During December 2012, a salvage excavation was conducted on Costa Rica Street in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-6673; map ref. 216518–44/628727–38; Fig. 1), following the discovery of two caves during development work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Bonei Ha-Negev Company, was directed by R. Avner, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), Y. Shmidov and V. Essman (surveying and drafting) and A. Peretz (field photography).
A large rock-hewn burial cave (L102–104) and a small adjacent cave (L101) were exposed; their openings faced southeast (Figs. 2, 3) and their facades were damaged by mechanical equipment prior to the excavation. The burial cave is dated to the Second Temple period.
Burial Cave (Fig. 4). The cave consisted of a square central burial chamber (L102; 3×3 m) and another smaller chamber was hewn in its southwestern side (L104; 1.3×1.5 m). A rock-hewn standing pit (L103; 1.25×1.95 m) was cut in the center of the main chamber and the bedrock around it apparently served as a kind of bench upon which the deceased were placed. Fragments of human bones were discovered in the standing pit. A hewn pit (1.00×1.35 m) occupied most of the area on the bottom of Chamber 104. The excavation in this area was suspended upon the discovery of human bones.
With the exception of a single cooking-pot rim that has a triangular cross-section and is characteristic of the Second Temple period (Ben-Arieh and Coen-Uzzielli 1996:76, Fig. 4.3:3
), several non-diagnostic potsherds were discovered in the soil fill that covered the chambers in the cave. This cooking-pot rim is the only find that dates the burial cave. Burial caves of a similar plan, in which the standing pits are surrounded with a bedrock bench, are characteristic of the Iron Age. Three such examples were discovered in the Schmidt School north of Damascus Gate (Barkai 1994:15–16
); however, they were also used in the Second Temple period, as was the burial cave exposed in the Soldier’s Home excavation (HA-ESI 125
), where large fragments of an ossuary were discovered on a bedrock bench.
Small Cave (1.1×2.2 m, height 0.5–1.2 m; Fig. 5). The ceiling of the cave was hewn as an arcosolium. The bottom of the cave sloped to the southwest, but it seems that the incline was created when the cave was damaged by the mechanical equipment. Several non-diagnostic potsherds were discovered in the soil fill inside the cave and it therefore seems that the cave was used by people. It appears that this cave is an arcosolium that was part of a burial cave, which was mostly demolished.
Remains of two burial caves were exposed; these were part of a necropolis in the area, of which several burial caves had previously been documented and excavated (Survey of Jerusalem, the Southern Sector ,
Sites 26, 33; HA-ESI 121
). This necropolis probably belonged to the agricultural settlement whose remains were uncovered in the vicinity of the excavation area, on the spur where Giv‘at Messu’a is located and on the southern slope of the ‘Ir Gannin hill (HA-ESI 121
; HA-ESI 121
; HA-ESI 124
Barkay G. 1997. Three First-Temple Period Burial Caves North of Damascus Gate and the Date of Jerusalem's Northern Moat. Cathedra 83: 7–26 (Hebrew).
Ben-Arieh R. and Coen-Uzzielli T. 1996. Chapter 4: The Pottery. In G. Avni and Z. Greenhut. The Akeldama Tombs: Three Burial Caves in the Kidron Valley, Jerusalem. (IAA Reports 1). Jerusalem.