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Researchers: Masada remains were Romans

Two Israeli researchers believe ancient human remains discovered at Masada in the 1960s and given a full Jewish burial by Israeli authorities may in fact be Romans. Joe Zias, an anthropologist, and Azriel Gorski, a forensics expert, write this week in Near Eastern Archaeology that the two male skeletons and the head of women’s hair including two braids probably belonged to Romans who had been captured by Jewish zealots before Masada fell to Rome in 70 CE. It had previously been believed that the remains were of Jews who killed themselves and their families rather than surrender to the Romans. Using modern forensics, Zias and Gorski say the women’s hair was sheared while she was still alive. Zias linked that finding to a commandment in Deuteronomy that requires Jewish troops to shear the hair of captured foreign women to make them less attractive. According to this scenario, the troops captured three Romans: They killed the two men and discarded their bodies along with the captive woman’s hair. In 1969, Israel included the three in a state burial for bodies found at Masada, draping their coffins in flags. Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist who participated in the original Masada dig, told the Associated Press that he discounted the Zias-Gorski findings , calling them “assumptions built on assumptions.”