Sometimes archaeologists come face-to-face with a site so unusual that they feel a sense of awe in its presence. That describes our experience upon entering and excavating a mortuary cave in the Galilean hills of northern Israel. Used for burials during the Chalcolithic period (c. 4500–3500 B.C.E.), this cave had been sealed for nearly 6,000 years.
One warm spring day in 1995, Fakhri Hasson, the local antiquities inspector in Peqi’in, received an urgent call. During construction of an access road to a new school and an adjacent youth hostel, part of the roof of a cave had collapsed, revealing what appeared to be an ancient tomb. Hasson alerted the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA); and for the next few months, under the auspices of the IAA, we conducted a salvage excavation with the assistance of the Peqi’in Local Council.