Nestling in the lush Judean foothills (the Shephela), Horvat Burgin is an archaeological site rich in finds, especially from the Roman and Byzantine period. Popular for its hiding caves, it is also unique for bearing both Pagan, Jewish and Christian tombs in its necropolis.
History and Archaeology of Horvat Burgin
Horvat Burgin was first settled in the First Temple Period yet most of its remains are from the classical periods. In the 1st and 2nd centuries CE Horvat Burgin was a large Jewish village. Hiding tunnels carved beneath its houses attest to the local population participating in both the big Jewish rebellion (66-70 CE) and the Bar-Kokhva rebellion (132-135 CE) against the Romans. At that time the site was probably called “Kafar Bis”, whose Roman conquest is described by Josephus (Wars 4 9 9). This proposal is based on the fact that a nearby site is called in Arabic, khirbet al-Biss, possibly preserving the ancient sites’ name. Furthermore, Burgin’s summit is called “Umm Burj” (Arabic for “the mother of all fortresses”) possibly preserving the memory of a fort.
Apparently after suppressing the Bar-Kokhva rebellion Pagans, possible Roman veterans, settled in the site, yet in the 4th century Horvat Burgin developed a Christian character. A monastery was built near its summit and a Christian burial caves were added in its necropolis. Georgian texts inscribed in one of the cisterns suggest it was a Georgian hermitage.
The Muslim conquest in the 7th century led to a massive depopulation of the Holy Land. Horvat Burgin was also abandoned. The site was resettled in the Ottoman and up to 1948. Excavations were carried out in the years 1995 to 2012, yet most of the site still remains to be uncovered.
Touring Horvat Burgin
The site is accessible from road 38. A paved road passing by khirbet Mideast reaches the northern edge of the site. The hiding caves and the monastic remains, which include several mosaic floors, are near its summit. The burial caves are at the eastern edge of the site.
A tour of Horvat Burgin can be combined in a guided day tour in the Judean Foothills (the Shephelah).