A magnificent Roman-era burial cave was fortuitously found in the northern Israeli city of Tiberias when a contractor clearing ground for a new neighborhood realized the significance of the void his bulldozer almost fell into, and immediately called in the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“A good citizen,” observes archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre of the IAA.
The underground mausoleum unearthed this month is between 1,900 to 2,000 years old, judging by the architectural style, she told Haaretz
The main central chamber has several burial niches – shelves carved into the cave walls, and a small inner chamber. The archaeologists also found ossuaries, which are boxes used for the secondary burial of bones.
That means the bereaved would lay the dead on niches carved into the cave walls, and wait for the bodies to decompose. Then the bones would be reburied in boxes typically made of stone or clay that were only as long as the longest bone, Alexandre says.
The ossuaries, which were made of stone and pottery, are the tell-tale artifact marking the catacomb as belonging to Jew. Nobody else is known to have practiced secondary burial in the Roman era – with one exception.
“One single case is known in Israel of a non-Jewish secondary burial in an ossuary – a Nabatean. Maybe it was a Nabatean who was influenced by the Jews,” remarks archaeologist Dr. Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret College.
CLICK HERE to continue reading