Dvir Raviv, The Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology Department, Bar-Ilan University
An Archaeological Survey on the Cliffsides of Nahal Teqoa by Dvir Raviv and Boaz Zissu
The concept of conducting an archaeological survey on the Cliffsides of Nahal Teqoa (Wadi Haritun) came up with the finding of a report in the Archives of the Israel Cave Research Center about Roman finds found by travelers in Haner (Oil Lamp) Cave located in the eastern bank of the Nahal Teqoa Canyon.
This Canyon, which flows from southeast of Bethlehem along the base of Herodium, is noted for the many karst caves in the cliffs that enclose it, including the longest limestone cave in Israel (the Haritun Cave). Since the nineteenth century, these caves have been studied by speleologists and archaeologists, whose excavations have uncovered human activity there from the Lower Paleolithic Period through the present. However, the Roman period has not previously been represented in finds from these caves. This is surprising, given that the residents made extensive use of karst caves (as refuge caves) during the two wars against the Romans and Wadi Haritun’s location in the heart of Judea and near Herodium, which was an important administrative center during the revolts and the site of battles and siege operations.
In 2019, the present authors in collaboration with a team of researchers from the Hebrew University–Mika Ulman, Boaz Langford, Amos Frumkin and Roi Porat–conducted an archaeological survey of several caves located in the eastern wall of Wadi Haritun. Finds in two of them, Haner (Oil Lamp) Cave and Hapitria (Mushroom) Cave, were dated to the Bar Kokhba revolt (along with artifacts from other periods). Notable among them are a Year Three Bar Kokhba tetradrachm (sela), a copper mace head from the Chalcolithic Period, and a fragment of a bronze dagger blade from the Middle Bronze Age. Our finds shed light on periods not previously reported in Wadi Haritun, including the Bar Kokhba revolt, which is the focus of this study.