. Prior to the excavation, two rows of triangular columbarium niches were discerned. A probe opened opposite the entrance in the central wing exposed two additional rows of niches. The cave floor was not uncovered due to technical difficulties. The alluvial fill that excavated in the cave yielded Mamluk potsherds.
At least two phases of use were detected in the cave. In the first phase the cave was probably used for burial; its plan is characteristic of the Late Roman or Byzantine period (Avni, Dahari and Kloner 2008:109, Subtype 4.2.3). In the second phase, the cave floor was lowered, creating bell-shaped chambers, and the cave was converted into a columbarium. No diagnostic finds were discovered in the cave. However, based on stratigraphic grounds and parallels with rock-hewn bell-shaped caves in the Shephelah containing columbaria with triangular niches in their walls (Zissu and Kloner 2014), the second phase probably dates from the Byzantine or Umayyad period.
The excavation identified and exposed a variety of underground cavities. Burial Complex B2 attests to a settlement that existed in the Early Roman period, which had not been previously identified at the site. The elimination of the burials in Caves A2, C1, and probably in Cave A1 as well, indicates a change in population composition during the Byzantine period. The systematic transformation of these spaces into underground quarries points to public construction at the site during the Byzantine period. Finds from the Umayyad and Abbasid periods were discovered on the surface and in the alluvium fill excavated in several trial squares, making it impossible to determine the nature of the activity conducted in the eastern part of the site during these periods. During the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, debris accumulated in some of the underground cavities, evident in the clusters of pottery, as in the case of Cave A2.