The enormous shroud containing a skeleton in a kilt and sash, a
long flint knife, and a pair of leather sandals, lay in the cave
on top of a plaited mat. Next to this bundle were
a bow and arrows, the walking stick, a straw basket, and a wooden
The skeleton, which had been placed in a flexed
(fetal) position, was that of a male. He was relatively tall for
that time (ca. 1.68 m) and, considering that the average life expectancy
was less than 40, he was exceptionally old, having lived to the
age of 45-50.
The sandals that were buried with him were superbly
designed. No sandals of this type or quality have ever been found
before. Footwear was rare in the early periods, and most sandals
have not survived, owing to the high sensitivity of leather (even
more so than textiles and wood) to climate. The left sandal shows
greater signs of wear than the right one. Since the deceased broke
his leg shortly before he died, he may have limped or dragged his
The long flint knife is unique. Nothing like it
has ever been discovered in Israel or in neighboring lands. Knives
of this type were generally used for harvesting grain, but certain
indications (such as the knife's exceptional length and the lack
of luster on the blade) suggest that this was a luxury item that
was placed in the tomb as a sign of high rank.
The bow, made of olivewood, was intentionally
broken into two, apparently as part of a rite known as "killing
the bow," which symbolically marked the end of the bow's use
and ensured that it would travel into the afterlife with its owner.
At the end of the fourth millennium BCE, the bow and arrow were
the principal military and hunting weapons. This bow is the oldest
discovered to date in our region. Expertly crafted, it is among
the primary indicators the nobleman's elevated social status.
The arrow fragments consist of foreshafts of olivewood
and mainshafts made from local reeds. Neither the arrowheads nor
the vanes (feathers) that would have been attached to the bows have
The walking stick was made from a long willow branch.
Many such sticks have come to light in ancient Egyptian tombs. Their
inclusion in burials accords with the Egyptian belief that the passage
into the hereafter was an actual journey, for which walking sticks
would indeed be appropriate. Considering their similarity to scepters
and staffs, the walking sticks were undoubtedly also status symbols.
The wooden bowl and straw basket
held provisions for the deceased in the afterlife.
Reconstruction of the burial assemblage
in the cave