The Burgin Ruins are at the top of one of the many hills at Adulam Park. Archeological digs in the ruins revealed fascinating remains of burial caves, bell caves, houses from the Roman period, a church and hiding cave. From the top of the hill there is a splendid view of the Judea plains.
Archeologists Boaz Ziso and Amir Ganor of the Israeli Antiquities Authority have identified the Burgin Ruins with the village of Bish. A village by that name is mentioned by the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius in his book "The Jewish War". The village, which was actually a large fortified town, surrendered to the Fifth Roman Legion during the Great Jewish Rebellion (in the first century).
Trip length: about two hours.
Special equipment needed flashlight.
1.The numbers in the trip's description refer to the numbers of the sites with signs.
2. Do not stray from marked trails, there are dangerous pits in the area.
3. Entrance is allowed only to the sites mentioned in this page.
4. The trip in the cave requires crawling – come with trousers and flashlight.
Get on the Road
The parking lot as at the northern feet of the Burgin Ruins. Signs and a map make it easy for travelers to find their way in the ruins, where many different sites have been discovered.
The first stop can be found by walking on the dirt road east following a green mark, and turning right to a ruined structure near a palm tree. This is the Arak Hian Ruin (1). Like many other Adulam Park hills, the site contains the remains of a town from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Due to the many pits in area, wandering around is not recommended. Near a nice carob tree is another ruined structure. Veteran travelers probably remember the two stone arches that decorated the structure before. The arches collapses, and their remains are now scattered around.
Necropolis – Greek for "The City of the Dead" – is the area built underneath or near a city, where the dead were buried. In the ancient world, marvelous tombs were dug, with the belief that it will serve the dead in the next world, helping their eventual resurrection and return.
The trail marked in green goes through a section of the necropolis of the town that existed in the Burgin Ruins during the Roman and Byzantine eras. It passes near a carving in the rock where a square opening leads to a burial cave. It appears that the carving stopped at some stage. A visit to the cave is forbidden. From this point, the trail goes through a series of impressive burial tunnels.
The Pillars cave (2) – the entrance to the cave, carved during the Byzantine era, goes through a terraced corridor. A staircase replaces the original stairs that were carved in the rocks. At the heart of the carved cave, two pillars remain that support the natural rock ceiling. The carvers only designed the front of the pillars, and did not bother with the back part. The title of each pillar was ornamented with a circle that surrounds a cross (the ornaments were eroded with time).
The cave contains eight burial niches, where bodies were placed. In 2008, the tunnel went through reconstruction, after being damaged by antiquity robbers.
A Second Temple era burial cave (3) – a steel staircase, replacing stairs carved in stone, goes down to a large yard. The yard leads to a room in which only a part of the ceiling survived. The room leads to the burial cave. Near the cave's opening is the stone used in the past to seal the cave's opening whenever a person was buried. The cave was in use by Jews during the Second Temple era. Similar sites have been discovered in Jerusalem.
On the cave walls a niches where the bodies were placed. Each niche was sealed with its own stone. On the western side of the tunnel is a hole where the bones were collected. During the Second Temple era, the dry bones were transferred to a coffin placed in the site.
At the cave's exit, an opening of a carved tunnel is on the side of the yard. The tunnel was used for hiding the Bar Kokhba and the carving of the yard damaged it. On the opposite side there was a pool, used for rainwater drainage.
The Bull's Head Cave (4) – is about 30 meters south of the trail. It is easy to spot by the original carved stone steps that descend into it. The cave's ornaments are typical of the Roman period, chief among them is a bull's head embossment, representing a sacrifice to the gods. Burial niches are carved along the walls, and some of the graves' covering panels survived to this day.
The Burgin Saddle
After the Bull Head's Cave, the trail leave the Necropolis and reaches the Burgin Saddle, a place with a junction. The trail marked green continues south as the Adulam single (created for cyclists).
Foot travelers have two options at this spot:
1) Continue on the short path marked in red straight to the site's center and the hiding caves.
2) Continue on a slightly longer path, marked in blue, leading the bell caves and an overlook at the top of the Burgin Ruins.
Note the large pit from which a palm tree grows. This is "The Jackdaw Pit" – a site where members of the noisy bird specie reside. The Jackdaw is easily recognizable by its black color, and it lives in large packs.
The blue-marked path passes through a water pool of the Ottoman period (5) and reaches the Bell Cave. The Bell Cave (6) connects two large bell caves. A corridor carved in the rocks leads to the first cave, in which most of the ceiling has collapsed.
Bell caves have been dug at the Judea plain since the Hellenistic period (third century BC), until the early Muslim period (tenth century AD) and were used as quarries. Sometimes they were used for other purposes as water pits and storage spaces. In our case, at the side of the cave near the corridor, small niches for raising doves can be seen. It appears that the cave has been used at some point for animal storage. An opening in the cave leads to a second bell cave, which managed to survive in its entirety. Visitors are advised to bring flashlights with them.
From the Bell Cave, the trail goes upwards to the overlook (7) at the top of the Burgin Ruins (417 meters above), where the beautiful landscape can be seen. The height differences between the lower and upper plains, the Jerusalem Mountains and Hebron Mountains can be seen here. Many sites can also be seen from the overlook, including Tel Azeka, Nehosha, Beit Shemesh and Gush Etzion. The structure remains at the foot of the overlook mark the location of the Um al-Borj village, which existed here during the Ottoman period.
The path marked in blue goes down south, passes by the prickly pear cactus hedge, and reaches the entrance to a large site revealed in archeological digs (8). The remains of the byzantine church discovered here are not open to the public yet, but the remains of a Roman villa with a mosaic floor are open for visitors. The signs at the site lead directly to the hiding caves.
The Hiding Caves
The hiding caves system (9), which is dated to the Bar Kokhva rebellion, uses ancient quarries from the Hellenistic period. When the caves were dug, houses were found above them, which is a common phenomenon in many other hiding caves at the Judea plain. It is possible that the tunnel and room system was used in times of peace for storage and artisanship, since the depth of the ground have a cooling effect. In times of war, the caves provided warriors with hiding places.
The hiding cave system has five openings, marked in Hebrew letters. Entrance to the caves is through the "Aleph" openings. In cases of a large number of visitors, the other openings are available for exit.
The walking path is marked with arrow signs. Visitors should carry flashlights and wear long pants. The path includes short crawling sections in narrow tunnels.
The Aleph opening leads to a staircase, which descends into a large space. A short walk leads to another big space supported by walls built by KKL-JNF (with an exit). Another level down leads to a 10-meter crawl into a columbarium from which there is another 15-meter crawl to a small space (with an exit).
Another short crawl and a descent down a steel ladder leads to a lower level with another space. Then comes another short crawl, with to additional spaces, leading to a small bell cave, with an exit.
During the trip, travelers can see "bottles" – round carved openings that are at least a meter deep. These places may have been used for storage. Another interesting phenomenon is sub-tunnels that lead nowhere – it is hard to say why they were dug this way, but some of them may have been dug to mislead invading enemies.
After leaving the caves, a walk on the blue-marked path leads back to the starting point. On the way is a carved wine press (10), revealed in archeological diggings.