In 1905 some bedouin brought the German engineer G. D. Sandel to the Cave of the Pool. He later described the pool that was built at the entrance to the cave and mentioned that he had found a group of complete jugs in the cave. In 1952 the bedouin found a number of written fragments in the caves of Naḥal David, most likely in the Cave of the Pool. In 1958 Yohanan Aharoni surveyed Naḥal David and conducted a short excavation in the Cave of the Pool. N. Avigad excavated in the Cave of the Pool in 1960 and 1961 within the framework of the Judean Desert Expeditions. A group of graves from the Hasmonean era north of Naḥal David, near the shore of the Dead Sea, were excavated in 1960 by Yigael Yadin. During the second stage of the Judean Desert Expeditions, Avigad excavated six graves from the Second Temple period on the lower eastern side of Naḥal David. An additional grave was excavated in Naḥal David by G. Hadas in 1987.

Burial Caves.

The burial caves excavated in Naḥal David by Yadin, Avigad, and Hadas were of the Second Temple period. Yadin excavated the easternmost caves adjacent to the shore of the Dead Sea, a little north of Naḥal David. The results were never published but it is known that a wooden coffin and many bones were discovered in one of the caves. On the basis of the pottery Yadin found there, he theorized that the graves were from the time of Herod; however, Avigad claimed that they were instead of the Hasmonean period. Grave 4, excavated by Hadas, is situated between the graves excavated by Yadin and Avigad. A sarcophagus as well as a bronze bell were found in this grave. The six graves excavated by Avigad contained a number of wooden coffins.

The finds in the caves of Naḥal David are characteristic of family graves from the Second Temple period, such as those that were found in Jerusalem and Jericho, and include pottery, glass, and metal containers of the Hasmonean period. [See Cemeteries; Glassware; Metal Utensils; and Pottery.] The graves discovered at Naḥal David are different from those found in the ruins of Qumran, which lack family burials and burial offerings. Eight graves similar to those in Naḥal David were excavated by Hadas in Naḥal Arugot to the south. [See Arugot, Naḥal.]

Cave of the Pool.

On the northern bank of Naḥal David, north of the dry waterfall, lies the cave's entrance, which is 150 meters (492 feet) above the stream. Access to it is difficult but not dangerous. The entrance to the cave is visible only from a distance of a few meters away. At the present time the width of the cave's opening is 2.5 meters (8.2 feet). Aharoni claimed that the remnants of plaster and building stones that he found attest that the people hiding in the cave sealed its entrance, and entered the cave through a nearly obscured opening in the side, the width of which is 60 centimeters (24 inches). Avigad claimed, in contrast, that the material in question was not plaster but natural matter and that it was unreasonable to think that the inhabitants of the cave sealed the only entrance that provided them with light and air.

The cave is a medium-sized one, the depth of which is 33 meters (108 feet). In the entrance of the cave is a pool similar to those built in Cave 1 at Wadi Murabba῾at and the Cave of the Reservoir in Naḥal Harduf. [See Murabba῾at, Wadi; and Ṣe᾽elim, Naḥal, article on Archaeology.] The pool was partially hewn and partially built and is covered with thick plaster. The length of the pool is approximately 5 meters (16.4 feet), and it is divided so that one part is a sunken pit, the depth of which is roughly 1 meter, from which water flows to the pool. The average width of the pool is 1.2 meters (3.9 feet), its depth about 2 meters (6.6 feet), and its volume 12 cubic meters (424 cubic feet).

Finds from the Chalcolithic period and from the Iron Age were discovered in the cave, but the principal finds were from the Bar Kokhba period. In 1905, Sandel mentioned that he saw a collection of large pitchers containing liquid standing in the rear of the cave, and near the pitchers a mat made of palm leaves was spread out. In 1958 Aharoni noticed that the bedouin had taken the pitchers from the cave. Aharoni found pottery, remnants of rope and mats, as well as many organic remnants of various fruits brought as provisions to the cave. Avigad found an arrowhead (bearing an etching resembling a pyramid) stuck in the cave's ceiling. He assumed that the arrow was shot from outside when the Roman soldiers chased those escaping to the cave right up to the cave's entrance. [See Bar Kokhba Revolt.] A different type of arrowhead (three-sided) was found by Avigad in the cave, and he assumed that this type served those escaping to the cave. Likewise, Avigad found wooden combs in the cave; a collection of fourteen glass vessels; two wooden spindles; a cap of a pitcher made of clay; a small collection of fabrics, mats, and ropes; many remnants of organic food brought to the cave; and two bronze coins, one a coin of the city of Tyre from the year 127 ce and the second from the third year of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. [See Numismatics; Wooden Artifacts.]

In 1952, the bedouin found at Naḥal David written documents from the period of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. These documents probably were discovered in the Cave of the Pool, since this is the only cave in Naḥal David in which remnants from the period of the Bar Kokhba Revolt were found. Among the fragments acquired from the bedouin were three fragments of a leather scroll containing the Book of Genesis (Sdeir 1). One of the fragments contained remnants of two columns. In the first column parts of Genesis 35.6–8 remained. The three other pieces from this scroll were from one column, which contained Genesis 35.23–36.17. The scroll was a tall one containing at least thirty-two lines. A second document acquired from the bedouin was written upon a papyrus (Sdeir 2); it is a fiscal document on which was written: “On the second of Adar, year three of the liberation of Israel,” that is to say in the winter of 134 ce. The third is a fiscal document written in Greek.

[See also Archaeology; Qumran, article on Archaeology; and the biography of Yadin.]


  • Aharoni, Y. “An Archaeological Survey at En-Gedi” (in Hebrew). Bulletin of the Israel Exploration Society 22 (1958), 40–44.
  • Avigad, N. “Expedition A.” Israel Exploration Journal 11 (1961), 6–10.
  • Avigad, N. “Expedition A—Nahal David.” Israel Exploration Journal 12 (1962), 169–183.
  • Hadas, Gideon. Nine Tombs of the Second Temple Period at ῾En Gedi. ῾Atiqot, vol. 24. Jerusalem, 1994.
    Report of the author's excavations; English summaries.
  • Verf, O. “Excavations in Jordan, 1951–1952.” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 2 (1953), 82–88.

Hanan Eshel

Translated from Hebrew by Daphna Krupp