2012 Intermediate Report
Nahal David Pool Cave by Dr Cohen Haim
The excavations at Pool Cave, also known as cave Q27, started this 28th November 2012
The excavations had these current objectives:
The excavations were held from 28.10.2012 to 16.11.2012, i.e. three work weeks, excluding Fridays and Saturdays. The number of participants changed from day to day, averaging around 8-10 people. This number included two staff members:
Dr. Haim Cohen as excavation director
Mr. Alexander Efron from Hatter Laboratory at Haifa University, as assistant.
Other expedition members were volunteers from Israel and abroad. The expedition members were hosted at Ein-Gedi Field School, and the restaurant at Massada, which lies about 20 km to the south, provided them with generous dinners. The ascent to the cave started around 5.45 a.m. each morning, and for the most of the members it took 2 hours to climb to the excavation site. The work on the site continued until 2 p.m., and the last members of the expedition left the cave approximately at 2.30 p.m., in order exit Ein-Gedi National Park before 4 p.m.
Work at the cave.
This year’s excavations centered on the various parts of Area A (see pic. 1). Currently, there are 4 squares opened in this area. They are following:
Sifting the fill revealed a small quantity of Second temple period pottery, a number of reed pieces, as well as other dendric material. This is very unusual for the cave, for sifting in other areas brings up a much larger number of findings.
At the depth of almost 3 m. below the cave surface we found an additional niche, in the shape of a small tunnel, ~2,5-3 m. long. The material that came out – soft dusty soil fill - was completely sterile. We came to the conclusion, that this small niche wasn’t exposed to the dwellers of the cave.
Another area of the niche, the western part, close to the small window in area A4, wasn’t excavated due to technical difficulties. After the three weeks of work we can state that the niche was filled with soil and stones twice:
2. Square A4 also known as the Pile. This is a large artificially-raised pile of cave fill, at the southern wall of the cave, between Areas A and B, supported from the north by a wall made from stones, found in the cave. The nature of this fill remained unclear in previous seasons, thus became one of the objectives for this season. After a week of thorough work, including sifting of all material, we found out, that this was a soil dump of one of the previous expeditions, from the early 60’s. This fill covered lower parts of the Second Temple period living layer. The upper part was probably scrapped by the same expedition, who were responsible for the pile.
We continued excavations in the yellowish fill beneath the dark-grey pile, and stopped when the presumable PPNA layer started to appear. The excavation of the prehistoric part wasn’t one of the objectives, thus work in the area halted.
3. Area A5, also known as “Linett square” (after one of the volunteers, who worked inside thoroughly).
This is a small area, 4x1,5 meters, between A4 and the entrance to the A2 area. At the end of the excavations, the area looked like a rough trapeze, due to adjusting A2. The main objective for this area was to reveal the stratigraphical sequence in a place where all strata are presumed to be in place. This square exposed 2 clear and untouched phases in the living layer of the Second Temple period – above the yellow-brown soil with organic material, and dark brown compressed soil, with pieces of reed and wood, pottery, bones, and small bones below. The fill beneath is the same brown-yellow soil, with a few stones, and in a small sounding in the N-E corner we found that this soil is sterile down to 60 cm. We assume that this area wasn’t populated in the periods, prior to the Second Temple.
This is the western part of the same fill from A4. It is a square 3x3m, which was reduced to 1x2 m due to time shortage and danger of stones collapsing. The objectives of this area were to follow the stratification of the layers, in the place where damage was done by a previous expedition. At the end of the excavations, we came to the same conclusions, that the 1961 expedition cut off an upper layer of the ST period here too, and covered the yellow-brown soil with dark-grey pile. The yellow fill below was almost empty of any signs of human activity.
In addition, a survey of the caves and cavities in proximity to cave Q27 was done by Dr. Cohen and a team of 5 professional climbers. Their exploration brought new information which is still under study.
Thorough sifting, as part of the work routine, brought up a large number of small findings, even from the fills of previous expeditions. Among the finds were:
A large amount of pottery, from the Second Temple period mostly, as well as a few belonging to the Chalcolithic period and Iron Age. Preliminary analysis shows no pottery of the later periods.
A few pieces of Roman period blown glass - base and rim pieces of perfume bottles.
Later days brought up a few flint tools from P.P.N.A. period, also found in the cave.
A large amount of organic material: twigs, branches of palm trees, both burned and clear bones of various animals, pieces of reed, which may still be found down in the wadi, pieces of straw (inside the S.T. living layer) dates (among the nucleus, there was one that preserved completely, as though from a few days ago!) Pieces of ropes, including one, knotted around a ceramic handle as a better handle, fabrics, and leather – an astonishingly preserved part of a sandal, and a piece of something resembling bread.
Daily checking with the metal detector revealed a strong signal emitting from the outer side of the miqwe, near the area, where the steps leading inside are supposed to be. After cleaning a few cm of soil, a large iron tool was revealed below the lowest level of the pool. The state of preservation, as well as the will to keep the miqwe as intact as possible, didn’t allow extraction, but a few pieces of iron were taken out, for further metallurgical analysis. Sifting the material from A4 brought out an arrowhead from the Rebellion times.
The shortage of time prevented us from achieving all the objectives we had set, although we did succeed in clearing up the complicated Stratigraphy of the cave, and the history of the usage. We intend to come back to the cave to finish our work in a short time.