Maccabees’ Burial Caves Discovered in Central Israel

Workers windening a road in central Israel this week found burial caves with clear links to the Maccabees, who rebelled against Greek rule in the 2nd century B.C.E.

Archaeologists from Israel’s Antiquities Authority on Thursday described the find as extremely important.

The site includes three burial caves, with some 23 containers for human bones.

The tomb was found near the town of Modi’in, where the family leader of the Maccabees, also known as the Hasmoneans, revolted against the Greek Seleucids in about 170 B.C.E.

A spokeswoman for Israel’s Antiquities Authority said the find was the first archaeological proof of the ancient events that are celebrated during the Chanukah holiday.

She said a number of the burial urns had Jewish inscriptions in Hebrew, adding that one had most of the word “Hashamonaim,” the Hebrew for Hasmonean, on it.

The tomb was discovered three days earlier, but the find was not made public until Thursday, during which time archaeologists studied the bones, which were then passed on to religious authorities for burial.

Fervently Orthodox Jews clashed with police near the site Thursday, in an attempt to stop the continued excavations, saying that it was sacrilegious to disturb Jewish remains.

The Antiquities Authority and Public Works Authority decided Thursday to suspend the road construction work for two weeks, until the area could be further excavated.

The officials also said they would seek to have the proposed route of the road altered in order to preserve the site.

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