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Anthropologist Questions Authenticity of Alleged ‘bar Kochba’ Bones

A Hebrew University anthropologist cast doubts today on claims that human bones found in archaeological excavations 20 years ago were the remains of Bar Kochba’s warriors. According to Dr. Patricia Smith, an associate professor of anatomy at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School who examined the bones, only three of the 19 specimens were of adult males.

The rest were the remains of women and children, the majority being those of children under the age of six, Smith said according to the Jerusalem Post. Only yesterday, Minister of Education and Culture Zevulun Hammer informed Premier Menachem Begin that the bones, discovered by Prof. Yigael Yadin in the Hever stream near the Dead Sea in 1961, were positively traced to the warriors of Simon Bar Kochba who led the Jewish insurrection against the Roman legions of the Emperor Hadrian in 132-35 C.E.

Hammer, a leader of the National Religious Party, recommended that the remains be given a State funeral and re-interred with full honors. In that connection, the Ministry would use the opportunity to launch a special study campaign among Israeli students on the Bar Kochba uprising.

DISPUTE OVER NUMBER OF SKELETONS

But Smith’s revelations could result in cancellation of the funeral plans. The issue of the purported Bar Kochba bones was raised two months ago at the height of the controversy over archaeological digs at the City of David in Jerusalem. The religious authorities demanded a ban on further excavations because they allegedly desecrated an ancient Jewish cemetery. The archaeologists said there was no proof such a cemetery existed.

But Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren insisted that archaeologists could not be trusted be cause of the way they dealt with the alleged Bar Kochba bones. He said he would make no agreements with them unless the bones received a proper burial.

Goren claimed yesterday that 31 skeletons were lost since Yadin excavated them. He said he had a letter from Zerach Warhaftig, who was Religious Affairs Minister at the time, that 725 skeletons were unearthed of which 50 were the remains of Bar Kochba’s warriors. But in his book, “Bar Kochba,” Yadin wrote that he found the remains of only 19 skeletons at the site. A spokesman for the Education Ministry, which is in charge of archaeological digs, said he knew nothing of more Bar Kochba bones.

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