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Ancient Tomb Yields Secrets of Herod’s Time to Excavator

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An ancient cave-tomb, which dates from the time of Herod, and was found to contain several inscribed grave mounds and a number of pottery lamps and jugs, was recently excavated in the Kedron valley by Dr. E. L. Sukenik, archaeologist of the Hebrew University.

The inscriptions show that the burial place of an Egyptian Jewish family, which had settled in Jerusalem in the first century B.C., had been uncovered. The names are inscribed in Hebrew characters and some are also accompanied by their Greek equivalents.

One of the women is described as “Apphia, daughter of Athenagoras.” Both names are new in Jewish nomenclature in Palestine. “Apphia” is of special interest, since it is mentioned in a later period in the New Testament in the epistles of Paul.

Another of the names mentioned is that of “Onias son of Alexander.” Onias was also the name of the High Priest who built the famous Jewish Temple named after him in Helipolis, Egypt. He had quarreled with his family in Palestine and left to settle at the Egyptian city.

JEWISH GREEK DIALECT

Another engraving on an ossuary gives, for the first time, the Greek name of the coffin, namely, “ostophagos.” There is no source in early Greek writings where ossuaries are so indicated. It is apparently a word coined in the Jewish Greek dialect, as were a number of other Hellenic words which do not appear elsewhere save in Jewish literature. Coincidental is the fact that in Talmudic language the ossuaries are called “gloskoma,” a short form for the Greek word, “Glosokomon.”

The opening of this rock tomb by Dr. Sukenik is part of the general exploration of the ancient Jewish necropolis around Jerusalem which the archaeological department of the Hebrew University recently undertook. The work is to be continued as funds permit.

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